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Diocesan Update - September 7, 2011

Diocesan Update on Tropical Storm Irene Relief Effort
In The Diocese of Albany

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

While much of the initial news coverage of Hurricane / Tropical Storm Irene is now starting to die down, the devastation left by the storm is still very much with us and will be for quite some time to come.  Pictures of the storm and its aftermath (as powerful as they are), will never totally capture the tremendous loss that so many of our neighbors and brothers and sisters in Christ have experienced.

Fortunately for most of us, the severity of Irene was limited to the loss of power for a day or two and the inconvenience it caused.  Now that our power is back on and life is returning to some sense of normalcy, it is important that we don’t forget those who were not so fortunate – those who are still digging mud out of their flooded basements and the first floor of their homes;  those whose furniture, clothing and cherished family heirlooms were destroyed; those whose homes have been knocked off their foundations or had trees come crashing through their roofs; and most tragically of all those who have been injured or lost loved ones in the storm.

Shortly after Irene hit our area, while on vacation I started calling the clergy and parishes in those areas that I was aware of that had been hard hit by the storm.  By the grace of God, based on the reports I have received from the clergy, most of our Church buildings escaped with very little damage.  Unfortunately, some of our parishioners and their neighbors were less fortunate, suffering many of the losses mentioned above, to include at least two parishioners who lost their lives as a result of Tropical Storm Irene.

As your bishop, I regret and apologize for not having commented publicly on Irene prior to now.  I was trying to get a better sense of the loss that had occurred and how we as a Diocese might best respond to those in need, before making a public statement.  It was a mistake to wait and I apologize to those who saw my silence as a lack of concern for those who have suffered so much.

Shortly after the storm hit, Canon Haskell and I have been in contact with representatives from the Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) and are currently trying to gather the information they need to be able to help those in need.  I would ask the clergy and parish families in those areas directly impacted by Irene to help identify the needs of those who have suffered loss resulting from the storm and report it to Canon Haskell or Jerry Carroll at the Diocesan Office.  We are particularly interested in loss not covered by insurance.  We can then notify ERD as well as others in the local deaneries and the wider Diocese who are looking for ways to help and be of assistance.  I know many of you have already been hard at work helping your neighbors and others in need.  I am very proud of you and the efforts you are making as well as your strong Christian witness of God’s love in this time of need.

If you or your parish are able and would like to provide financial support to assist those who have lost so much in the storm, checks may be addressed and sent to The Diocese of Albany and marked (Storm Relief Effort).  All donations will be used to help the victims of Tropical Storm Irene.  Donations may also be made directly to ERD in support of the relief effort.  You may donate on line by going to: www.er-d.org and click on the “Donate Now” button in the upper right corner, or you may mail a check to ERD, P.O. Box 7058 Merrifield, VA 22116.  Specify US Hurricane Relief in the item space.

In addition to financial support, I encourage all who are able to help in the cleanup effort by volunteering your time and energy to those in need.  This is a time for friends and neighbors to come together and help one another.  While none of us can do everything that needs to be done in response to the needs around us, we can all do something.  May the Lord guide, inspire and empower each of us to do that “special something” He is calling us to.  Again, I want to thank those of you who have already been hard at work reaching out and ministering to those in need.

Most importantly, I ask all the people of the Diocese of Albany to hold our neighbors and communities impacted by Irene up in prayer.  There is no power in all of creation, greater than the power of God’s love and healing grace.  For those who have lost so much, it is vitally important that they know that God loves them and will not abandon them, even in times of darkness.  He often makes His presence know through us – the Body of Christ.  May the Lord Bless you and use you mightily as a channel of His love and healing grace.

Heavenly Father, we come humbly before you, holding up in our prayers those who have been deeply impacted by Tropical Storm Irene, both within the Diocese of Albany and the other areas caught in Irene’s path of destruction.  We ask You Lord to send Your holy angels to watch over, protect and minister to them in this time of great need.  Help us Lord to be open to Your presence, trust in Your guidance and go forth boldly in Your name, empowered in the Holy Spirit to be a channel of Your love, mercy and healing grace, ministering to those you send us to.  Lord Jesus, just as you spoke to your disciples in their time of need, saying, “Peace be with you,” we ask that Your peace will come upon all the victims of Irene and other tragedies, comforting them in their time of loss and filling them with hope, knowing that You are with them and will remain with them through all the storms of life, even to the end of the age.  In Jesus most blessed and holy name we pray. Amen.

Your Brother in Christ,

+Bill

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