As Hurricane Irene set target on the eastern seaboard late last week, the editors at BMH wondered how Grace Brethren congregations in the region were faring in the face of the impending storm. We contacted a few pastors who we thought might be in the path of the storm, which was then expected to be a level 3 hurricane when it hit land.
By late Friday, at least one Grace Brethren congregation, Awaken Church in Virginia Beach, Va. (Michael Pumphery, pastor), had cancelled services, announcing on its Facebook page:
Due to the hurricane, we have decided to cancel this weekends worship gathering. We will be updating the website with information regarding possible relief work on Sunday. Please contact us if you need anything at all. Please take all the right precautions to be safe this weekend!
Late Monday Pastor Mike reported: “We were going to meet to do relief work, but there wasn’t really enough damage for us in our area besides just loss of power. We are doing well though.”
On Sunday, at Gateway Church, a Grace Brethren congregation in Parkesburg and Elk Creek, Pa. (outside of Philadelphia), volunteers assisted the Red Cross in setting up shelters.
“We cancelled our services this morning and encouraged folks to serve their neighbors or come and serve at the shelters,” reported Pastor Mike Silliman on Sunday afternoon. “Instead of going to church, we brought the church to the people. We gave rides to workers, emptied trash, served food, and showed a movie using the church’s projector and sound system. Some of our members played with the children and did various crafts with them. The Avon Grove shelter cared for 160 people last night with the potential of serving many more tonight.”
Another suburban Philadelphia church ministers to the homeless and shared concerns about potential flooding as a result of the storm.
“We are along the banks of the Schuylkill River in Pottstown, where our mobile shelter supplies are stored at our MAIN St Shelter Intake Center,” says Pastor Kork Moyer of the Still Waters Home Churches and Worship Center. He helps oversee a seasonal homeless shelter in the area. “The Intake Center is located below ground and is nearly prepared for reopening in November, as we are anticipating dismantling the entire thing, fearing another flood. We are hoping that it will not develop into a repeat of the 2006 Schuylkill flood where we had to evacuate, and cleanup set us on our heels for the next sheltering season,” he added.
“We are hoping for the best, praying first for our homeless friends living in tent communities this summer, as we try to keep them safe during the storm, praying that we are able to save our supplies, as we potentially will be called upon to open early, should folks become displaced, for strength, and lastly we are always in jeopardy of close due to low financial contributions, and are hoping God will provide what we need as deficits rise along with more, and more need,” concluded Pastor Kork.
In another Philadelphia suburb, church members didn’t expect to receive the brunt of the storm. “We are about 100 miles from the ocean and are expecting some nasty weather here but we don’t anticipate any major damage,” said Pastor Bob Greenwood of the New Life Community Grace Brethren Church in Souderton on Saturday afternoon. “The worst of it is expected at 8:00 Sunday morning. We have cancelled Sunday school hour and will have only our church service at 10:30. We’ll use that time for corporate prayer for effected locations. “
Continue to pray for people and churches in areas that have been impacted by the storm.