Rector's Ramblings August 30, 2017
Joel Osteen has taken a lot of heat in the last few days because it seemed as though his mega-church, Lakewood, wasn’t opening its doors to flood evacuees in Houston. I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as some have made it out to be. I understand the complexity of operating a facility that large without proper staffing, and also the fact that they were dealing with flooding of their own. At the end of the day, the church is open and they are helping people. Perhaps some of the criticism was deserved, and perhaps some of it was overblown because Osteen is an easy target (I count myself among those who are not fans). What’s more poignant for me is a reflection that a seminary classmate made on social media as he reflected on the “controversy”: “…while there are 564,708 homeless citizens in the US, there are also over 300,000 churches in the US.” I suppose people in glass churches shouldn’t be throwing stones.
What the discussion raises is an appropriate question about how we should help when our neighbors are in need, even if they live all the way down in Texas? I have been heartened to see the response in Texas; neighbor helping neighbor, and I have also been heartened to see that there is a local desire to do something. It’s hard to watch the scenes on the news and not want to do something. Perhaps those of us who have lived through storms or near misses understand all too well what it is to be displaced and wonder what is happening to your home while you are away. We’re a natural bunch to turn our gratefulness for a glancing blow last fall, into acts of generosity towards those in need now.
In addition to our prayers, I hope that we will do something else to help, as we are able. Many of us have wondered what we might do, and at this early stage of disaster relief, the best thing we can do is send money to organizations that can quickly and efficiently respond. As Episcopalians we have an outlet to do that very thing: Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD). ERD is one of the denominational institutions that is equipped to respond locally to national level disasters. 100% of all donations given for Harvey will go directly to the Hurricane Harvey response. If you feel called to support ERD you can do so here: http://www.episcopalrelief.org/hurricane-harvey-response
There are also some local groups that will send physical items to Texas. One was in today’s paper and has numerous collection points. Another is going this Friday from J and J Tire in Brunswick. Unfortunately, not all physical donations are helpful or welcome. The reason that a lot of organizations suggest financial donations is because physical donations take additional resources to manage. Food and clothing must be stored and sorted, for example. Some items simply aren’t necessary at all. When you do a little research, you learn that up to 60% of physical donations after events like this one end up going in the trash. If you decide to donate, donate things that are readily categorized and passed along without a lot of scrutiny or evaluation.
The other takeaway from this week is a call to be prepared. We are just at the start of the hurricane season, and there’s another storm brewing even now, which could reach the east coast of the US. Make sure you’re prepared to go if we get another close call, or God forbid, a direct hit. Be sure your friends and family have a plan and that you know what their plan is. Make sure people know where you will go and what you will do and how they can reach you. Planning now makes action much easier later on. If you learned last fall that you don’t know what to do or where to go, please let us know now, so that we can help you.
Do pray for the people of Texas and Louisiana who are affected by this; those who have lost loved ones; those who have lost their homes; those who don’t yet know if their homes or families are safe. Give thanks for the outpouring of love that has taken the form of help for so many, by so many. Once again, trial shows the true nature of our neighbors. If only we could love each other and care for each other like this all the time. The world would be a much better place to live.
O God of might and mercy, thank you for your many blessings and never-failing care and love for your creation. We offer our thanksgiving and praise to you:
For a beautiful sunrise and a reminder that the light will always conquer the darkness and the fear that often accompanies it, we thank you.
For the welcome and hospitality for strangers and refugees displaced from their homes, we thank you.
For the men and women who respond to dangerous emergencies instead of fleeing them, putting their lives at risk for ours, we thank you.
For the men and women who work for our government at all levels, who made plans ahead of time, communicated so openly during the crisis, and who now begin the work of rebuilding, we thank you.
For those who are working even now to remove downed trees, restore power and essential services, and inspect damage, we thank you.
For those who care for the sick, the injured, and the dying, and those who have stayed with the weakest among us, we thank you.
For the strong walls and sound homes that have stood the test of wind and waves, we thank you.
For the care we share with one another in times of distress, as our neighbors are kind and gentle and supportive, we thank you.
For the wonder of your creation that will heal itself in time, we thank you.