CHURCHES have been “at the centre of community action” after floods devastated parts of the country, the chairman of the Church Buildings Council of the Church of England, Sir Tony Baldry, said this week. While some churches were the grateful recipients of local support, being victims of rising flood waters, others spared submersion were at the forefront of the relief effort.
Stories shared by Sir Tony on the Church House blog included that of Radcliffe St Mary, a newly restored Grade I listed medieval building, flooded for the first time in living memory. The Team Vicar of Radcliffe, the Revd Carol Hayden, said: “My phone has not stopped ringing with offers of help.”
St Mary’s, Tadcaster, was flooded in a matter of minutes on Boxing Day, after the flood defences next to the church were breached. The Vicar of Tadcaster, the Revd Sue Sheriff, described how the town had effectively been cut in two after the collapse of a bridge. It will now take about half an hour for people to drive from one side to the other, and it could be a year and a half before the recovery is complete.
“People keep asking me about what the community has done for the church, and what the church has done for the community, but the point they miss is that we are actually the same thing,” she said last week. “Everybody in town asks ‘How is our church?’” It’s not two separate things; the two are one.”
Among the churches supporting those affected by the floods is St Mary the Virgin, Bury, which offered free Christmas meals to 50 people. The Salford deanery synod has agreed to underwrite a loan of £3000 from the Salford Credit Union for people who have been flooded and are without insurance. York Minster waived entry fees for three days, offering “some peace amongst the flood chaos”.
Amid recriminations about the adequacy of the country’s investment in flood defences, the Prime Minister announced on Sunday a package of more than £40 million to “rebuild and improve flood defences in the aftermath of Storm Eva”. The Government will also match every pound raised (up to £2 million) for charities that support flooding victims.
The international charity Samaritan’s Purse has been working alongside churches, providing practical help to flood victims, including Sandylands Methodist Church in Cumbria. It recently helped a woman move from a hostel to temporary housing.
Ian Macleod, the charity’s head of UK disaster relief, said: “We are here to serve the community in any way we can; to be there for people who’ve lost everything.”
Churches act together in relief efforts
by Simon Caldwell
CHRISTIANS of all denominations have been helping each other in the aftermath of the floods.
Anglicans came to the rescue of Roman Catholics in Whalley, near Blackburn, in Lancashire, after the English Martyrs Church was flooded on Boxing Day (above). Two inches of water ran through the church, leaving a residue of mud and sewage.
The neighbouring Anglican church, St Mary and All Saints, has invited Roman Catholics to celebrate mass there at weekends while their church is shut.
Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Methodists in Appleby, Cumbria, have also been working closely to help families affected by more than a month of flooding and heavy rain.
Offers of help — including the sharing of premises — were made when St Lawrence’s, a 13th-century building, was submerged under 27 inches of water. Members of the congregation of St Lawrence’s are worshipping at the Methodist church nearby, but the RCs have also offered the use of their church whenever the need should arise.
The RC parish priest of Our Lady of the Lakes and St Charles, in Keswick, Fr Tom Singleton, said that he was working with other churches in Cockermouth and Keswick to alleviate the problems experienced by the community.
The Church of England, he said, had invited local Roman Catholics to use Anglican churches for their services while flood damage was being dealt with in their buildings.
He continued: “In places such as Cockermouth and Keswick, the churches have had a really good tradition of working together over the years, but what I think is new is the involvement of the Muslims.
“Quite a lot of Muslims have come up from all over the country to help out,” he said. “They are mostly young men, and they are helping people to clear out debris and clear out mud. It is practical help that they are offering. To have people come in of their own volition is something remarkable.”
“The Churches Together in Cockermouth set up a crisis centre along with the local authority,” he said, “providing support and advice, and providing aid with access, grants, and more immediate help such as food and bedding.”
The churches have also helped to rehouse flood victims who did not have relatives near by, he said.
“The churches are still involved in supporting people. It is a long-term process, and it will take months to get back to normal.”