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Fresh week of floods hits more churches

20 February 2020

Britain struggling to cope with high winds and record flood levels caused by Storm Dennis

Paul Roberts

St Mary’s, Marden, Herefordshire

St Mary’s, Marden, Herefordshire

AFTER Storm Ciara (News, 14 February), high winds and record flood levels caused by Storm Dennis this week left another part of Britain struggling to cope.

This time, it was Wales and western English counties that took a battering as, once again, more than a month’s rain fell in one weekend on already sodden land. From Shropshire in the north to the valleys in south Wales, homes and churches were inundated, and more rain was forecast for later in the week.

“George, I think the fish want to go out”

Communities rallied to help those affected. An online appeal for £5000 to help to restore the flooded Llanelwedd Church in Wales Primary School, in Buith Wells, was nearing its target within 36 hours. The appeal organiser, Carolyne Finlow-Borrowdale, described the response as “overwhelming”.

She said on Tuesday: “We set up a GoFundMe page because we knew we would need money — and quickly. We thought if we got £1000 it would be amazing. The community have been so fabulous; people from all over are donating, even people who are already flooded out themselves.

“We have lost a classroom, a canteen, and office. We’ve been flooded in the past, as we are in a floodplain, but this was the worst anyone has ever seen.”

The school’s head, Adam Shearman, worked through the early hours of Sunday trying to stem the rising water as the River Wye broke its banks. “He was there for six or seven hours,” Mrs Finlow-Borrowdale said. “He moved everything; and, after, he didn’t feel like he could leave. It’s an awful sight: children’s work is floating around. It’s utterly devastating. We are fortunate that it’s half-term: it’s given us a week’s breathing space to put the school back together.”

At Crickhowell, in Powys, parishioners from St Edmund’s offered room in their homes for people washed out of their houses by the River Usk. “We are aware of many who are struggling with the aftermath of the storms,” the Vicar, the Revd Rana Khan, said. “We are here to pray and support, but also, if there is a need, to provide practical care through emergency accommodation and the provision of food.

“It’s not just offering food or money, but showing people that they are cared for. We can offer our shoulders for people to lean on.”

In the Rhondda, foodbanks at St Catherine’s, Pontypridd, and St Luke’s, Rhydyfelin, offered emergency parcels of food donated by supermarkets, and hot drinks and a space to talk.

The Team Vicar and Area Dean of Pontypridd, the Revd Michael Gable, described a sense of shock after the River Taff flooded the town centre. “The community is pulling together, and so much help is being offered. The foodbank is open for longer sessions, cafés are offering tea and coffee while the clean-up happens, and people are donating clothing. In the midst of such trauma it is good to know we will support one another through this.”

At St Fagan’s, Aberdare, the church’s lunch club, which normally offers hot meals to children during school holidays, extended the service to anyone affected by flooding. “We felt it’s one small way we can do something to help, and show the love of God to our community at a time of need” the Vicar, the Revd Richard Green, said.

The Priest-in-Charge of the Grosmont group of churches in Monmouthshire, the Revd Gaynor Burrett, went online to appeal for help for the village of Skenfrith, which has flooded for the second time in five months.

“After battles with insurance companies, and attempts to dry out and get work completed so that they might move back into their homes, it was felt progress was being made.” Then, at 2 a.m. on Sunday, the River Monnow flooded. “Those villagers who had returned were once again evacuated by boat. I cannot imagine what it must be like to face the devastation of flooding once again, particularly just as the end of the last flood was in sight. All I can do at the moment is to pray for the village, and I am asking if you would join me in prayer.”

Carolyne Finlow-BorrowdaleFlooding in Llanelwedd Primary School

In Powick, near Worcester, St Peter’s organised delivery sessions for relief supplies of clothing, bedding, toiletries, and food for villagers who had been washed out when the River Teme overflowed. “I am so pleased that we can do this to help,” the Rector, the Revd Gary Crellin, said. “I hope that these sessions help those affected by this most dreadful calamity.”

Two Herefordshire churches were flooded for the fourth time in five months when the River Lugg topped its banks. The congregations of St Mary the Virgin, Marden, and St Michael and All Angels, Bodenham, near Leominster, have been worshipping in their village primary schools since last October.

“It is frustrating,” the Rector of the Maund Group, the Revd Paul Roberts, said. “We were about to get ready for reoccupation for Easter, but that looks increasingly unlikely now. It’s a little like Groundhog Day, but we try to continue to reflect God’s light and love, and it is certainly raising our profile within the wider community.

“I have been inundated with offers of practical help. It has been as much an opportunity as a trial. We want to not just simply patch up what we have got, but to think positively about how we can improve the community use of the churches.

“We are lucky that the schools hosted services; it had underlined the fact that the church is the people, not simply the building. The buildings are important to us, but, in comparison with people who have lost homes and livelihoods, our thoughts and prayers have got to be with them.”

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