Following unprecedented flooding in the Baton Rouge region over the weekend, which left at least six people dead and tens of thousands displaced, Bishop Morris Thompson of the Diocese of Lousiana issued a pastoral letter early this week, including information on how to help those devastated by floodwaters.
In the wake of the flooding in the Baton Rouge area, I wanted to touch base with you to let you know where we stand as a diocese. Over the weekend, I was in regular contact with many of our congregations and clergy. As you know, the severity and speed of this storm caught all of us by surprise.
On Saturday, we sent out an alert on our new Alert Media network through Episcopal Relief and Development. We are one of the “test dioceses” for this system. Through this, we were able to quickly ascertain if anyone was in immediate flooding danger. We also used it as an opportunity to gather all of the clergy in a conference call that was conducted this morning. We were very pleased with the effectiveness of this system and had almost 100% participation of our clergy/parishes across the diocese.
As far as flooding, this is where we stand: St. Francis, Denham Springs received 2-4 feet of water. Robert Bishop, the senior warden, emailed us this morning to report that they were able to get to the church to assess the damage. The other affected property is Episcopal High School. This morning I received an email stating that Hugh McIntosh was taking a boat to the property. As of yesterday, there was water in the gym, the Lower School and possibly the Penniman building. We will have further details after his visit. We are still unsure of the status of the former Holy Spirit property. Amazingly, neither St. Augustine’s, Baton Rouge or St. Patrick’s, Zachary flooded. The Senior Warden in Zachary reported that the water rose to within an inch of the front door and then receded. Several of our clergy had to evacuate their homes. The extent of flooding is still being evaluated. I have assigned a clergy contact to each of them to coordinate and assist with their needs.
Canon Manning and Deacon Elaine Clements are working alongside me to coordinate relief efforts through ERD as well as communicating with the parishes to match need with relief assistance. We have verbal assurance of immediate short-term funding from ERD for $20,000. This will be a significant help to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable victims. I have also asked Fr. Mark Holland to serve as a relief coordinator for the Baton Rouge area. In the days and weeks to come we will be moving from emergency relief to long term disaster recovery and assistance. I will be in touch with you as we move through this process. Our friends in other dioceses have already reached out to offer their assistance.
Bishop Thompson’s letter includes links to donate cash and supplies. He concludes in prayer (from Holy Women, Holy Men):
Compassionate God, whose Son Jesus wept at the grave his friend Lazarus: Draw near to us in this time of sorrow and anguish, comfort those who mourn, strengthen those who are weary, encourage those in despair, and lead us all to fullnesss of life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Savor and Redeemer, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.
Featured image: via Central Fire Dept (Baton Rouge) on Facebook