At least two Australian bishops have written to their dioceses in the wake of the devastating bush fires currently engulfing much of the continent.
Our hearts and hands go out to the people of the eastern region in your grief and loss, as you seek to come to terms with the trauma you have faced and the devastation caused to lives and livelihoods, to property, stock, towns, and to the creation itself.
We acknowledge our feelings of helplessness in the face of such ferocious forces, notwithstanding the power of prayer, which has also been keenly and gratefully felt by those in harm’s way.
We pay tribute to the work of our emergency services, the Country Fire Authority, and associated organisations whose workers and volunteers have stood in the breach to keep others safe.
We recognise the ministries of clergy and lay people in the east and across the Diocese who have responded to the immediate material and pastoral needs of evacuees and those returning to assess the damage to homes, businesses, and communities.
And we commit ourselves to a sustained relief effort, working within and beyond our churches with people of good will to support those most affected by the fires and their aftermath, and to rebuild hope where hope has been lost.
I convey the many – literally scores – of messages of concern and solidarity that have been sent to me this week from all around the Anglican Church of Australia – and indeed the wider Anglican Communion – including from Archbishop Kay Goldsworthy.
I will be communicating these in person at services in the east today, and on visits to the farthest eastern and northern reaches of the Diocese in the days and weeks ahead, as access is restored.
In the body of Christ we are never alone. Thus, alongside our prayers for Gippsland, we continue to uphold other parts of the country where there are fires or the threat of fires, and all who offer assistance in such challenging and complex conditions.
From Bishop Mark Short of Canberra and Goulburn (including liturgical resources):
The words of God’s prophet [Joel] express the cries of our hearts. We grieve with and for those who have lost property and loved ones. We groan with and for creation as it waits for rescue. We long for quenching rain and relief.
Over the past week members of Parishes across our Diocese have worked selflessly to care for their neighbours. Our Anglicare disaster response teams have staffed evacuation centres alongside other volunteers. Church buildings have been opened to provide a space for reflection and a place of refuge. Please join with me in thanking God for every act of courage and kindness.
After the time of crisis has passed I will be communicating how we will work together as we move into recovery. In the meantime can I encourage you to respond with prayer and generosity. In Appendix A I have included some prayer resources for you to use in your Sunday services and other gatherings. Appendix B gives details of how you can make donations to Anglicare’s disaster response and relief efforts. Please distribute this information widely.