The Commemoration of Gregorio Aglipay
5 September 2019
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Hurricane Dorian continues to move northwards and affect our neighbors along the Eastern seaboard. This remains a frightful storm. We are concerned about flooding, tornados, and power loss in the Carolinas and Virginia, and flooding especially is always a terrible danger. Every morning I am on a zoom call with Episcopal Relief & Development and leaders from dioceses in the path of the storm so that we can be of help and support to each other. While the storm has left us, please continue to keep those in its path in your prayers.
Of course here in Southeast Florida our eyes are fixed on the Bahamas, where our attention will be for a long time. Our family members, friends, and colleagues are still cut off, and we have no news of many who are of concern to us.
This is personal to Kate and me, and to many of us in our diocese. Kate and I spent our 10th wedding anniversary on Green Turtle Cay in 2015, and I said Mass in the church there – before we even knew that we might be living in this diocese. Like so many of you who cannot reach those whom you love, we have not been able to be in touch with our friends who live on Green Turtle Cay, and we have no news of how they are. One of my closest friends among the bishops has immediate family in Abaco and the adjacent islands, and there are fears that some may be lost. One of our priests in this diocese has family in Grand Bahama whose homes have been significantly damaged. We have many stories. And we continue to wait for news. As we wait, we plan. Our plans are for the long term.
We are beginning to see the usual challenges. There is always an initial flurry of help with various things, and it is often known as the “disaster after the disaster” – the rush of people and supplies to a disaster zone that then cannot be deployed. We are seeing this already in Nassau, where relief workers are running out of space to store all the supplies that are being sent there. It is natural to want to help, and we want to send supplies. There is huge need, but often this rush creates its own problems.
We know that this morning and for some time, no one but government officials can get into affected areas. We do not know how many have been lost and have died. The Bahamian National Emergency Management Agency and the Royal Bahamian Defense Force are doing the initial rescue work that has to be done before the Abacos and Grand Bahama can be opened up to relief work.
The Church is in this for the long haul, just as we have been in it for the long haul elsewhere. In the Keys, our work has continued in the two years since Irma to ensure the ongoing well-being of the community. Soon Saint Columba’s affordable housing project in Marathon will be dedicated and opened. This is the kind of long-term recovery that the Church does, and it takes single-mindedness, commitment, and ongoing support.
As a diocese, we are focused already on the longer term of helping to rebuild in the Abacos and Grand Bahama. We shall need major funds for building supplies to repair and rebuild churches, rectories, homes, schools, and places of small business. This is the least glamorous, but the most important work for the sustainability of these communities after a hurricane of this magnitude. I am currently in conversation with a number of prospective partners in the Church and in the secular sphere who are keen to create an effective team to raise the substantial funds that will make a serious impact when the time comes for rebuilding. There will be more news of this as it is established. I am very moved by those who want to be in this with the Church for the long haul.
It will be some days before we know the full extent of what has happened. This time of waiting is dreadful, and takes its toll. We continue to keep everyone affected by this storm in our prayers, as well as those who are organizing help of various kinds.
For now, I am asking you to consider how you may be able to continue to be a part of the long-term support that we shall need so that we can be a significant partner to our companion diocese. The Church is rooted in specific communities, and our life finds its meaning in our local communities of faith. We are in communities, doing the work of the Gospel, before disasters strike; we remain in those same communities after disasters, and after everyone else moves on. This is the Church’s strength and commitment, and this makes us essential partners in the rebuilding of communities.
With love and prayers,