Floods - long term prayer needed
‘Pray for our communities – both now and in the long term. That has been the consistent response of Baptist ministers at the heart of areas affected by the current floods
The Revd Barbara Carpenter is minister of Stoke St Gregory Baptist Church in the Somerset Levels. The floodwaters had not reached the village of Stoke St Gregory, but had closed five out of the six roads that access it, causing major transport difficulties. Surrounding areas had been more directly affected.
‘It’s awful around where we are,’ Barbara said. ‘Some people have been flooded, including people connected to the church. We have families at the school who are connected with Moorland (the village where residents were asked to evacuate). There are farmers whose crops are under water.
‘It’s just very bad – there really are no words.’
Amidst the difficulties, she said the community had rallied together. ‘People, including many from our church, have been involved in sandbagging, helping people access buses, providing food and hot drinks. People have come together without a doubt – people who didn’t perhaps know each other are uniting and helping each other out, working long days.’
In terms of help from others, Barbara added that the church had been supported by funds from people in the neighbouring West of England Baptist Association, which had been used to help cover increased travel costs and getting children to school. She requested any further donations be sent to the Somerset Community Foundation flood appeal. Items like food or blankets were no longer needed.
Above all she requested prayer. ‘Praying for people is always the place to start. All prayer is much appreciated for in a sense this is the beginning – we will need long-term support.’
Her words were echoed by the Revd Gary Birch, minister of Creech St Michael Baptist Church, a little further away from the Levels and close to the M5. Though not directly affected, the church has members in some of the worst-hit villages, like Moorland.
In terms of responding, he said, ‘The first thing to do is pray. We pray specifically for the jet stream to move, we pray for protection.’
The church is linking with local organisations charities working on the ground, and Gary is both an accredited chaplain who could be called to a situation by the emergency services, as well as an army reservist.
Elsewhere the flooding has been affecting the Thames Valley, including Wraysbury, between Windsor and Staines. The Berkshire town was heavily featured in the media on Tuesday following the arrival of the army to help.
Baptist minister the Revd Carolyn Urwin said Wraysbury had experienced weeks of flooding, but had worsened significantly since the start of the week. Around 80 per cent of the town had been flooded, with around 100 evacuations. Her church was making itself available as venue to gather and for hot drinks now the emergency services were using the control centre.
She reported both a sense of community spirit – and anger that nothing had been done for the town’s flood defences.
‘People want to come together to help each other, but there is anger too. Wraysbury never used to flood until the Jubilee River (opened in 2002). We have asked for help since 2003, but nothing has happened.’ She too requested prayer, and any messages of encouragement for all those working to help the town.
‘A lot of people are getting to the end of their tether through tiredness - many are up at 5am and not going to bed until midnight or later.
‘And when all the immediate attention has gone away, which it will, more needs will come to light. It’s going to be a long haul.’