August 30, 2017
Dear REC Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
I know we all have been praying and expressing our concern about the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Harvey, particularly the massive amount of rain producing flooding in Houston, Texas. I write to give you an update as of today, Tuesday the 30th. The good news I have to report is best summarized by the Very Rev. Canon Jason Grote, Rector of St. Matthias Cathedral, Katy, Texas: “While you certainly see the devastation of the flooding in Houston on your national news, I can thankfully report that most everyone in our REC parishes have been spared from much of what you see.”
For your information there are many Anglican Church in North America congregations in the Houston area. As for the Reformed Episcopal Church, we have seven congregations in Houston and one in Corpus Christ, Texas, totaling eight in this large area hit by the hurricane. Through the past weekend and the first part of the week I’ve spoken by phone with all of our rectors either directly or by way of text/voicemail exchanges. The good news is that as of today, as far as we can tell, none of our church buildings (and rectors homes) were flooded. One of our parishes, St. Thomas where Archdeacon James Payne is Rector, reports some water around one of the windows and a puddle in the parish hall, as well as a parking lot covered with inches of water, but no flooding in the church, thanks be to God.
The Rectors are confirming that nearly all of our parishioners in these congregations were not flooded out either. I have heard that one assisting clergy family, and two homes of our laity, were overcome by the rising waters. Certainly a number of others did have leaks and took water but not to the point of having to evacuate. It will take a while to obtain these reports, since communications are just now starting to come back in so many areas.
Two of our rectors had to evacuate their homes. The Rev. Dr. Benjamin Bernier, Rector of Providence REC in Corpus Christi, left last Friday with his family. Officials were recommending evacuation. At that time it looked as though the city was going to receive a direct hit from the hurricane. Thankfully this did not happen although the effects of the hurricane were still strongly felt in the city. Dr. Benjamin and family have now returned. Providence REC was spared.
The other rector is the Rev. Canon Rusty Ellisor at Church of the Resurrection in Crosby, Texas, southeast of Houston. He and his family had to evacuate yesterday due to concerns that a nearby ammonia plant had been compromised possibly to the point of explosion. The Ellisors were able to stay with friends last night. They are expected thankfully to be able to return to their home later today.
On another positive note, one of our congregations, Holy Trinity where the Rev. Carl Lund is the Rector, has even had opportunity to help neighbors who were flooded out of their apartments down the street from the church. Holy Trinity opened up its parish hall where as many as seven families have been staying. There will be many more opportunities for God’s people to be the hands and feet of Christ in this tragic situation.
Therefore we are all grateful to our Lord that all REC churches, and most of our people have been spared. Of course, Houston is only today experiencing sunshine for the first time in many days. Reports are that in most areas the waters are rapidly receding. There are still parts of Houston, however, that are near dams and rivers overflowing. They will be in harms way for some time to come.
Let us also not forget the storm continues to move across the country. It has spread into Louisiana where we have two REC congregations, St. Paul’s in Baton Rouge (Rector the Rev. Dr. Randall Toms) and All Saints (Priest-in-Charge the Rev. Tony Welty) in Shreveport. The storm is also headed toward Mississippi where we have a parish in Jackson, St. Stephen’s REC (Rector Jonathan Kell). The effects of this horrible hurricane will be felt for days to come. We cannot assess the full extent just yet. Please continue to pray for those in Louisiana and the other states where the storm is going.
What can we do? First of all, please pray without ceasing. Second, please consider giving. You can start with the following link by donating through the Anglican Relief and Development Fund (ARDF) here . This is the emergency relief program for the Anglican Church in North America that will be the most immediate and effective way to give.
Thanks for whatever you can do. This is an extraordinary catastrophe of incredible magnitude that touches many of our brothers and sisters as well as millions of others. Not only our fellow Christians, but so many are suffering. May we, and especially our brothers and sisters so close to the crisis, be enabled to share the transforming love of Christ through word and deed to the end that many would call upon His Name.
As we know more about the needs and other ways we can pray and help, I’ll let you know. For now, let us all remember what the Psalmist says, “The Lord sits enthroned above the flood” (29:10). Nothing is more powerful than God Almighty! Even in the midst of tragedy He is over all. In His absolute sovereignty and infinite mercy He will provide some how some way for this precious community in Houston, Texas.
Other updates may also be found on the ACNA Website. Bishop Clark Lowenfield and The Anglican Diocese of the Western Gulf Coast are based in Houston, Texas and will be coordinating the relief effort among ACNA in the region.
+Ray R. Sutton
Presiding Bishop and Ordinary