|Sign outside the First Church of Monson UCC the day after the tornadoes hit. Photo by Peter Wells.|
|The First Church of Monson, UCC, lost its steeple to the hurricane. Photo by Peter Wells|
While United Church of Christ congregations in Monson and Brimfield are working to address the immediate needs of the people in their communities who were hard hit by the June 1st tornadoes, the Massachusetts Conference is calling on all of it's churches to support long term recovery efforts here and in other states hit hard by this spring's storms.
"In the days and weeks ahead, you will be hearing more ways for us to come together as a Conference to support our churches and communities in these disaster affected areas. In the meantime, know that your donations to the UCC Spring Storms appeal is one avenue of support," Conference staff said in an email sent out to churches on Friday.
"But in particular, please consider the appeal for Church World Service clean-up buckets. These buckets contain the supplies and instructions folks need as they begin the work of returning their homes to a new place of normal. They are a tangible sign of support and concern and a practical gift of materials and supplies."
On Thursday, The First Church of Monson, UCC, held a prayer service and then remained open for the next 24 hours offering people food, water and a safe haven. At the service, Pastor Bob Marrone said people have been asking where God was in the storms. His response was that God was there, in the neighbors who checked on one another, in the rescue workers, in all those who have rallied to help.
"The unique thing about the First Church service was that they moved from prayers to discussion of action," said Associate Conference Minister Peter Wells, explaining that the service was followed by a meeting to discuss the church's response. The church has been accepting donations of food and water, serving
At First Congregational UCC in Brimfield, the church was planning a 6 PM pot luck dinner and community prayer service for Friday evening. Those with food are being invited to bring it to the church to share it with those without, and with responders. The church is also planning daily meals - breakfast. lunch and dinner - throughout the weekend for those without power and for the volunteers
"It is our hope to offer a place that anyone who wants to can come and diffuse, relax, eat and have a place to just get away from the devastation," said member Gina Lynch, spouse of Pastor Ian Lynch. " A place where hope is found. A place where peace is found."
MACUCC Disaster Response Coordinators Don Remick and Jim Tilbe said in the email to churches that they are gathering information from churches and pastors impacted by the storm and have been in contact with our UCC National Disaster Ministries office as they look for ways to offer support.
"We want to be sure to offer the kind of support that will be helpful without burdening those most impacted and those tasked to offer emergency response. While we want to respond quickly as we watch the images and hear the stories, disaster recovery is a marathon, not a sprint," they said.
Remick, Tilbe and Conference staff members Peter Wells, Andy Gustafson and Kris Lofrumento called on churches to join with the Maine and Vermont UCC Conferences in making a concerted effort to respond to the Church World Service appeal for clean-up buckets in response to this spring's storms and ongoing disaster needs.
"In addition to responding to the current disaster situations around the country, it's absolutely critical to keep replenishing the supply! We understand that Maine has set a goal of 1,000 buckets. While we don't currently have our own goal, we know that you will respond with the same generosity that you always do," they wrote in the email. "We don't have the details yet concerning drop-off spots and times, so for now you will need to keep the buckets in your church. As soon as those details are available we will let you know."