The Pastoral Side of Dealing with a Disaster

05 Oct

Staff and volunteers move the Christus Rex that hangs over the altar at Honey Creek to provide safekeeping in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew’s arrival this coming weekend.

Having a video record of church belongings is great. Securing church property and removing any items which need to leave with those evacuating is even better. But the church is the people and in any disaster, preparing to stay in touch with parishioners is paramount.

Stay in Touch
Having up to date contact lists available is critical. Following any disaster, the first impulse is to make sure that everyone is okay. To do this, you need a system. Know who will call whom and how you will share the news if assistance is needed. If a few people have hard copy and electronic copies of your contact list, you will be able to reach any potentially vulnerable persons quickly. Having cell numbers and email addresses of members will be critical if this is to work as you will otherwise not be able to reach persons who evacuated. As a disaster unfolds, no member of the church should seek to assist another directly. Venturing into a flooded area to help may double the job of first responders. If you know someone is in need, alert emergency personnel to the issue and offer to meet up with him or her at a safe location.

Decide how existing communications channels will benefit the church in a time of disaster. If you have an active email newsletter and Facebook page, these will be more valuable than your website in getting the word out to parishioners. Let folks know in advance that an email and Facebook post will alert them if Sunday services are cancelled or moved to an alternate location. This information should also be added to the website. Before leaving the church ahead of a storm or other disaster that comes with some advanced notice, change the answering machine to let callers know where they can get the latest information on your church.

Staying in touch in the immediate aftermath and using existing communications channels well will greatly assist in caring for the people of your congregation.

Peace, Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue,Canon to the Ordinary

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