My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
I am sending this message by email to our bishops, clergy and congregations -- insofar as is possible -- so that it might be shared and that we might be a community united in prayer and service during this time.
During these past days I have been contacting bishops in the areas affected by hurricane Katrina and have spoken to the bishops of Alabama, the Central Gulf Coast, Louisiana and Mississippi. As you would imagine, they are ministering to their communities the very best they can under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Communication is tenuous, and in some cases impossible. As hour by hour the almost unimaginable ravages of the hurricane become more fully known we are continuing to learn of further losses of life, houses, churches, and other familiar points of reference, including the destruction of whole communities.
At this time let us be exceedingly mindful that bearing one another's burdens and sharing one another's suffering is integral to being members of Christ's body. I call upon every member of our church to reach out in prayer and tangible support to our brothers and sisters as they live through these overwhelming days of loss and begin to face the difficult challenges of the future.
Episcopal Relief and Development has been in contact with all the dioceses in the Gulf Coast area touched by the hurricane and will be working with them long after the television cameras have left. Funds have already been sent to the dioceses of Central Gulf Coast, Mississippi and Louisiana. I ask you to donate funds to the work of ERD such that our brothers and sisters in Christ will have the resources needed for the monumental task of reconstruction and rebuilding. Donations to ERD can be made as follows with an indication that they are designated for hurricane relief: via ERD's website at www.er-d.org 24 hours a day; by calling ERD at 800/334-7626, extension 5129 Monday – Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Standard time; by sending a check payable to Episcopal Relief and Development, Box 12043, Newark, New Jersey 07101-5043.
The Rt. Rev. George Packard, Suffragan Bishop for Chaplaincies, has been in contact with bishops in the Gulf Coast area. Bishop Packard is working such that a network of chaplains -- police, fire, civil defense and military chaplains -- is providing information to the bishops about what is happening in areas of their dioceses they have not been able to reach. The next stage of his work will be setting up training for clergy and others in dealing with the trauma so many have experienced.
Episcopal Migration Ministries is also responding and Richard Parkins, the Director of EMM, is investigating the possibilities of resettlement for people who are temporarily homeless.
Life affords us very few securities and yet deep within us, often revealed in the midst of profound vulnerability and loss, springs up a hope that contradicts the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Such hope emerges from the depths of despair as pure and unexpected gift. This is the way in which Christ accompanies us and seeks to share our burdens. May Christ so be with those of us who are enduring the effects of the hurricane, and may each one of us be a minister of hope to others in these dark and tragic days.
May we together pray:
God of mercy and compassion, be in our midst and bind us together in your Spirit as a community of love and service to bear one another's burdens in these days as we face the ravages of storm and sea. This we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord from whom alone comes our hope.
The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA