Episcopal dioceses, congregations and institutions seeking to build companion relationships in hurricane relief are asked to work through a new churchwide system outlined September 22 during the fall meeting of the House of Bishops.
The four-phase response system -- titled "We Will Stand With You" -- has begun under the direction of the Bishop Suffragan for Chaplaincies, George Packard, who has asked that diocesan bishops serve as principal liaisons in the assessment and development of companion relationships.
Congregations and institutions wishing to partner with congregations in hard-hit disaster areas are asked first to express their interest to their diocesan bishops, Packard said.
Development of the system and resource sharing is supported by new web pages available at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/help. The acronym "HELP" stands for Hurricane Emergency Links Portal, provided by the Episcopal News Service. Personnel have begun compiling lists of partnerships and resources emerging and already in place, so that an overall response map may be readied for posting as soon as possible.
Diocesan bishops have begun to work with Packard in the first-phase process of inventory and assessment of both needs and resources. Bishops are responding with completed survey forms distributed by Packard, whose chaplaincy ministries also include support of the U.S. Armed Services.
Packard underscored the importance of the current inventory efforts: "We know there is already on-going help deployed and connected with need in the affected areas; however, an accurate map of that assistance is needed" and will be provided online.
Under phase two, Packard, staff and bishops in the hardest-hit areas will begin matching needs with resources in a fully coordinated plan. Priorities will begin with dioceses in Louisiana and Mississippi (and potentially other Gulf Coast dioceses, depending upon the impact of Hurricane Rita).
Packard said phase three is the functional process of beginning on-the-ground help, the development of financial programs indented for moderate- to long-term rebuilding, and continuing coordination of congregations and dioceses offering help to affected areas.
Phase four is evaluation and improvement, with ongoing monitoring provided by a working group that meets regularly at the Episcopal Church Center in New York and unites representatives of Packard's chaplaincies office, Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD), Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), the National Association of Episcopal Schools, the churchwide Office of Mission Program, and the Office of Communication.
Joining Packard in presentations to the House of Bishops were ERD President Rob Radtke, who reiterated the need for long-term response to hurricane relief, as well as additional crisis-response planning churchwide. He said ERD had already raised nearly $5 million in new contributions since Hurricane Katrina hit on August 29.
EMM executive director Richard Parkins also addressed the bishops, bringing an update of EMM work to support evacuees and resettlement (see related ENS stories).
All presenters emphasized the importance of ongoing financial contributions to ERD, which may be given online at www.er-d.org, or by mail to ERD's bank lockbox, P.O. Box 12043, Newark, NJ 07101. Phone donations may be placed at 800.334.7626, ext. 5129.
Inquiries about the partnership system or HELP web pages may be directed to staff by phoning or e-mailing the Info Desk at the Episcopal Church Center, Monday-Friday, 9:30am to 5pm, 800.334.7626, or email@example.com.