|Flooding in Longmont, Colo., forced area residents - inclduing a United Methodist district superintendent - to evacuate Sept 13. Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountain Conference.|
Originally posted on UMC Connections
United Methodists in Colorado are asking for prayers and monetary donations in the wake of the floods that have ripped up roads, cut off communications and taken the lives of at least four people.
Nearly 500 people were still unaccounted for following the deadly floods as of Sunday, Sept 15, according to news reports.
"My prayers are with all who are responding to flooding along the Front Range today," Mountain Sky Area Bishop Eliane J.W. Stanovsky posted on Facebook on Sept 13. "And more to come. God is in the midst of the trouble. A very present help in time of need."
The dead include the great-grandson of a member of St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Boulder, according to a Facebook post by Stanovsky, who oversees The United Methodist Church in Colorado. The teen was swept away while trying to rescue his girlfriend, who also died.
Stanovsky visited churches affected by the flooding. In a Sept 15 Facebook post, she wrote, "This morning I'll visit as many churches affected by the terrible floods as possible. My message: When the storms of life are raging, God stands by you. The whole church prays and upholds you during this terrible disaster.
"Thanks to all the pastors and lay persons in churches on the front lines of the flooding, who offer a ministry of help and presence when the world is literally turning upside down and washing away," she wrote.
Heavy rains over the weekend grounded helicopters and slowed rescue efforts. News reports said helicopter flights to help with evacuations were expected to resume Monday. Residents expected it would be days before the full extent of devastation was known.
Tens of thousands of Colorado residents have been evacuated from their homes, including the Rev. Skip Strickland, superintendent of the Peaks and Plains District. He lives in Longmont, and his district encompasses other flood-drenched cities of Boulder, Loveland, Fort Collins, Lyons and Estes Park.
Strickland, who is also new church development coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Annual (regional) Conference, was monitoring the situation and checking on pastors in his district Sept 13, as well as attending a long-planned meeting in Idaho on starting new congregations. His wife is staying with their son in North Longmont.
He said the floodwaters in some areas were already higher than the deadly Thompson Canyon flood in 1976 in part because of the burn scars left after wildfires, which destroyed much of the vegetation that ordinarily would have absorbed the rain.
He said that one pastor in his district and the mother of a newborn, the Rev. Emily Flemming, opened Lyons (Colo.) United Methodist Church at 2am Sept 13 to take in evacuees. Later in the day, the National Guard evacuated the entire town of Lyons. Both Flemming and her family were safe, the conference reported.
"We're in the emergency phase right now and then we will be moving into the response phase in the next few weeks," the Rev Nancy Boswell, disaster relief coordinator for the Peaks and Plains District. "That's when we'll gather people into work teams to clean up and then get people back on their feet."
She is also the pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Fort Collins and helped coordinate the recovery after last year's wildfires.
Fro now, both Boswell and Strickland asked United Methodists for prayer and funds, particularly since many of those affected do not have flood insurance.
The Rocky Mountain Conference shared an update on its churches:
- Lyons United Methodist Church: The town is completely isolated and the infrastructure is destroyed. No clean water is available.
- Johnstown United Methodist Church: There is no access.
- St Paul's United Methodist Church, Boulder: There is extensive flood damage to the parsonage basement and to the pastor's personal library. There is some flooding and damage to the church.
- Mountain View United Methodist Church: There is flooding at the church and parsonage.
- Fort Lupton United Methodist Church: There is some water damage in the parsonage basement and the church.
- Burns United Methodist Church: There is flooding in the first floor and the elevator shaft.
Other United Methodist churches reported minor flooding, and as of Sept 13 afternoon, the conference still had not heard from the Estes Park congregation.
Boswell knew that at least in Boulder, United Methodist planned to worship as always this weekend.
"All three (United Methodist) pastors said that some of their parishioners had been evacuated but were safe, and they were getting their churches ready for worship on Sunday," Boswell said. "They felt that was really important."
Strickland, who did not know whether his house would be livable when he returned, said he decided to go ahead with his meeting with Path1 because of the importance of starting new congregations.
"When something like this happens, we all know there will be a future," he said, "and we need to prepare for that."
- Give to the Untied Methodist Committee on Relief's US Disaster Response
- Assemble cleaning buckets for UMCOR
News media contact: Heather Hahn, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org