November 1, 2012
NYC Churches Respond to Hurricane Sandy
New York churches find ways to serve the victims despite their own losses.
Today citizens of New York and New Jersey awakened to a still-desperate scene. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, power is still out in much of the city and many streets and tunnels are still flooded. Debris is being cleared. Some subways are still shut down. New Yorkers are beginning to look toward reconstruction, but many are still struggling to go about their daily lives. In the midst of the mess, many turn to their churches for stability, comfort, and guidance.
Armin Sommer, pastor of Grace Church in Netcong and Rockaway, New Jersey, said, "Sandy has devastated the area in many ways. Gas lines are a mile long. Most people are without power. We are a multi-site church (2 sites). One of our campuses is without power, so we have consolidated all our worship services to the other site."
New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York, feels the combined weight of their members’ losses. Associate lead pastor, Rich Villodas, said, “Many of our members—particularly those in Long Island, Queens, New Jersey, Manhattan—have lost power for the last week. Some have lost their homes, and others have incurred significant property damage.”
New Life responded quickly. “We have spent the last few days making phone calls to check in on our members,” Villodas said.
Bruce Terrell, executive director at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, said, “We had to cancel two of our services last week, and we’re not sure about services this Sunday.” While Redeemer’s Downtown site is still without power, their East Side site has been converted into an evacuation shelter. “We are in contact with city officials, who told us the most urgent need presently is assistance in these evacuation shelters,” said Terrell.
But New Life Fellowship and Redeemer Presbyterian and other churches are still doing everything they can to aid the victims of this tragedy.
“Redeemer is providing practical and financial assistance, as well as pastoral care to victims,” said Terrell. “We're also encouraging members to reach out to their neighbors in tangible ways.”
Villodas said: “New Life has organized temporary housing arrangements for those who have lost their homes and those who are without power. We are also opening our health center and food and clothing pantry for those impacted by Hurricane Sandy.”
Another major issue is lack of transportation. Authorities said that Hurricane Sandy is the worst disaster to hit the New York subway system in its 108-year existence. Redeemer had to cancel one of its services because of the transportation shut-down. New Life foresees a similar situation this coming weekend. Villodas said, “Due to mass transit issues, many of our members will not make it to work or to our Sunday worship gatherings this week.” The subway and commuter train system could be out of commission for well over a week.
If you would like to serve those affected by Hurricane Sandy, you can donate to Redeemer's Sandy Relief Fund which will be used for all of their relief efforts. Or you can give to Hope for New York, which partners with more than 40 churches and organizations that serve the poor and marginalized of the city, or salvationarmyusa.org.