Luckily, there were no fatalities in the area that Chris serves, but trees and fences were downed and, Chris says, “Pretty much the whole city lost power.”
Chris says he first felt the gravity of the situation when he went to check on some of his members in area nursing homes. “One of them in Plainfield is still running on a generator,” he says. “It has those doors that open automatically, and that was one of the moments where it felt surreal, that moment of pushing open this sliding door was a little strange.”
But St. Stephen just happened to be on the first part of the power grid that was turned back on. So while many in the area were still waiting to have power restored a week after the storm hit, St. Stephen was able to help.
“We put up the sign offering that we had power and heat,” Chris shares. “People came in to get heat and electricity,” he says. “Two people kept their food in our freezer because their freezer wasn’t running.”
Other members of St. Stephen made dinner for those whose power still wasn’t restored.
“It’s been neat to see all of the folks ready to lend a hand,” Chris shares.
In addition to the congregation coming together to support the community, St. Stephen has worked closely with the ELCA New Jersey Synod staff, who have kept people updated via Twitter and Facebook.
And he was also pleasantly surprised to see the church as a whole rally around the areas affected by the storm. “The ELCA had the email about disaster relief, and we were like ‘Look, that’s us,” Chris chuckles, referring to the ELCA Disaster Response request for donations as the recovery process begins.
On All Saints Sunday, a week after Hurricane Sandy, he says, “Not only did we have our loved one’s pictures up on the altar, but we were remembering those lost in the storm.”
Now that a nor’easter has blanketed the area with snow and left even more people without power, Chris is trying to keep things in perspective.
He will be hosting a discussion about God and natural disasters at a local pub where he hopes people will feel free to ask tough questions about God’s role in times like these.
Overall, though, he says he’s grateful for the support everyone has shown to the area and to his congregation: “I just thank God everybody’s alive and kicking.”
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