12 February 2014
Churches aid flood victims
The Thames. Credit - James Reed
As the extreme wet weather continues across the UK, churches are opening their doors to flood victims and reaching out to their communities with practical assistance.
Read futher about how churches from across the UK have been picking up the pieces after flood damage
Alliance member, Westfield United Reformed Church in Somerset, has turned its church building into a rest centre for local people who have been evacuated from their homes due to flooding.
"Locally the flooding is very bad so some villages have seen almost everyone in them evacuated. Some people are trying to leave and stay with relatives but the first point of call is the church," says Westfield URC.
Various agencies and volunteers, in partnership with the local authorities, are providing hot drinks and food. The Samaritans and Salvation Army are also available through the rest centre which has been open 24/7 since last Friday when people first began to arrive.
Around 50 people have passed through the centre so far and the public have donated clothes and food.
Chris Baillie, minister at Westfield URC, told Premier Radio how people are reacting: "For some there is agitation that it's happened at all. However, the main theme is appreciation for those who are working in the homes and communities. There is also a lot of appreciation when they come in through the church doors and get fed and settled in.
"It's hugely important that people know that the Church is ready to support them. People already realise that when there is hardship the local Church tends to respond. So there's a kind of looking to us anyway, I think. People can also discover our willingness to help. Reaching out to people who are in difficulty is part of what we're here for, isn't it?" said Chris.
Other churches around the country are working to bring relief to victims. St Peter's Church in Chertsey were handing out and delivering free sandbags to the community and many churches, like a Baptist Church in Wraysbury have become management centres for dealing with the floods. Some churches have had to move out of their buildings or work together with neighbouring churches who are on a hill.
Churches Together in Chalfont St Giles have launched a village appeal for donations in aid of the Somerset Flood Relief Fund. The fund is operated by the Somerset Community Foundation and provides immediate financial assistance to those affected by the flooding, some of whose properties have been inundated by water and sewage since before Christmas. Donations can be made at any church service and in a local Building Society.
David Cornick general secretary of Churches Together in England says: "'Its great to learn of local initiatives like this, raising money to help the victims of the floods. That's a real, practical expression of the love Jesus commanded us to show to neighbours near and far".
Fred Drummond, director of prayer at the Alliance, calls for churches to pray for families and communities affected by the ongoing severe weather and offer hope, comfort and practical assistance.
"Gracious Lord, homes and businesses mean so much to us. They speak of memories, hopes, energy spent and dreams shared. Father, many people today fear for their homes and work places as the threat of flooding becomes a reality. We pray for hope and encouragement.
"We thank you for the community spirit that has been so evident in many places and ask for that to grow. Lord be with the fearful, and those who have lost much. God of compassion pour out your love, in Jesus name, amen."