On Thursday October 18, Katie Mears, the senior director of Episcopal Relief & Development’s US Disaster Program visited the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast to meet with Bishop Russell Kendrick and see some of the devastation resulting from Hurricane Michael which made landfall in the Panama City area on October 10. Mears also met with Dwight Babcock, the diocesan administrator, Chris Heaney, the diocesan coordinator for Hurricane Michael Relief and Deacon Tricia Spencer, the diocesan preparedness and response coordinator.
Kendrick and Babcock gave Mears an overview of how the diocese was affected by Hurricane Michael and how churches were beginning to respond. Mears discussed the life cycle of a disaster, and the emotional phases of a disaster and how these emotions would likely surface over the next few weeks and months. Funding opportunities was also a major topic of discussion.
Heaney then took Mears to visit several parishes in the Panama City area.
The first stop was Holy Nativity where the rector, the Rev. Steve Bates shared how neighboring churches were responding to the needs of the parish, the community area, and the Holy Nativity School. Much damage was done to the school which hopes to restart around December 1.
The second visit was to St. Andrew’s, whose rector, the Rev. Dr. Margaret Shepard and curate, the Rev. Molly Payne-Hardin have spoken to almost all the members of the parish and were planning a variety of services in the next several Sundays to focus on helping people feel a part of the larger St. Andrew’s community.
The final visit was to Grace Episcopal Church where the priest-in-charge, the Rev. Mary Alice Mathison was preparing to host “Supper at Grace" which is an outreach program that provides a free meal every Thursday evening in the parish hall for people living in the area. Mathison was not sure how the hurricane would affect attendance but food security was a big concern for many in the area.
Mears commented on her visit, “It was great to see the Episcopal Church responding to both the parish community and the whole Panama City community.” She added, “...that responding to the storm will take a long time but as the members of the Body of Christ that is what we are called to do and Episcopal Relief & Development will walk with the diocese.”
Please continue to pray for those impacted by Hurricane Michael. Donations to the Hurricane Relief Fund will help Episcopal Relief & Development respond to this crisis. To circulate the most recent bulletin inserts, click here. You can mail donation to Episcopal Relief & Development P.O. Box 7058 Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.