Saturday, September 24, 2005

A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Paul - 092305

September 23, 2005

From Bishop Paul

To be read at all services

and posted on parish bulletin boards

on the weekend of September 25,

Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Diocese of Bethlehem,

I write you from the House of Bishops meeting. The first day of our work was devoted to organizing a churchwide response to hurricane devastation in the Gulf Coast. As we worked with keen awareness that Rita was bearing down on that region, our concern intensified.

The bishops of Louisiana, Mississippi and the Central Gulf Coast shared images and accounts of the destruction even more vivid than those seen on television.

The Bishop of Louisiana spoke from his heart about the degree of racism and classism that this disaster has exposed in his city of New Orleans and publicly repented of his complicity in the Church's silence about it. He also reported that the omnivorous gambling industry is already moving, somewhat coercively, to rebuild New Orleans as a casino city. He emphasized the importance of the Church's presence in discussions about rebuilding.

Both the Presiding Bishop and his wife told me separately how impressed they were on their visit with the work of one of our priests, Father Ira Houck, who serves as an army chaplain. His ministry is to those dealing with death and other loss either as victims or relief workers.

I have received email from Episcopal Relief and Development also singling out the work of our diocesan ERD coordinator, Jack Moulton, in keeping us informed of needs of victims.

The bishops of the three afflicted dioceses have asked us not to show up on their doorstep to help at this time. They cannot house and feed their own people, so guests are an impossibility. They have, however, asked us is escrow our goodwill. The Bishop for Chaplaincies will coordinate efforts over the next five years, the estimated time for rebuilding.

The national church plan calls for each bishop and one additional personfor us, the Archdeaconto coordinate lists of resources in their diocese that can be called on as the time is right. So I ask you now to identify your willingness to give of your time, energy, or other non-monetary resources. Money will continue to be received at any time. If you can contribute general labor, building skills (including electrical and plumbing), health care, or other services, please let me or your rector know. Please indicate as well the amount of time you are able to commit. Some people have already volunteered. Diana will be taking her nursing skills south as soon as there is a place for her.

Some may not be available to do physical labor and may not have a great deal of money to give away. The Diocese of Louisiana solicits your investment at market rates in loan funds that will be made available to those who would have difficulty getting money to rebuild. It is the diocese and not the borrower who would guarantee your funds. You may call them at 225-387-5141 for more information. Vestries and Trustees are also invited to place some of their liquid assets in this fund.

As a number of people in our own diocese have reminded us, this new effort does not take the place of our ministries throughout the diocese or our commitment to Kajo-Keji in southern Sudan It is an additional opportunity for us to enter the self-giving life to which Jesus calls us. Begun and continued in prayer, such an undertaking will only deepen our solidarity with those in need and with our Lord himself.

I have been amazedbut not surprisedby the depth of generosity the diocese has shown over the last three years to human need around the world. Our church asks us to give .7% of our budget to developing countries and we have in fact sent amounts equal to nearly 30%.

This witness to the love of God is something that I will always cherish. It encourages me in my own walk with Christ. The Church as a whole now asks us to coordinate our effort with 99 fellow dioceses so that our sisters and brothers to the south can most effectively face the years of rebuilding that lie ahead. Please do let me hear from you.

With thanks for the great compassion you have so consistently shown in the years I have known you, I remain,

Faithfully yours,


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