Dear sisters and brothers:
Last week, we sent out a call to prayer and let all of you know about a fund we established for Those effected by the wildfires. Please keep those prayers coming for all those effected. Windstorms and possible lightning are predicted to roll through today and tonight... If you or your church would like to, you can send a check to our offices (325 N. 125th St. Seattle, WA 98118) with "Disaster Relief: Washington" in the memo line. If you would like to Donate online, you can go to our website (www.pncucc.org) and click on the "DONATE NOW" button to do the same. Even though the memo line says "Washington" these funds will first be used within the bounds of the Pacific Northwest Conference (Washington, North Idaho, Alaska).
Over the last week, I've been part of a few conversations to begin to determine how we might be able to help (including conversations with ecumenical partners; communication with our national offices; communication with our own Disaster Response Ministries coordinator Rev. Ken Coleman; and a conference call with several of our clergy on the east side of the mountains last night). A few ideas are emerging. Forgive a long email but the hope is that by putting out more ideas here, we might find the places we can best respond. As you will read, the potential responses are as fluid as the situation itself.
- Material needs: There are some organizations that are already doing great work supporting those who have been most directly effected by these fires. At this point, they're all saying not to send any donations of materials like clothes, sheets, etc. At this point, they have more than what they need. If this changes, we'll hear about it.
- Service needs:
- The call for skilled volunteers to fight the fires in Washington ended today. They have more help that they need which is wonderful.
- There is some need for places where farm animals can be housed. As we have more information about this, we'll share it or if you know more about this, please share that information here in a reply to this list.
- Air quality concerns came up for every church that was on the eastside call. We discussed one particular possibility and a question came up after the call:
- a) We wondered if our churches might be places where appropriate air quality masks and a one page information sheet about dealing with poor air quality could be shared. If you are a medical professional with expertise in respiratory issues and would be willing to help us think this through, please email me or call me directly at 206-725-8383 .
- b) What if we helped those who might be most vulnerable make their homes more resistant to smoke penetration? If you have expertise or experience in this, please contact me.
- As far as long term recovery efforts, some of our ecumenical partners who have experience in local fire recovery have been contacted to see if we might be able to join them in their recovery work.
- Pastoral needs:
- The threat of fire, the ever present reality of smoke, and the possibility that these weather patterns may "the new normal" is causing significant stress. On the phone call last night, we discussed putting together some sort of training for clergy so that they can be a resource for members of their congregations and communities. If this is an area of expertise for you, contact me. If you are aware of a helpful resource, please share those resources here.
- Advocacy work:
- There was also the recognition on the phone meeting that one important response to these fires is increasing our advocacy work related to climate change. Among our churches, we already have great relationships with faith based organizations such as Earth Ministry and FAN that are involved in this work. There is interest in expanding this work.
- We also are part of a denomination that has long been involved in environmental justice work. In fact, there is an UCC Environmental Justice Training coming to our Camp N-Sid-Sen October 7th-9th. If you are interested, there is still time to register.
Please continue to pray both for those effected by these fires as well as for God's guidance in helping us discern how to best respond.