Native Texan and Major Gift Officer for Episcopal Relief & Development, Mike Smith, recently traveled to his home state to witness and document the devastating impact of the storm. During his trip, he gained a deeper awareness of how neighbors work together during recovery efforts. Mike also witnessed the strength and power of ecumenical cooperation as congregations and church partners leveraged local relationships to meet the immediate and complex needs of diverse communities throughout Texas. Here is one of eight short stories Mike captured during his visit:
Faith Lutheran Church, 1.6 miles around the corner and down the street, wasn’t so lucky. Faith lost pews, hymnals, carpet, flooring and walls. Parishioners don’t expect even to get back into the building until late January. The main worship space will take longer and will cost more than they have.
The Reverend Stacy Stringer, rector of Holy Trinity Church, reached out to her counterpart, Pastor Deb Grant, inviting her and the Faith congregation to share Holy Trinity’s space and worship together. They’ve been doing so ever since, with a kind of tag team approach, alternating preaching and celebrating.
I was there on Advent 1. The priests’ stoles and the Advent wreath candles were blue, not purple, a simple act to recognize the Lutheran tradition.
In the Litany for Advent Hope, Pastor Grant prayed: “People of God, what will you do with hope?
The congregational response: “We will light a candle. We will not let despair rule the day."
In her sermon, Reverend Stringer spoke of the darkness that had threatened so much of the Dickinson community since Harvey, and how easy it can be to fall into despair. But she reminded worshipers that their community had not fallen, that they were bringing light to the world through their care for each other.
“Advent tells us to keep watch, prepare, to see what is needed and then do something to help, “ she said.
Reverend Stringer never thought much about disaster relief and response, but now says, “Maybe this is exactly what I’m being called to do.”
The church parking lot, which was used as a launching point in September for a flotilla of rescue boats, was full on the Sunday I visited. After services, Rev. Stringer and Pastor Grant greeted worshipers after the 10:30 service.
People lingered, talking with the ministers and each other, finally leaving to return to their lives, some of which will be in flux for a long time.
Heading back down route 517, I passed Faith Lutheran church and saw the marquee that said, simply: “We Thank God for Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.”