Disaster Preparedness Training, Aug. 17

Dear Friends,
There is still time to register for our next-to-the-last disaster preparedness training session, to be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 17 at St. George’s Regional Disaster Recovery & Outreach Center, 408 E. Main Street in Nanticoke. The training will prepare representatives of your parish to help coordinate a disaster preparedness and response plan for your church, as required by the resolution proposed by the Diocesan Disaster Recovery & Community Resiliency Committee and approved at last year’s Diocesan Convention, as follows:
Diocesan Resolution on Preparedness, Approved at the October, 2012 Diocesan Convention:
With awareness that disasters of many types can and have affected the parishes of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, and in acceptance of our Christian responsibility to both assist those affected by disasters and to be good stewards of our own church resources by protecting them from the effects of a disaster where possible, be it hereby resolved that each parish in the diocese will develop a disaster preparedness and response plan in accordance with the guidelines provided by Episcopal Relief & Development (ER&D) and have it on file in their parish and the diocesan offices no later than January 1, 2014.
Diocesan Disaster and Community Resiliency Committee
Canon Andrew Gerns, Canon Charles Cesaretti, Rev. Charles Warwick, Rev. Timothy Alleman,  Rev. Jane Williams, Rev. Eddie Lopez, Rev. John Major, Janine Ungvarsky
Rt. Rev. Paul V. Marshall, Convener

Creating this plan may seem to be an intimidating task, but with the resources created by Episcopal Relief & Development and provided at the training, a small committee at your parish can create a basic plan in just a few hours.  In many cases, you will find you already have all the information and resources you need—the plan just provides a way to organize and share it as needed.

With news reports of flooding in North Carolina, Kansas and other areas, California wildfires and even the stories of the “temporary” cardboard cathedral for Christchurch, New Zealand that remind us of the devastating earthquakes and other disasters that have occurred worldwide in recent memory, it is hard to dismiss the need for our Church and our churches to be ready to respond.  A few hours spent putting together a plan will help you be ready to protect your parish assets and respond to your parishioners and your neighbors when the need arises.

Please email me at [email protected] to register for either the August 17 training or the final disaster preparedness training session on October 26.  The session includes Noon Prayer and lunch is provided, so it is important that you register in advance.  I look forward to seeing you at one of the sessions.

Pax et Bonum.  Peace and all goodness.
The Rev. John Major
Trinity Episcopal Church of West Pittston
Saint Clement and Saint Peter Church of Wilkes-Barre
The Children’s MUSICare Project featuring Music Together
Trinity Episcopal Church of West Pittston
Diocese of Bethlehem Episcopal Relief and Development Representative
Director of Saint George’s Regional Disaster Recovery and Outreach Center , Nanticoke, Luzerne County, PA
Member of Diocesan Council, Diocese of Bethlehem
220 Montgomery Avenue
West Pittston, PA  18643

Important day in West Pittston

Today Fr. John Major and Janine Ungvarsky hosted a combined clergy meeting to review the progress in ministry to flood victims along the Susquehanna, particularly in the West Pittston area. Clergy from Tunkhannock to Honesdale and points north and south of that Rt 6 line were present.

There were several joy-producing moments even in the recollection of devastation. In the first place, Trinity and its friends have been persevering long-term servants of their neighbors, and have found that to be transformative of their life. Secondly, the good people at Episcopal Relief and Development have been nothing but helpful in their conversations. Finally, there was a review of the amount of gifts that have flowed in from you to help in this community rebuilding effort, which will take 3 to 5 years to complete.

As you know, we have a team working to help each place in the diocese be prepared for unexpected large-scale tragedy.

One of the things I have learned is that there is a national registry of volunteers that we can all access to put our skills and interests on tap for future needs. More about this will come to you.

I left the event heartened by the clergy turnout, the persistence of Trinity's priest and people, and the knowledge that ERD knows that we are here and are trying. I want to publicly thank all of them.


Diocesan Life for December 2011/January 2012

Open publication - Free publishing - More floods

You can download a .pdf of the file here: Download DECEMBER2011_DiocesanLife_SMALL

West Pittston Flood update from Trinity

[From Fr. John Major, Rector of Trinity, West Pittston]

DSC_1543Dear Bakery Friends,

As our neighbors work to recover from the devastating September floods, Trinity West Pittston has continued to look for ways to help meet their most immediate material needs and to remind them that they are not alone in their struggles.

Projects are underway to distribute the gift cards that were donated at the recent Diocesan Convention and that are continuing to come in from collections held in individual parishes throughout the diocese. Our sincere thanks to those who have already contributed cards for our neighbors, and to those who are continuing to collect cards and forward them to us for distribution. These cards are much needed and appreciated, and will go a long way towards easing the financial burden our neighbors face as a result of the flood.

We are also planning weekend-long distribution of the donated furniture procured by Father Daniel Gunn to be held November 18, 19 & 20. Help will be recruited from schools and community organizations to assist with moving the furniture from the donor site in Wilkes-Barre to West Pittston and to help at the distribution, and we'd love to have some of our fellow Episcopal churches join in to show the community the Episcopal Church as a whole is here for them. Please email [email protected] if you or your church is interested in helping.

In addition to these projects to help meet the material needs of those affected by the flooding, Trinity's Disaster Response Team also wanted to brighten spirits, encourage hope and let our neighbors know we are praying for them. On Saturday, October 23, a group of our Sunday School students along with their parents and other parishioners visited almost 100 homes in some of the most devastated neighborhoods to talk with the residents and give them a pumpkin or potted mum to bring them a little bit of fall color and cheer.

Those who took part will not soon forget the reactions of those they spoke to that day, from the kids excited to have a pumpkin to carve even though their home doesn't have inside walls to the man who asked us to give the mum to his pregnant wife to cheer her up as they faced the seventh of many Saturdays working to restore their flooded home.

We spoke to a woman who said she had been thinking about getting our her fall door wreath but couldn't quite muster up the mood...and whose home later displayed not only the wreath but a little scarecrow and one of our hand-delivered mums as well. And then there was the father who got choked up as he told us his little girl had been asking him for days to get her a pumpkin, but his long hours of work first at his job and then on their home kept him from fulfilling her request. "She's gonna be so happy tonight," he said, and even the kids in Trinity's group could see how happy that made him. Our Sunday School parents report that days later, the kids are still talking about the people they visited and the things they saw and heard.

This was a very low-cost project: the pumpkins were purchased at a discount and the mums were graciously donated by a local grower. But these small tokens made a big impact on our neighbors, and, because each mum and pumpkin carried a tag that explained the project and told our neighbors that we are all praying for them, they served as a reminder that there is a source of hope in even the darkest days.

Trinity West Pittston plans other projects like this to help our neighbors remember that they are not alone and that they will get through this. It is our hope that through little reminders of our caring and by sharing the gift cards so generously provided by our sisters and brothers throughout the diocese as well as other donated items like the furniture, our neighbors will be strengthened and sustained through this difficult time.

Thank you for your continued support of our neighbors, and please keep them and our efforts to help them in your prayers.

Father John Major and the parishioners of Trinity West Pittston

Shown above are some members of Trinity West Pittston's Sunday School classes who recently took part in an outreach project for victims of the September flooding.

West Pittston Flood update

Bishop Paul has designated the Diocesan Convention offering to go toward flood relief. Christ Church, Towanda sustained six to eight feet of flooding in their parish basement and Trinity, West Pittston was spared by one block from being overwhelmed with water. Sayre and Athens were also hard hit from the flooding. As we know more, we will be updating you. Many churches are already helping and as we gather information on the best way to proceed with donations, we will let you know what is needed and where to take it. Right now, funds are the best method of helping so that gift cards can be purchased for food and household goods. You can send funds payable to The Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, memo line: FLOOD RELIEF, 333 Wyandotte St., Bethlehem, PA 18015

By Janine Ungvarsky, pictures by John Major

“Let your loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, as we have put our trust in you.” [Psalm 33]
“Blessed be the Lord for evermore! Amen, I say Amen.” [Psalm 89]
WestPittstonFlood1 On September 7 and 8, 2011, a number of communities along the Susquehanna River in Luzerne County were hit with the worst flooding these areas have ever seen. While the levee system thankfully protected larger cities like Wilkes-Barre and Kingston, West Pittston and other nearby small towns including Duryea, Exeter Township and Plains suffered significant damage.  As of the most recent figures available from the Emergency Management Agency, well over 2000 homes and more than 100 businesses throughout Luzerne County were damaged.
In West Pittston alone, 880 of the 2,381 residential structures received damage, including 230 that had flooding on the first floor and about 20 where water reached the second floor.  Fifty buildings had structural damage and a number of those have been or will be demolished as a result of the flood.  Many were not considered to be in the flood zone and were not insured for the damage.
Over 1,500 of the homes in West Pittston are more than 70 years old, and many of these larger, older residences have been subdivided into apartments, resulting in multiple families being left homeless by flood damage to one building.  In many cases, these tenants did not have insurance on their belongings.  And because more than two dozen businesses were also flooded, some residents lost not only their homes but their income as well.  Restaurants, gas stations and medical offices were all flooded, some severely, and it will take many of them months to rebuild.
As West Pittston started to dig out, those who would often be on the scene to help were also struggling.  The local National Guard armory and the Salvation Army were in the worst hit areas, and while both did respond to the disaster, their efforts were hampered by their own devastation.   Several churches were flooded, the local library suffered extensive damage, and the elementary school suffered damage to a number of lower level classrooms and the gymnasium.  Trinity Episcopal Church and rectory were spared, but many of its neighbors and a number of parishioners were directly affected by the flooding.
Similar situations exist in neighboring towns, including the Jenkins Township section of Plains and an area of Exeter Township known as Harding, where a combined total of about 150 structures were damaged, many of them in trailer parks and lower income areas; and Duryea, where 340 homes and businesses as well as the Roman Catholic elementary school were affected by up to seven feet of water on the first floor.  Duryea Borough officials estimated property owners in the small town of about 4,600 residents have sustained more than $7 million in damage.
WestPittstonFlood2 As a result of hauling away mud soaked debris ranging from furniture and clothing to ruined carpets and drywall, Duryea officials expect the town’s landfill bill to soar from the usual monthly fee of $1,500 to more than $70,000, and this in a town where the entire 2011 budget is $1,202,603.  Since all of these hard-hit areas are small towns with very limited resources, each community faces similar situations, and they are relying heavily on outside agencies and organizations for assistance.
This assistance has been forthcoming in the form of some government emergency relief funding as well as practical help with everyday needs such as meals, flood clean up kits, medical care and clothing provided by local churches and civic organizations.  Some businesses are also stepping up to help with discounts on furniture and other necessities; a few are even making free items available to those who suffered flood damage and loss.  All of this helps with the immediate needs of those affected by the September flooding, but so much more remains to be done.
Most of those whose homes were flooded remain displaced, waiting for contractors to become available or unable to afford the work needed to fix their homes.  Even as they try to prepare to rebuild their lives, they find themselves battling mold and other potentially toxic contaminants.  Some renters are struggling to come up with deposits for new apartments and, in some cases, the funds to refurnish an apartment when they find one.  Others whose homes were not flooded are housing neighbors or family members, straining financial resources to feed and support those affected by the flood.  The aftermath of this flood will continue to impact the people of these small towns for a very long time, far longer than most outside agencies and organizations will remain on the scene.  In an area already facing an unemployment rate that has inched back up to 10 percent—higher than both the state and national rates -- recovery could take months, if not years.
WestPittstonFlood3 Trinity West Pittston and the other Episcopal Churches of Luzerne County have pledged to be there as long as our neighbors need us.  Even before the river receded, parishioners in the Luzerne County churches were helping each other and our neighbors meet urgent needs for housing, food and volunteer labor.  We are currently in the process of speaking to flood victims to determine what needs aren’t being met by others or what needs may arise in the future, and will then work together within and between congregations to meet those needs.  For example, some services under consideration include counseling for those affected and childcare to allow parents uninterrupted time to work on their homes.  And since the increased need of residents displaced and/or unemployed because of the flood has left local food pantries with bare shelves, the area’s Episcopal Churches are stepping up efforts to restock those shelves.
Some cooperative flood recovery projects between congregations are already underway as well.  For example, through the efforts of The Rev. Daniel Gunn, Rector at St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral in Wilkes-Barre, a local hotel undergoing renovations has donated rooms full of furniture, and a team organized by The Rev. John Major, Rector at Trinity West Pittston, will seek donations of other household goods like bedding, towels, dishes, etc., and coordinate a distribution to local flood victims.  However, even using donated items and volunteer labor, efforts like this will require funds for warehouse space and trucks to transport and store the items.  Local congregations are already contributing time, talent and treasure to flood recovery efforts and seek help to let our neighbors know the Episcopal Church is there for them.

Diocesan Life for October 2011

You can download the 2.4 MB .pdf here: Download October2011_DiocesanLife_SMALL

Prince of Peace Dallas to host fashion show

"A new effort," rector John Major says, "to step into our community and into a new season."

Here's the article from the Times-Leader/Dallas Post.

And here's more from Father Major:

Ready to put away the winter sweaters and check out the new spring apparel trends for women and children?  Then you're invited to the “Step into Spring Fashion Show” hosted by Prince of Peace in Dallas. The show will be held at the Appletree Terrace at Newberry Estate on Pioneer Avenue in Dallas on Sunday, April 3 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.  Featured will be the latest spring fashions from area retailers including Buca, Dress Barn, Humphrey’s, Shooze, Snooty Fox and Yukis. [Merchants of Wyoming Valley and Back Mountain Areas].

Hors d’oeuvres and desserts will be served during the show, which will also feature a raffle of beautiful themed baskets. Reservations are required and will be accepted through March 25.  Tickets are $20 for ages 13 and older, and children 12 and under are free. For information and reservations, call the Prince of Peace office at 675-1723.

Here's a flyer.