calendar July 2, 2006 in Bishop, Disaster Response, News

Bishop spends first day touring flooding sites

When she was elected nearly two months ago, Bishop Claire Burkat had no idea that her first day in office would involve lunch in a fire hall, prayer in a half-gutted kitchen and lots of mud.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod’s new bishop spent July 1 with Lutheran Disaster Response leaders viewing the damage left by the latest rampage of the Delaware River and meeting victims and volunteers attempting to clean up after the flood waters receded.

Gathered around a kitchen island littered with cleanup supplies, Bishop Burkat (right) prays with Candace Carver (second from right) and her mother, Helga, who has lived in this house along the river for more than 40 years. Wallboard and insulation have been removed throughout the house almost waist high after two feet of water soaked the first floor. Also pictured are Pr. Sharon Taylor (left) of Resurrection, Yardley, and LDRP’s Pr. Bill Erat.

"I was very impressed and grateful for the way our churches are coordinating and working together," Bishop Claire Burkat said after a day-long look at the damage and recovery efforts along the Delaware River on Saturday, her first day in office.

Lutherans are providing physical assistance and spiritual care and presence to residents who are "discouraged, but not despairing" after three major floods along the Delaware in less than two years. Congregations are particularly focusing on those most at-risk, including the elderly, children, and single-parent families. Pastoral needs in these areas will increase in coming days, she noted.

"As we offer finances, water, bleach and assistance, we can also dig deep and offer the fruits of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control," the bishop said. "Let us offer these fruits for each other, for our families and congregations, and for our communities as together we get through this time of crisis."

In Yardley, where several hundred homes were under water at the height of the flood and the water still lapped at the edge of River Road, Burkat joined volunteers from Resurrection, Yardley, and St. John, Lower Makefield, as they helped Candy Carver and other residents of Morgan Road.

Bishop Burkat and Sandy Mullican (left) talk with Carver’s daughter, Holland. Mullican is volunteer coordinator for Resurrection, Yardley’s relief efforts.

After touring damage in their home and yard with Carver, her mother and daughters, the Bishop offered prayer for the family, for others affected, and for the emergency and relief workers assisting them.

As Burkat was leaving the home a neighbor, who had delivered water for cleanup workers, grabbed her arm and implored, "Please, get on the phone with the big guy upstairs and ask him: No more."

Throughout the day "the sense of discouragement was palpable" among residents who have experienced several 100 year floods in the last three years, Burkat said. But even after the repeat floods, volunteers are still answering the call. Outside Burkat met with Roy Berendson and other volunteers from Resurrection and St. John, Lower Makefield, as they cleared debris. As they talked, Carver’s daughter, Holland, spread out stuck-together papers, curled photos and muddy CDs, hoping they would dry in the sun.

Bishop Burkat talks with Candace Carver in her partially gutted kitchen, moments before leading family members and volunteers in prayer.

The bishop also visited emergency workers staged at Point Pleasant Fire Co. and visited sites in Upper Black Eddy, Riegelsville and Raubsville.

Photographs by Robert W. Fisher