Churches opening doors to flood victims
With Britain still in the midst of one of the worst winters in recorded history, churches are rallying around to help those affected by the unprecedented conditions.
Thousands of homeowners across the UK have experienced extreme flooding, with hundreds having been evacuated and many more forced to live on the upper floors of their homes. It has caused utter chaos, with politicians arguing over who is to be held responsible and much of the population likely to suffer the consequences for months to come.
However, amid the confusion and discord, the Church is working to help those in need, working alongside emergency services, the army and other charities to minimise the impact of the devastating floods, and provide shelter and advice as well as practical and spiritual support.
"One of the encouragements is the way that in some areas the churches are stepping up to the plate and really doing some significant work," said the Bishop of St Albans, the Right Reverend Alan Smith.
"[They are] making church buildings and halls available, serving food and sustenance to the emergency services, offering food to people who can't be in their houses at the moment, seeking to provide information, and ferrying people.
"But they are also visiting elderly people who are housebound, whose homes may not be flooded but are deeply worried and isolated."
The bishop noted that the long-term relief effort is likely to be ongoing for some time.
"The immediate challenges are to simply help people get through until the floods subside," he said.
"This is a time when local communities need to pull together and really think about what can be done to help one another."
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The Bishop of Oxford, the Right Reverend John Pritchard, whose diocese is among those worst affected by the winter deluge, said it has been a "terrible tragedy" for people all over the country.
"I'm very glad to see that the Church, as you'd expect because the Church is everywhere, is responding very well," he said.
He said some churches were offering 24-hour care to those who have been forced to evacuate their home. In some places, vicars have visited parishioners by canoe, and there have been stories of Christians guarding the homes of people who fear they may be looted.
"Wherever people are, we are, so I'm glad to see the Church is doing its normal thing," he said.
The Bishop of Taunton, the Right Reverend Peter Maurice, who urged the Government to take action to help those affected by the floods in a letter to Lords Spiritual last month, has recommended a prayer for all those affected by the flooding, taken from the Book of Common Prayer 1662 and updated in Common Worship:
"We commend to your fatherly goodness all who are in any way afflicted or distressed, in mind, body or situation; we especially remember those enduring the flooding and its aftermath. Comfort and relieve them in their need, give them patience in their sufferings and hardships, and please bring good out of all their afflictions.In the name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen."
The Church Urban Fund has opened an emergency flood fund to support those affected across the country. To donate, click here.