Written by Connie Larkman
The 50 miles that separate the Rev. Ruth Shilling Hainsworth's home in East Providence, R.I., from her church in Pawcatuck, Conn., seemed like a million this week. With travel restrictions blocking her daily commute, she was afraid of what she would find in the aftermath of Sandy when she was finally able to check on United Congregational Church UCC.
But what she found is that "God is Still Speaking" - literally.
"When I came around the corner and saw that our building had emerged from the storm unscathed, I burst into tears," said Shilling Hainsworth. But, "When I pulled in the driveway and realized our 'God Is Still Speaking' banner also came through the storm in one piece, I was shocked. The canvas banner was virtually untouched - not even a tear. I actually got out and walked over to stare at it, sure I had missed something. But, no. It was fine."
"You need to realize that the neighborhood all around the church was filled with huge trees blown over by the fierce winds," she continued. "Our banner should have been in tatters, but came through literally without a scratch. God is still speaking indeed."
United Congregational UCC is a part of the Rhode Island Conference because of historic ties to that area. The pastor says she is serving a church which touches two communities dramatically impacted by the storm - Pawcatuck, Conn., and Westerly, R.I. Telephone lines and power are still out in most of the area, but Shilling Hainworth says she is slowly hearing back from her church members and most seem to have fared the storm OK. "This is good," the pastor says, "Because I know our communities are going to need our support and assistance for the long road to recovery which lies ahead."
Businesses in the area have been devastated, million-dollar homes along the shoreline have been reduced to kindling, and access to much of the shoreline is nonexistent. The National Guard has been called in to prevent looting.
But the United Congregational UCC pastor is hoping to share her good fortune with those in need in her community. "We have a large building and came through the storm unscathed," Shilling Hainsworth said. "Once power and phone service are restored, I am confident my trustees and deacons would be amenable to offering our facility in whatever ways might be helpful for UCC disaster relief for this area. It is very heartening to know our UCC family is holding us close in prayer."