Responsible for 38 deaths and days-long power outages to more than 3.3 million people, Hurricane Irene has left a mucky mess for many UCC church members in the Vermont Conference, and across New England.
"Dozens of our congregants have been displaced. Their homes have been either partially or totally destroyed," said the Rev. Lynn Bujnak, Vermont Conference Minister. "The area of the Richmond Congregational Church UCC has been hit so badly that nobody has been able to get to the church to see what's going on."
"Mercifully, our churches in Wilmington, West Dover and Waterbury did not sustain damage, and those communities have been hugely affected by the storm," said Bujnak. "That doesn't mean every single member of the church hasn't been affected, but the church buildings haven't."
Bujnak said the same holds true for Conference churches in Bennington, Brattleboro and West Brattleboro. "Two-thirds of the West Brattleboro congregation has been displaced."
In addition, said Bujnak, Waitsfield UCC was another church whose area was hard-hit by the storm.
Multiple communities remain without power, said Bujnak, adding that two Conference staffers have not been able to get into the office because their homes have been significantly damaged and their roads have been washed away or blocked by fallen trees.
"One of the major challenges right now is that so many of the roads were destroyed in rural areas, and it's extremely difficult to bring aid to people there," said Bujnak.
Many UCC churches in the Conference are serving as "safe havens" from the storm, she added.
Meanwhile, in New Bedford, Mass. on Aug. 28, scores of elderly and disabled residents spent part of their afternoon in safety at nearby Pilgrim UCC after a picture window and siding from three separate floors blew out of the Olympia Tower complex.
Representatives from the Central Atlantic, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania Southeast Conferences reported minor damages associated with roof shingles, peeling plaster and minor flooding.
At press time, United Church News was unable to get through to the Massachusetts and Connecticut Conference offices.
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