Bishop Bickerton Responds on Hurricane Relief

Bishop Bickerton Responds on Hurricane Relief

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton


Dear Friends & Colleagues,
It seems that writing pastoral letters to you has become a constant in these days of turmoil and uncertainty.  Global instability, political upheaval, and domestic acts of hatred have dominated our lives in recent weeks.  Now, yet another threat has consumed our thoughts and prayers.
I, like you, am heartbroken at the images coming out of Texas and Louisiana in response to Hurricane Harvey.  And, even as I write this letter, Hurricane Irma is raging through the Caribbean on a direct path to the southern United States.
Millions of people are being directly affected by these devastating storms. Though we may try, it is impossible to adequately comprehend the magnitude of these events, the level of human suffering, and the long-term effects of a disaster of this sort. As people of faith, we can thank God for the efforts of first responders and “neighbors helping neighbors” which are so critical in the early stages of storm recovery. This is truly “us” at our best.
In many areas of Texas the full impact of Hurricane Harvey is only now being discovered. The after-effects of Hurricane Irma are only now being anticipated. What we do know though is that families will be displaced for long periods of time, and that once these storms pass the difficult process of assessing homes and neighborhoods begins. As we watch these storms take their course it is natural for us as United Methodists to ask, “How can we help?”

  1. Pray.
    May our prayers be for God’s grace to fall upon all who are directly impacted by these storms, interceding on their behalf for strength, courage, patience, and hope for this time and for the days, weeks, months, and even years, to come. Let us pray for discernment as a Church that we may respond in ways that bring hope and healing to survivors. And let us be reminded of the presence and goodness of God in all situations and all circumstances.
  2. Maintain a Posture of “Active Waiting.”
    I have been in touch with Tom Vencuss, our Conference Disaster Response Coordinator. As he describes it, right now we are in a place of “active waiting.” He has been a part of conference calls with UMCOR Disaster Response personnel and Disaster Response Coordinators from Texas and Louisiana and will be a part of future calls in response to the damage caused by Hurricane Irma. They are working with national and local response agencies to determine an appropriate time and response on the part of volunteer and faith-based organizations. I know it is in our DNA to want to respond as soon as possible, but at this point “out of area” volunteers are being asked to not self-deploy. The situation is not appropriate or safe and there is no infrastructure in place to receive volunteer teams. It will most likely be weeks before a general call goes out for Early Response Teams. In the meantime, Tom is providing daily updates on the NYAC website.
  3. Mobilize your Local Church to make an immediate impact.
    There is a direct request from our United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to begin assembling clean-up buckets and health kits. A list of collection sites will be published shortly. Please check the NYAC website for places and times for these collections. UMCOR and Conference leadership ask that only those items requested be collected.

    In addition, there are three ways for you to respond financially. UMCOR has designated two Advance numbers for financial donations: US Disaster Response Advance #901670 and the Material Resources Advance #901440.  We are also setting up a fund to assist our own Early Response Teams with their travel and supplies. You can send your contributions to the NY Conference, 20 Soundview Avenue, White Plains, NY 10606 with “New York Disaster Response Fund" on the memo line or donate online by going to and choose "Disaster Response Fund" in the Direct Your Gift drop-down list.

    I am asking each of our churches to mobilize volunteers to construct clean-up buckets and health kits and to take up a special offering for these needs no later than the end of October.

Early Response Team training events will be scheduled and offered throughout the Conference within the coming weeks. ERT Team Leaders are also being identified and teams will begin to be assembled. Our first team is scheduled for the first week of October.
In addition, there has been concern expressed for the massive flooding that has taken place in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. The General Board of Global Ministries has been involved in active conversations with our international partners about the most appropriate and effective ways for us to respond. We will communicate with you regarding those plans once they are determined.  For now, the best way to respond is through contributions to International Advance #982450.
Friends, at times like this I am so grateful for the connection we have as United Methodists and especially thankful for the faithful response of the people within our Annual Conference. We have benefitted in the past from the gracious response of United Methodist people when tragedy and hardship has come to our area. It is time for us to respond in kind.
It is so good to know that in the midst of tragedy there are people at work on our behalf, that we have a supportive community of prayer and service, and that we have places in which to gather to share our concerns and joys, our sorrow and blessings. And, I am grateful to you, the people of the New York Conference for your commitment to mission and ministry, serving those who need us most.
The face of Christ is needed today among those who cannot see beyond their own loss and hardship.  May we be that face today in the way in which we respond in love.
The Journey Continues, . . .
Thomas J. Bickerton, Resident Bishop