“Dozens of homes and a life have been lost in NSW and Victoria, along with thousands of hectares of farming land and many livestock,” said Rev. Prof. Dutney.
“Our prayers and condolences are with the communities and families mourning these losses. When people are hurting, our Church shares their pain.”
More than 50 homes were lost in Coonabarabran in January in a large fire that burned through thousands of hectares of the Warrumbungle National Park over several days. In Victoria a man died and a number of homes were also lost in Gippsland. Meanwhile the Uniting Church in Tasmania continues to assist relief and recovery efforts from damaging fires.
Rev. Rob Buchan of Moree Uniting Church was the first disaster chaplain on the scene at the Coonabarabran fires. Rob was later joined by Rev. Gareth Thomas-Burchill (Dubbo UC) and Rev. Glen Renton (Thornleigh Hillcrest UC), who provided peer support.
“You sit with people as they deal with their state of shock, hear their stories, and counsel them as they go through stages of grief,” said Rev. Rob Buchan who has ministered to people in both floods and fires in his region within the last 12 months.
“We also act as a conduit for people with the relief agencies.”
In all, disaster chaplains had around 400 conversations with people at evacuation and recovery centres in Coonabarabran.
Rev. Bob Rutherford of Goonellabah was team leader of the chaplains, while Rural Chaplain Rev. Julie Greig and Rev. David Riethmuller (Rooty Hill UC) acted as co-ordinators.
Rev. Dr Stephen Robinson of the UCA NSW-ACT Synod has been co-ordinating the NSW Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network since its formation in 2009.
“Coming alongside people, with other agencies, chaplains are exercising an extraordinary ‘ministry of presence’. Every one of them has spoken of the privilege and blessing which is shared in these difficult times,” said Rev. Dr Robinson.
At Coonabarabran, nine disaster recovery chaplains from five different denominations worked side by side in giving pastoral care over two weeks.
“On behalf of the Assembly I want to pass on our special thanks to our disaster chaplains and others involved in disaster relief for the work they have done this summer,” said Rev. Prof. Dutney.
Rev. Prof. Dutney reminded Church members of the importance of giving generously at this time.
“The Uniting Church is there for communities as they face their crises, and we will be there for them as they rebuild too,” said Rev. Prof. Dutney.
“I urge Church members to give generously to Synod appeals or to the National Disaster Relief Fund.”
To donate to the National Disaster Relief Fund go to www.assembly.uca.org.au/donate.
All donations of $2 or more are tax deductible.