|Bishop sends messages of comfort during Gustav|
Bishop William W. Hutchinson coordinates response to
Hurricane Gustav from the storm-damaged sanctuary of Shiloh United
Methodist Church in Maringouin, La.
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Sept. 9, 2008 | BATON ROUGE, La. (UMNS)
As Hurricane Gustav made a beeline for the coast of Louisiana, Bishop
William W. Hutchinson sent messages of comfort and warning to clergy and
“It really meant a lot to people to hear their bishop’s voice offering
comfort and words of advice,” said Rhonda Whitley, assistant to the Rev.
Don Cottrill, director of connectional ministries.
The bishop used IRIS, a mass notification system designed by TechRadium,
a software development and communications company based in Texas. For a
monthly fee, the Louisiana Annual (regional) Conference is equipped to
send out e-mail and voice mail to thousands in just a matter of minutes,
Messages went to clergy and key lay leaders on their cell phones and
landlines as well as through e-mail. Even when the conference office in
Baton Rouge lost Internet connection, the bishop was able to record
messages on his cell phone and route them through Texas.
When Gustav made landfall Sept. 1, the conference was well prepared
because of the experience it had gained in the three years since
Hurricane Katrina, officials said. One of the important lessons learned
was the need to have pastors evacuate during potential danger.
Hutchinson’s first message told pastors “don’t be heroes, get out of
harm’s way,” and he gave them instructions on how to secure their
churches and property. Once the danger passed, pastors were told to call
the conference office with updates on their whereabouts.
After Katrina, it took some time to hear from all the evacuated pastors,
said the Rev. Darryl Tate, conference director of disaster response.
Cottrill and his staff are watching Hurricane Ike closely. The storm had
already killed nearly 80 people in the Caribbean as of midday Sept. 9.
It was expected to hit Mexico and Texas within a few days.
Need for support
“We begin a new week of assessment and activity, trying to get needed
supplies to the hardest hit areas,” Hutchinson said in a letter Sept.
8. “That will be our priority for some time. Fortunately, we have an
extensive system of case managers and construction people already in
place, and we will be using those folks to their capacity as we move
into those phases.”
Volunteer cleanup teams should contact the conference disaster response
ministry at firstname.lastname@example.org or (225) 346-5193.
Financial donations can be made to UMCOR Advance No. 3019695,
"Hurricanes 2008, Hurricane Gustav." Mail checks to UMCOR, P.O. Box
9068, New York, NY 10087, and write the Advance number and name on the
memo line of the check. Credit-card donations can be made online.
On the Sunday following Gustav’s landfall, Hutchinson preached at St.
Luke’s United Methodist Church in New Orleans. He noted the irony of the
church being rededicated that day, three years after its destruction by
“Today, it is a beautifully restored building that is a testimony to the
perseverance of that congregation and the efforts, love, money and
prayers of much of United Methodism that helped put them back together.”
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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