Bishop John Schol of the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference wrote this letter to the Council of Bishops on November 2. Bishop Davis has asked that this letter be shared with the Kentucky Conference.
Dear Colleagues in Christ,
Words cannot express the profound appreciation Beverly and I have for the many emails and phone calls we have received from the Council during this past week. The response to Storm Sandy has begun and will continue for several years. We have entire communities that were under water and many of the 2.4 million New Jerseyans who lost power on Monday are still without power.
Yesterday I continued my visits to churches and communities throughout the conference. I visited a Red Cross shelter yesterday that had 900 people. I found a number of United Methodists volunteering. Deanna and Tony, a couple who were married a couple of weeks ago from one of our churches, have been volunteering every day. I was also struck by the fact that our shelters are filled mostly with the poor and elderly.
We are still doing assessments and we have lost a number of parsonages and there are communities where our pastors and residents have not been able to reenter. Church building damage is significant due to downed trees, wind damage and flooding. Most of the churches do not have flood insurance.
There are gas station lines a mile long in some parts of the state with people waiting for gas. One of our conference members waited six hours to get gas to replenish generators that were being used to keep ministry going. Most gas stations are closed in the heavily hit parts of the state where the power is out.
I am particularly struck by the depth of Spirit of the United Methodists in Greater New Jersey. Those with power have opened their churches to thousands of people. One of our churches is hosting 100 Drew Seminary students who are sleeping and living in the building. The United Methodists here care about people and are being God’s grace in the world. I am blessed to serve with the faithful people of the Greater New Jersey Conference.
Our conference center has no power and today a small group of staff will begin working with the power of generators. It could be another week before power is restored. The episcopal residence is also without power. It has been a spiritual discipline for Beverly and me to return to a much simpler life. Fortunately we have a generator that we run a few hours a day to keep the refrigerator cold and phone and computer powered up.
I hope to join you by Wednesday morning following meetings with UMCOR, conference leaders and other leaders from across the state.
For those of you that have led the church during natural disasters you know what we experience in leadership - a resilient people, a strong connectional church, and a faith that will not let us go. I praise God for each of you.
Keep the faith!
John Schol, Bishop
The United Methodist Church
Greater New Jersey Conference