Disasters bring out the worst and the best in us. Have a look at Mark Riessen’s blog for a discussion and an exhortation. There is talk in the back rooms asking how local church communities can best respond to disasters that occur on such a large, gut wrenching and life altering scale. Disaster response strategies have their specially trained support personnel for community members and service providers and these include chaplains, but what about the otherwise unaffected who simply want to do something practical apart from donations and prayers? If you’re part of the affected community, (and who is unaffected now?)  nothing can go past the “incarnational” presence, the shoulder to cry on, tle listening ear, and the practical thoughtfulness that can take respectful and non-intrusive initiatives.

Last night, I sat with a group of people and watched “The Spirit of St Paul’s” – on a DVD brought back by a traveller. It concerned the actions of the people of St Paul’s Chapel in the vicinity of New York’s World Trade Centre in the aftermath of the attack of 9/11. Ther church community became a “chaotic hotel of radical hospitality”, breaking all its rules and preconceived notions to respond to and provide what was needed for a devastated parade of rescue workers and survivors. Many found comfort, support and the ability to go on because of what ordinary people provided in the aforementioned “incarnation” of practical compassion. Maybe this is the stance local church communities should have at all times. Perhaps it’s those that do that come into their own when extra measures are called for.

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