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  • By: Episcopal Diocese of Ken Added: 05-07-11
  • Last week a handful of Episcopalians and community leaders in a small Kentucky river town, facing a mighty challenge, the Mississippi River at its highest level since the 1937 flood, were undaunted by their dire and dangerous situation and, instead, were inspired to take time to give thanks.

    Since the previous weekend, the earthen levees in Hickman were in danger of breaking down and residents and businesses in the bottomlands of Hickman had been evacuated. The town was awaiting the outcome of Corp of Engineers initiatives to lower the river level by blasting three levees on the Missouri side to prevent the river from flooding Cairo, Illinois, and Hickman, located in the far western corner of Kentucky.

    By Wednesday, May 4, the Corps had blasted two sections and successfully diverted the water to farmland in Missouri. The river level had declined slightly, but the controlled release of water from Kentucky Lake, necessary to relieve pressure on the dam, had caused another rise in the river, which was not expected to crest until Friday. The town was awaiting the third and final blast, set for Thursday, which brought not only cause for hope but also cause for concern as some speculated the blast would help protect Hickman but hurt the nearby town of Tiptonville.

    The outcome of that blast was of direct concern to two St. Pauls members, Becky and Tim Blasdel, who have been living in the parish house since their evacuation Not only could they not stay in their home, but they also could not operate their businesses in Tiptonville, including a flower shop that, with Mothers Day on May 8, was closed during the busiest time of the year for florists. They boarded their four dogs, but left behind other animals, including a goat and potbellied pig with feed and grass to sustain them.

    Nonetheless, that Wednesday, the Blasdels and three other St. Pauls members (Marian Roberts, Pinke and Fred Spencer) met at the church to celebrate a rare Wednesday afternoon Eucharist. The 160-year-old church, located on a hillside overlooking lower Hickman, relies on supply clergy, so communion is not held weekly, let alone mid-week. The celebrant was the Rev. Joan Smith, the canon to the ordinary, who was assisted by the Rev. Rose Bogal-Allbritten, a deacon at the Four Rivers Deanery in western Kentucky. They had traveled to Hickman to show support for the congregation and offer assistance in addition to the grant money from Episcopal Relief and Development that had been wired to the Fulton County emergency management office that day.

    After the service, Roberts drove the visitors to have their photo taken with the Fulton County Judge Executive David Gallagher for the local newspaper. He had asked to meet with them when he learned of their visit. The group also delivered pillows and personal supplies for the shelter being readied for area residents displaced from their homes, and Roberts took them with her on a visit to the U.S. Coast Guard station, where she delivered a bundle of packets with the message, You are Not Alone, containing small, pocket-sized pewter crosses that had been blessed that day. They wanted the Coast Guard crew know their work is appreciated.

    During the visit, the diocesan visitors got a glimpse of the faithfulness and commitment of the parish members to serve their community, church and God, and they learned from community leaders just what the relief support from Episcopalians means to the small community. The Episcopal Relief and Development grant is being used to provide hot meals for the more than 200 volunteers, a majority of whom are inmates, spending long hours filling up sandbags and shoring up the levees and flood walls

    Do not just trust this story, however. You may see for yourself. Portions of the visit with the St. Pauls members and the county judge executive were videotaped.  The video, "You Are Not Alone," may be viewed at the diocesan Media Center.

    If you feel inspired to help those facing challenges caused by the recent floods and storms in the South, you can help by contributing to Episcopal Relief and Development. Most importantly, you can help by praying. If you do not like to reinvent the wheel, we have a prayer provided by Grace Episcopal Church in Hopkinsville. And, then, if you will, please share the links to the prayer and video.  More photos from Hickman and St. Pauls Church are available on the diocesan Picasa site.

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  • Reply by: Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky
    Date: 09-03-11

    The Rev. Suzanne Warner, the priest at Resurrection Episcopal Church, recently sent us a video shot by "resident" videographer Harry Harrman of a group of young refugee members from Burma who have been sharing their vocal gifts as members of the Resurrection choir.

    The video was also accompanied by an article written by Suzanne, explaining the church's efforts to nurture this vital ministry in this small congregation that includes longtime, Englsh-speaking members and a growing number refugees, most of them from the Sudan and Burma. As Suzanne notes in her article, published on the diocesan website's news blog and on its Facebook page, Resurrection worship these days can be characterized as a harmonious blend of its members' languages and music.

    Resurrection is committed to nurturing this ministry, and it is dedicating its limited resources to bring on staff an intern to help continue the work begun at this summer's music camp. Read Suzanne's article, view the 14-minute video and then join the congregation in supporting this vital ministry. Contributions of any amount will be appreciated.