Frances soaks parsonage, threatens small church (Sept. 10, 2004)



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

Frances soaks parsonage, threatens small church

Sept. 10, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140   
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0164}

An e-Review Feature
By Michael Wacht**

WHITE CITY — From the outside, the parsonage of the White City United Methodist Church appears to have weathered Hurricane Frances well. The windows are still boarded up, and there are few shingles missing from the roof.

But inside the ranch-style home, ceilings have collapsed, insulation is scattered over the floor and the walls are stained from the water that has soaked them.
 
The Rev. Warren and Bonnie Bennett, the church's pastoral family, are busy getting all their belonging out of the house. The couple had prepared before Frances' arrival, moving their furniture away from exterior walls and covering literally everything in the house with plastic.
 
"It was worth it to cover everything," Rev. Bennett said. "We expected a leak, but we didn't expect everything coming down. It's all just stuff. The tough part is the emotional roller coaster and the surprise."
 
Bennett said this month is a busy one for him. His classes at Asbury Theological Seminary are beginning, and his mother turns 90 years old in a few weeks. "Everything is happening at once," he said.
 
The parsonage has had electrical power restored, and the Bennetts are living in a recreational vehicle parked in their driveway.
 
While trying to care for his own family's needs, Bennett is also working to care for his congregation, which has approximately 80 people, many of them elderly and widowed.
 
"We had shepherding leaders contact everyone in the church to find out how they were," he said. "We've tracked all our members, and everyone had minor damage."
 
Two church families that still do not have electricity are living in recreational vehicles parked at the church.
 

WHITE CITY — The Bible study room at White City United Methodist Church was almost completely destroyed by winds and rain from Hurricane Frances. The water that came in through the roof soaked much of the sanctuary carpet and the floors in the church’s two offices. The church is “not operating” and cannot hold services, according to its pastor, the Rev. Warren Bennett. Photo by Michael Wacht, Photo #04-0093.

The church's building did not fare as well as its members. The roof over the west side of the building, which houses the offices, a Bible study and quilting rooms, was peeled back by Frances' winds, according to Bennett. The Bible study room, which resembles a small chapel, suffered the worst of the damage. The ceiling tiles, insulation and fluorescent light fixtures all fell. The carpet is completely waterlogged, and water soaked about a third of the sanctuary carpet.
 
"I went down to the church yesterday and just cried," Bennett said.
 
Bennett is concerned about the church's future. "The church is not operating," he said. "We can't hold a service, and members of the congregation are dealing with their own damage."
 
Bennett has been pastor of the church for five years and has seen it grow from 35 to 80 members. He has also seen those members work hard to address past financial difficulties and improve the church's current financial situation. He now has concerns about the church's ability to continue financially during this crisis.
 
Despite the concerns, the church is finding ways it can serve its community in Frances' wake. In cooperation with the St. Lucie County Emergency Operations Center, the church will open its doors to a volunteer team from St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
 
"They're coming to do clean up in yards and homes in the White City area," Bennett said, adding his church's younger members are serving as the host team and will help the visitors get into the community.
 
"This gives us the manpower we don't have and helps us get into the community," he said.

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Florida Conference United Methodists are encouraged to send contributions to "Florida Storm Recovery Fund" Conference Special #605 to their local church. Church offerings should be sent to the Florida Conference Treasurer, The United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 3767, Lakeland, FL 33802.

Groups interested in forming a work team to assist with hurricane relief and recovery efforts should contact the Florida Storm Recovery Center at 1-800-282-8011, extension 149. The Florida Conference Storm Recovery Team can be contacted by e-mail at StormRecovery@flumc.org.

Donations for relief may also be made to UMCOR Advance #982410, "Hurricanes 2004," and dropped into church offering plates or mailed to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. People donating by credit card can call 800-554-8583.

For conference news and storm updates go to http://www.flumc.org/hurricane_watch/.

This article relates to Florida Conference Disaster Response.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Parham is editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.




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