Prayer and donations sought for bushfire victims
The Uniting Church has launched two appeals to support people affected by the worst bushfires in New South Wales in over a decade.
On January 18 the fire situation in the New South Wales had deteriorated with some major fires reigniting or starting up in the south and the fire at Coonabarabran spreading.
The Rural Fire Service fire map was showing a number of serious fires and significant parts of the south were rated extreme fire danger.
Julie Greig, Acting Synod Disaster Recovery Coordinator, said, “I’m sure you will all be joining me in praying for the safety of people and homes.”
The Uniting Church has four Disaster Recovery Chaplains in Coonabarabran and one Peer Supporter to assist the congregation.
On January 17 there were more than 150 firefighters fighting a 45,000 hectare bush fire in the Warrumbungle National Park to the west of Coonabarabran.
The fire — but one of 122 burning across the state, 29 of which were out of control — had already destroyed at least 40 homes and 50 sheds and graziers had the heart-breaking task of putting down many thousands of burnt sheep.
The Uniting Church coordinates the New South Wales Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network and was asked to quickly activate chaplains to the area. The chaplains come from a variety of denominations and faiths.
Peer support teams provide pastoral care, support, resources and knowledge of disaster recovery. They support the work local churches in affected communities, working in conjunction with the Synod and presbyteries to ensure that the church gives due duty of care to those affected during, and after, the bushfires.
The Rev. Rob Buchan, team leader of the Disaster Recovery Chaplains, said chaplains at Coonabarabran had been sitting and talking to families, couples and individuals.
They had talked and liaised with RFS and emergency personnel in the area, talked to the Minister for Mental Health, Mr Kevin Humphries, regarding issues faced by victims, discussed trauma response with local religious leaders and visited people in fire-affected areas.
In 24 hours two chaplains spoke to 96 people.
The President of the Uniting Church, the Rev. Professor Andrew Dutney, also asked church members to pray for Australians continuing to battle bushfires across the country.
“I am saddened to hear that more homes have being lost in the north-west of New South Wales,” he said. “Our prayers and condolences are with the communities mourning these losses. When Australian communities are hurting, our church shares their pain.
“We pray for the safety of all firefighters, response teams and chaplains as they go about their vital work, and we pray for those who have to rebuild their lives after losing property.”
The latest losses come as the Uniting Church in Tasmania continues to assist relief and recovery efforts from fires in that state.
Professor Dutney said, “The Uniting Church will be part of these communities as they rebuild and after the current crisis has passed. “The disaster relief funds are means by which our church as a whole responds to people in need as they recover, so I urge church members to give generously.”
Donations of $2 or more to the National Disaster Relief Fund are tax-deductible and will provide financial resources for the relief of suffering caused by natural disasters, such as the recent bushfires. Relief is offered directly to people affected, their families and other dependents who may suffer as a result of the disasters, or through providing resources to third parties who deliver the assistance.
Donations to the Synod of New South Wales and the ACT Bushfire Appeal are non-claimable but allow the flexibility for money to be used for families who need to rebuild and refurnish their houses, replace fencing, purchase fodder and replace livestock.
Donations to the Synod appeal will also help congregations who want to provide some support in their communities following fires, and to providing longer term pastoral support.
How to donate
Details on how to donate to the National Disaster Relief Fund are available on the Assembly website.
To donate online to the Synod Bushfire Appeal visit the donations page on the Synod website.
To donate by cheque, mail your contribution to:
Synod Bushfire Appeal
Synod of New South Wales and the ACT
PO Box A2178
Sydney South, NSW, 1235
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