Founded 1947 * Incorporated 1972
P.O. Box 7488, St. Thomas, VI 00801 340-776-1797 *Fax 340-777-8485
Office of the Bishop
August 6, 2018
It has been some time since my last update, so I wanted to reach out and provide you with some updates on how the Diocese is assisting in the hurricane recovery efforts—as well as preparing for any future, potential disasters. Since the first days when the storms passed, we have been walking with our Companion Diocese in Alabama and Episcopal Relief and Development. And though we know that recovery has been slow and will take years to complete, we have made some significant progress.
As stated in my last update, we have formed the Diocesan Disaster Recovery Committee. This committee, consisting of members from each deanery, continue to meet monthly. The members are highly connected to the comprehensive recovery efforts in the USVI and BVI, are serving on committees, reporting back to each other, working closely with other organizations active in disasters, and providing oversight to the mini-grants program. The group also is tasked with keeping their perspective deaneries informed on the recovery efforts. To this end, Awareness Events have taken place on both St. Thomas and St. Croix. Additionally, our churches have been including updates in their weekly bulletins.
The mini-grants program, one supported by Episcopal Relief and Development and the Diocese of Alabama, is underway with grants having been awarded to churches throughout the Diocese. The goal of this program is to enhance current or potential outreach programs of our churches as they work to serve their communities during this time of recovery and preparedness. Grant applications are still being accepted! If your church has a program that could be enhanced through additional grant funding, please email our Disaster Response Consultant from Episcopal Relief and Development, Jay Rollins (firstname.lastname@example.org), with your ideas or questions.
In the BVI and St. Croix deaneries, Episcopal Relief and Development conducted Asset Recognition trainings. These day-long events use a “train the trainer” model to guide church leaders, lay and clergy, in recognizing the gifts of their church in the areas of recovery and preparedness. The same event will take place in the St. Thomas-St. John Deanery at All Saints Cathedral parish hall on August 18th.
The Diocese of Alabama, with additional support from the Diocese of El Camino Real, have consistently been sending clergy to the islands. These clergy have provided such a relief and service to us by filling in some gaps and allowing our clergy some time for self-care. The Diocese of Alabama is also preparing to send volunteer teams beginning in September. These teams, in partnership and coordination with our Diocese and other organizations active in recovery, will really help speed up the rebuilding efforts in our communities. In addition, the Diocese of Virginia in the initial stages of assisting us. We have had some consistent volunteers from the Mountain Christian Fellowship of Maryland.
Volunteer teams are critical for our recovery and they need housing while serving throughout the Diocese. We have been busy working to prepare some of our church spaces and other facilities to help welcome these teams. Beginning in September, St. Dunstan’s School (STX), Holy Spirit (STT), St. Luke’s (STT), Domini House (STT), Artistic Villas (STJ) and St. Georges (Tortola) will be prepared to host our teams from Alabama, Mountain Christian Church of Joppa, Maryland, as well as teams from across the mainland.
Our churches have also benefitted from various partnerships with other organizations. On Tortola, the churches have received preparedness training from Team Rubikon, U.K. On St. Croix, Lutheran Social Services have coordinated volunteers from The United Methodist Church to prepare St. Dunstan’s School for volunteer teams. And on St. Thomas, My Brother’s Workshop and the St. Thomas Long Term Recovery Group have provided the construction needed to convert Holy Spirit’s church to house volunteer teams. They have also provided the cleanup and removal of trash from Domini House. James Browne via Rev. Wells Warren of Alabama, and George Lavoie from Florida, two volunteers, have worked to transform the space.
We will continue to nurture these partnerships across the Diocese to the benefit of our communities. We have officially entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Episcopal Relief and Development to support the hiring of four staff positions focused on our recovery and preparedness needs. We will continue to provide our churches with resources, trainings, and support to prepare our families and communities for the future.
‘Soon and very soon’ we will have volunteers on all the five islands of the Diocese. To God be the Glory!
Your Servant in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. E. Ambrose Gumbs
Bishop Episcopal Diocese of the Virgin Islands