The Bethel AME Church in Morristown needs your help.
Tropical Storm Irene deposited 20,000 gallons of the Whippany River into the church basement on Sunday. (See video below for flood footage.)
The water is gone–and so are church computers, kitchen appliances, rugs, carpeting, floor tiles, children’s back-to-school supplies, choir robes, office equipment, organs and a piano.
And the church has no flood insurance.
It expired soon after Pastor Alfonso Sherald did in 2010. In the congregation’s grief and transition period, the insurance renewal fell through the cracks, said the new pastor, the Rev. Sidney Williams Jr.
“This caught us all by surprise,” said Pastor Sidney.
That’s literally water under the bridge right now.
Pastor Sidney’s 200-member flock is holding a cleanup day this Saturday, Sept. 3, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the church on 59 Spring St.
If you can spare a few hours of volunteer labor over this Labor Day weekend, you can improve your score with the Heavenly Credit Bureau and win the hearts of neighbors in the here and now.
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“This is shocking…we’ve got to pull together and do whatever we’ve got to do,” said church trustee Karen Duncan, as members surveyed the basement that was pumped dry by the Morristown Fire Department.
Lifelong parishioner Sandra Knight, who wore a bandana across her face to filter moldy fumes and a cap inscribed with the word “Believe,” said she cried when she saw the flood damage to the church children’s room. Then her faith kicked in.
“I said okay, Lord, I’m not coming to you crying. I’m coming to you on faith, knowing that you’re going to restore,” Sandra said. “It’s now time to get to work.”
Volunteers are asked to wear old clothes and bring rubber gloves, mops, buckets and disinfectant if possible.
Pastor Sidney said the church also can use help from carpenters, electricians, plumbers, carpet- and tiling pros and anyone else with construction skills.
Some things–like handwritten Sunday school letters and church photos dating to the 19th century–cannot be replaced. But the church needs a refrigerator, kitchen fixtures, computers and copy machines, and building supplies, if you have any to spare.
José Grajales pitched in early, at the request of a friend, congregation member Shannon Simon.
“This is a family. This place is a family place,” said José, who helped Pastor Sidney haul the ruined refrigerator from the dank basement. “I’m from Colombia, and it makes me happy to be here to give a hand.”
The church, which is predominantly composed of older African Americans, has survived its share of trials and tribulations. Members are determined that Tropical Storm Irene won’t go down as a flood of Biblical proportions.
“God works in mysterious ways,” said Karen, the church trustee. “We can’t take this as a negative. We have to take it as a positive.”
“Brighter days are ahead,” insisted Pastor Sidney, a former bond trader.
Still, he never expected this assignment would prove more challenging than his last one– preaching to the poor in Capetown, South Africa.
“The last outpost was a little easier,” he said with a smile.