Listen: Reverend Claire Wright talks about the unique role of churches in disaster recovery, in light of the NSW floods
What is “church”? A building used for worship? A community of believers that gather together on Sunday morning? Or something else entirely? Reverend Claire Wright believes she has experienced the essence of church – and it looks nothing like a Sunday service.
The past few weeks have seen devastating floods wreak havoc across NSW, especially along the Mid North Coast. And Rev Claire Wright, Ministry Development Minister for the Uniting Church in the Manning Valley region, has felt the loss and trauma of her community, deeply.
Still reeling from recent bushfires, and the effects of a global pandemic, the community is no stranger to disaster management. However, Claire believes churches have a unique opportunity to assist those who fall through the cracks.
“On the ground, there are an awful lot of people who aren’t able… to access [recovery assistance],” Claire told Hope 103.2.
“That is where churches come in, with an opportunity to fill the gap.”
Coopernook – the tiny village making a massive difference
Claire spoke of the resilience and camaraderie of small communities making a remarkable difference within their towns. Coopernook, a small village which was isolated by floodwater, is home to a tiny church, with a congregation of just three people. However, they became a lifeline for their community, by providing emergency assistance.
“[They helped] 27 people be housed, fed, given access to medications. They acted as an evacuation centre for many days,” Claire said.
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“With the amazing support of their tiny little community, donating bedding, donating food, they pooled everything they had, and the church was able to offer that hospitality space for that to happen.”
“On the Sunday morning as everyone was clearing up the sleeping bags from the pews, someone asked ‘what about church this morning?’ and the organiser responded, ‘this is church.’”
“On the Sunday morning as everyone was clearing up the sleeping bags from the pews, someone asked ‘what about church this morning?’ and the organiser responded, ‘this is church.’,” – Rev Claire Wright
How can you help?
When asked what the community could do to help, Claire had one simple request: reach out.
“We could really do with people who will journey with us as the needs continue to unfold, so please, call us in a month’s time, three months’ time, six months’ time and ask us how we’re doing,” she said.
“Because some of us won’t be fine, yet. And it will do us the world of good to know that our brothers and sisters haven’t forgotten.”
You can listen to Reverend Claire Wright’s full interview with Georgia Free in the player above.