To All Australian Bishops
Dear brothers and sisters
The flood crisis has reached a critical level in Brisbane, Ipswich, the Lockyer Valley, Toowoomba, the Somerset and Scenic Rim Regions.
Some communities in southwestern Queensland that have so recently been devastated and are now being inundated again or facing renewed threats. People who had only just returned to homes and cleaned up are facing repeated evacuation and repeated devastation. Bundaberg, Condamine, Chinchilla, Dalby and other towns are in this desperate situation.
Floodwater in Rockhampton remains high with the Diocesan offices still under some two feet or so of water.
Today the Brisbane CBD is virtually empty with people told not to come to work. Public transport has more or less ceased. Power has been disconnected in many places. The Brisbane River is expected to reach its flood peak sometime tomorrow. Fears are that it will be worse than the 1974 flood.
This morning I assembled a small team to work with me in coordinating diocesan response and resources. We are working to assist the state Emergency Response Team to accommodate and care for those whose homes and businesses have been inundated or destroyed.
Spiritus has deployed some 20 staff to assist in management of evacuation centres around Brisbane. A second Spiritus emergency team is working to support clients and staff affected by this situation.
The Lord Mayor, Cr Campbell Newman, contacted me this morning to request the church’s assistance in using parish and other facilities as emergency accommodation for people who have been displaced from their homes. My team is working as expeditiously as possible to make those facilities available. The speed and generosity of responses has been very encouraging. Thank you for doing what you can to assist.
In this most trying situation we are encountering a variety of responses among our people. Many who have lost loved ones are in deep shock and grief, as are those who have lost homes, precious possessions, businesses and livelihoods. They need to know that they are not alone in their profound sense of loss. Our presence with them and our prayers for them can reassure them of our solidarity with them and point them to God’s presence with them in the midst of all they are going through.
Others who have not been directly affected themselves can find themselves watching reports of the disaster on the media and looking on with sense of hopelessness and helplessness. We can assure these people that there are things they can do which are significant and which will make a difference. Many can offer their services as volunteers in the various emergency responses now required including accommodating people in parish facilities and schools. In the days and weeks ahead they can continue to serve their neighbours as the enormous clean up and rebuilding effort gets under way. They can give generously to ensure their neigbours in need are clothed, fed and provided with shelter in the short term. Again our solidarity with them and our sense of hope in the face of adversity will mean much.
There is in fact a very strong willingness abroad in the community to respond to the widespread and deep needs with loving, generous service. We can point to this and celebrate it as a sign of the presence of God at work among us.
Please remind your people of the Archbishop’s Emergency Relief Appeal and encourage them to give generously.
Another measure which will afford some practical and spiritual support at this time is to keep churches open during the day with volunteers to support and pray with any who visit. It would also be of assistance to many if some suitable prayers and reflections could be reproduced and made available in churches for those who come, I commend again to you the material I forwarded recently.
In addition I commend the prayer below to you and ask if you would provide it to your people to use and include it in services this Sunday and in the weeks ahead:
whose love for us knows no bounds,
we pray for all those who are affected by floods:
comfort all who grieve for loved ones lost;
strengthen those who face destruction of homes, memories and livelihoods;
encourage and sustain police, defence force, SES and church personnel and
all who bring relief and assistance.
Fill our hearts with compassion and generosity for all in need.
As we face our greatest fears
may we know the assurance of your presence with us
and hold fast to the promise of new life beyond all adversity.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord
and who lives with you and the Holy Spirit
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
I have received many messages from bishops of the Anglican Communion offering their support and prayers. They are greatly appreciated.
Please be assured of my prayers and support as you care for those who seek assistance at this critical time.
With my best wishes
Yours in Christ
The Most Rev’d Dr Phillip Aspinall