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Pastoral Letter to all Clergy and Lay Workers and Congregations of the Diocese
The Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera
 
CEYLON 050104-1
January 4, 2005

[The Church of Ceylon (E-P) - Ceylon] My dear Sisters and Brothers

Tsunami Disaster

My first Pastoral Letter to you for the New Year is written under the very sad and tragic aftermath of the Tsunami disaster. Our Diocese along with all the people of our Country and some neighbouring Asian Countries will mourn this unprecedented tragedy for sometime.

Geetha and I visited the East and South to express solidarity with our Churches, and have seen for ourselves the extent of the damage caused. We hope to visit the North on the 6th and 7th. From what we have seen and heard the destruction everywhere is unbelievable.

Whether we live or die we are the Lords

Some members of our Church and Sister Churches, including Tamara, Fr. Eardley’s dear wife, and the Rev. Ranjit Fernando a former Methodist Minister died in the disaster. There may be others as well. Some students of our Schools and a former member of Staff at STC Mt. Lavinia, Mr. Boteju and his family were also killed. I offer their families our condolences and the assurance of our care and prayers.

Loss and pain

Along with the several lakhs of persons who suffered, some of our Clergy and Lay workers suffered personal loss and pain of mind owing to the disaster. Bro. Mahanama and his family narrowly escaped death through quick and courageous action, when the wave destroyed the vicarage at Patuwatha. Fr. Jebam David at Trincomalee provided courageous leadership to save his congregation from the neck high water that suddenly flooded the Church during worship. The two of them and Fr. Noah Doraisamy, whose Vicarage at Batticalao was flooded, have lost all their personal belongings. Bro. Mahanama and Fr. Noah are being housed temporarily till more permanent arrangements are possible. Fr. Jebam has returned to the Vicarage. The waters also affected the Church and vicarage at Vallechenai where Fr. Gnanakarunian serves. Bro Lloyd at Tangalle was compelled to shift with his family to a nearby Temple for refuge. The boundary walls and vicarages at Patuwatha, Trincomalee and Batticalao have suffered considerable damage. I offer my grateful thanks to the Clergy and people, specially the Youth who worked hard to best restore these Churches and Vicarages. There is much work of reconstruction that lies ahead.

My gratitude

Many of our Clergy, Lay Workers and People in the affected areas have provided unstinted and courageous leadership in their local communities and I wish to thank them all. Others in safe areas have also responded in numerous ways to express solidarity. Many have been engaged in prayer. I thank you all as well.

Transfers

Some of you have had to shift into new Parishes in the midst of this wider National suffering and confusion. Such crises however provide immediate shared encounters with your people which could build trust. I wish you and your families smooth adjustment and a rewarding ministry in your new environment.

Due to the disaster I have been compelled to postpone transfers for Fr. Chandran Crispus, Fr. Noah Doraisamy and Bro. Lloyd Fernando. I thank them and their families for their co-operation.

Worship and prayer

I request you to continue the New Year theme of “Remembrance and Solidarity” in your worship over the next few weeks. While returning to normalcy is part of the therapy we all need, this theme should also be reflected in our other programmes and activities. Please also continue praying for Indonesia, India, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

Special intercessions and the Occasional prayer for Disasters on page 58 of the Book of Common Prayer of the CIPBC or other suitable prayers may be used.

This theme will also be appropriate for the Unity week services of January and Lent. Please plan these events creatively and collectively with your worship committees. May we continue to witness to the death and resurrection of Christ in a solemn and sensitive spirit.

Relief and Rehabilitation Desk

This Desk has been set up by me to co-ordinate our response to the tragedy, communicate relevant updates and information, set up and monitor R and R programmes and share experiences and insights for our mutual edification.

Fr Sam Ponniah will function as Convenor and volunteers will assist at the Desk. The Desk will be open from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm daily. I will personally direct the work of the Desk at this stage.

The Desk will be able to update you with information regarding needs and developments and will also keep you informed on R and R programmes you may wish to participate in. I am confident that you will maintain contact with and assist the Desk in its work. All inquiries as well as experiences and suggestions should please be directed to the Desk, at present occupying the Incorporated Trustees Office at the Diocesan Centre. (Tel; 4740261/2696208-ext 345. E.mail; diocese_reliefdesk@wow.lk )

Goodwill

We have received numerous messages of solidarity and the assurance of prayers from friends and Churches around the world. Many of them have pledged to send us money and some essential items for the work of R and R. I have responded to all individually and the Desk maintains contact with them.

Our Response

Some Churches and persons have sent donations and relief items for our corporate effort. I encourage those who have not responded to do so early and generously. Relief items only, should be sent to the ecumenical collection centers at S. Michaels Polwatte, Christ Church Dehiwela , the Methodist Church City Mission Dam Street Pettah, or to centers in the Regions through the Archdeacons. This will help us co-ordinate the supply of relief better and ecumenically. The R and R Desk will be able to help you with more detailed information.

While I understand that some of you may wish to link directly with parishes in the affected areas this should be discouraged as far as possible since it could lead to duplication and misunderstanding. If however a few of your representatives are keen to travel with relief sent by your parish to receiving places you should please contact Ms. Niroshini Nayagam ( at tel. 0777847550) of the Diocesan Board of Social Responsibility who is co-ordinating relief supplies with the NCC.

All monies must however be sent to the Bishop of Colombo. Cheques should be drawn in favour of the Bishop of Colombo a/c no 01- 1023241-01 Standard Chartered Bank, Fort Branch, Colombo (SWIFT ADDRESS SCB LLKLX) and Cash handed over direct to Mr. Ralph Anthony, the Diocesan Accountant. All donations will be duly acknowledged and a statement of accounts will be shared with the Diocese thereafter. Parishes are welcome to organize collections of funds within your own parish but Clergy are aware that my express permission must be sought if you wish to secure funding from outside the Parish for whatever purpose.

Those of you who have received funding or relief items for distribution from the NCC must ensure that these are used/distributed ecumenically. You should also send a statement of accounts and a report to the General Secretary of the NCC and copy this to me and your Archdeacon.

Those who require assistance for ongoing relief or rehabilitation work should please contact the NCC or Niroshini Nayagam. If the NCC is unable to help please have a word with the Diocesan R and R Desk and we shall try to help you.

The days ahead will be demanding; but we trust in God and in human resilience and kindness. We must strengthen one another and go forward in faith.

With peace and blessings

Yours sincerely,

The Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera
Bishop of Colombo