by Margaret Rodgers
[Anglican Media Sydney] Dr Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney will lead a special service of prayer for victims of the present NSW fire crisis on Sunday 30th December at 10.30am.
The entire metropolitan area of Sydney has been covered in smoke and ash coming from the devastating fires that have ringed the Sydney area ever since Christmas Day. Many other parts of NSW are also suffering, including Canberra, Grafton, the Central Coast near to Newcastle, the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney, and also the NSW South Coast.
Many people have been evacuated by police, only to return to find their homes gutted through the fire and all their personal possessions lost. There has been a respite in the winds that have stirred up the flames over Thursday 27th and today, 28th December, which has provided cooler temperatures and enabled some back burning by fire fighters to hold off the fires. Yet if the weather forecast remains the same, people are worried about the next few days, with forecasts of 35 degrees Celsius for Sydney on Saturday, and an even more dangerous near 40 degrees Celsius for Sunday 30th.
The Christian Conference Centre at Stanwell Tops, 58kms south of Sydney, has been severely damaged by the fires. So far the only damage that occurred to Sydney Anglican churches and property has been the destruction of the rectory in Mulgoa parish, which is west of Sydney at the foot of the Blue Mountains.
However members of a number of congregations have lost their homes or their near neighbours have, including Springwood, Kurrajong, Mulgoa and Warragamba in Sydney's west and the Blue Mountains area. The area around Huskisson on the South Coast has seen many homes destroyed.
"People are fearful of what is to come if the forecast remains the same," Graham Crew, rector of Springwood, a Blue Mountains parish, said. "Church members have seen their neighbours lose their homes, but through God's grace and the work of very diligent fire fighters no one from our congregation has lost their home. But if the fires are blown up to us from Warragamba, or if they come through the Grose Valley down the mountains, then this year may see more devastating loses than in the 1994 or 1968 fires which are always remembered," Mr Crew said.
Graham Crew also pointed out that three (3) homes of church members in Kurrajong parish were destroyed.
Anglicare Emergency Services unit, which is part of the NSW State Emergency Disaster Plan, has been training volunteers from Sydney parishes for disaster work over the last two years, and this Christmas they have been out in force forming part of the emergency teams deployed through the NSW Government in the areas affected by fire. Diocesan clergy have been prominent in those volunteer teams.
In the special service at St Andrew's Cathedral, Archbishop will lead the prayers, and Archdeacon Trevor Edwards of South Sydney region will preach. During the service, Archdeacon Edwards will interview Mr Terry O'Mara, head of Anglicare's Emergency Services unit, who will provide an update on the emergency situation and the work of the volunteers up until that time.
Archbishop Jensen has opened an emergency appeal through his Appeals Unit to allow church members to send their gifts to assist people who have lost homes and personal possessions.
Dr Jensen has also written a special prayer for use in all parishes throughout this NSW fire crisis.
A Prayer for the present NSW Fire Crisis
Creator and Sustainer of our world
You know that our land is ravaged by fire, lives are at risk and property is being destroyed
In your mercy have pity on us,
Grant strength and safety to all who fight these fires and to those who support them,
Grant that rain will bring relief to our land,
Grant that the fires will speedily be brought under control and cease to threaten us, the animals and the land;
Grant us all generosity of heart to those who have lost homes and income;
Grant your restraint on those who cause fires, and those who seek to take advantage of the sufferings of others;
Grant that all our community may turn to you for the comfort of the gospel,
We pray to you in the Name of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen