[Episcopal News Service, by Mary Frances Schjonberg] Episcopalians in the path of catastrophic wildfires that have destroyed a large swath of the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in the south-eastern US are working to help their communities in the aftermath. “Several of our parishes are working with local fire and police departments to begin to collect items that are of need as we move through the rescue phase of the response to the fires,” Diocese of East Tennessee Bishop George Young said on Tuesday.
Communication is difficult but Episcopal Relief & Development has been in contact with Young and is awaiting the diocese’s assessment of damages and needs.
In devastated Gatlinburg, it appears that Trinity Episcopal Church survived the flames that killed seven people, injured 14, forced the evacuation of 14,000, destroyed 150 buildings and damaged 400 in total. About 4,100 people live in the town at the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
“We are not yet able to get to the church until the authorities have cleared the way and allowed folks back into Gatlinburg,” Trinity’s interim rector, the Revd Bob Beasley, said on Wednesday. “I have heard from two sources that the church is okay though there is much damage nearby. I’ve heard from four parishioners whose homes were destroyed and heard about more possibilities. We will have to give each other a lot of love and support and rely deeply on the peace and power of God.”