Home News and Features After the Flood: Local Houses of Worship Share Resources, Part 2 

After the Flood: Local Houses of Worship Share Resources, Part 2 

After their downtown Montpelier church was flooded, Unitarians hold Sunday meditation sessions at Beth Jacob synagogue. Photo by Peter Thoms.
After the July flood, local churches — many suffering serious flood damage — found ways to work with other people of faith and the greater community, creating new common spaces and discovering ways to work together to meet the many challenges after the flood waters receded. Part 1 of this story was published in the Oct. 4 issue of The Bridge.

It’s in the Family 

Last summer, Beth Jacob Synagogue, not damaged by the July flood, offered its sanctuary to the members of the Unitarian Church of Montpelier for Sunday meditation sessions. 

“We are open to supporting other congregations,” says Andy Robinson of Beth Jacob. ”It’s actually in the family; we share members with the Unitarians.” This winter, Beth Jacob is exploring ways to host local churches two Sundays a month; the Montpelier Senior Center will hold tai chi classes at the synagogue on Harrison Avenue. 

On Elm Street, the Resurrection Baptist Church suffered major damage, with Pastor Pete Taranski and his family temporarily stranded in their car at the back of the property. Moderator David Book thanks the church and community volunteers who came to clear debris and looks forward to major electrical repairs when volunteers from Texas arrive. “These incredible volunteers are a beautiful silver lining for us.” He said he is also grateful for the hard work of Southern Baptist teams from Kentucky and Boston. Up on a hill and undamaged by the flood, Heaton Woods Residence offered their library space for worship and Bible study to the congregation. Plans are to return to the sanctuary in the spring of 2024. 

100 Houses in 100 Days 

In Barre, resourcefulness and cooperation marked the responses of churches to community needs. 

Pastor Tom Ferguson of the Seventh-Day Adventists thanks volunteers from the church who delivered basic supplies in a waterproof tote bag door-to-door on Saturday afternoons. They offered housing to Team Rubicon, a disaster response group led mostly by veterans, prepared food in their undamaged commercial kitchen, and gathered clothing and household items for neighbors.” 

We got a call from Hardwick that thirty sheet sets were needed, and our Community Service Team drove right up. Head deacons Kevin and Jody Paige are leading the charge, and we’re already planning our traditional Thanksgiving dinner.” 

Their long-term goal, a national initiative called 100 Houses in 100 Days, will offer repairs to damaged homes. 

“Before winter comes, we want to do the work on drywall, subflooring, and insulation. We’ve begun to join with other Barre churches and nonprofits in the Hope Coalition, Helping Our People in Emergency.” They welcome people to join as 18 organizations band together. New members are welcome, and the meetings are at Enough Ministries on Washington Street in Barre. 

“We Cooperate When We Can” 

Pastor Dan Molind of Enough Ministries describes their church, from the Southern Baptist tradition, as mission-minded. 

“During the pandemic, we learned that Barre churches could work together to offer meals, and we were lucky to have an outside door where we could safely deliver to those in need with a centralized location,” Molind said. 

After the flood, the food shelf and clothing closet were expanded to meet increased need, he said. Residents of seven area motels received delivered meals especially during the boil-water episode, and now once a week. 

Molind reports that 25,000 meals have been offered since the flood in Barre, in partnership with the Vermont Food Bank. Enough Ministries began with 1,000 meals daily and now are sustaining an average of 350 per day, he said. Molind recognizes the churches that provided housing: Faith Community Church, Barre Evangelical Free Church, and the Seventh-Day Adventists. 

Pastor Molind invites community members to help distribute $500,000 worth of supplies coming soon, he said.

“A Tag Team Network of Churches” 

Also on Washington Street in Barre, the Hedding United Methodist Church, which suffered no damage during the flood, converted an area in the basement to house a family of five. 

Outreach Coordinator Phyllis Azotea describes the Bread of Life Food Pantry: “We don’t offer premade bags. It’s a real shopping experience with a shopping cart so that they can have a choice,” she said. Her late husband, Renny Azotea, had a dream to have a commercial kitchen in the church, she said, and members are presently in a fundraising campaign so that they can offer culinary training programs. 

Friday night community meals — often with music by Donna Thunder with sing-along — and the Food Shelf are especially needed after the flood. 

“We do a tag team network of churches in town so that one church is not doing it alone, she says. “The Presbyterian church in town does breakfast here in our kitchen, and on Fridays we deliver food to the Good Samaritan Welcome Center.” 

Fr. Patrick Forman describes the major damage to the church’s basement, and he looks forward to the rebuilding of the parish hall. Until then, they meet in nearby St. Monica’s School, and hold small group gatherings in the rectory. They now prepare and distribute off-site, so St. Monica’s food program was not interrupted. 

Helping those in need has always been a mission of area churches, but with damage to their buildings, congregations have worked together to support each other. This cooperation after a disaster may result in networks such as the nascent Hope Coalition, which, in the words of Pastor Dan Molind of Enough Ministries, “will make it easier and better.”