Post-Superstorm: “The Church at its Best!”

November 20, 2012


Dear Friends,

Episcopal News Service recently published a story about how local churches in New York and New Jersey have responded to the devastation faced by their neighbors in the aftermath of the superstorm. The tremendous effort gave people a new perspective on churches and prompted one rector to say, “This is the church at its best.”

The story, which can be read here, gives life to our vision for what the churches of this region can do when disaster strikes. St. George’s Regional Disaster Recovery & Outreach Center will provide the place and the resources for our parish and the other regional parishes to respond, even if some of our churches and homes are affected.  The parishes in the story also serve as wonderful examples of Trinity’s mission statement, “living and building holy community.”

As you read the story and give thanks with us for the work being done by our sisters and brothers in the storm ravaged areas, please give some thought to ways to help our region be prepared when it is our turn to respond as the churches in New Jersey and New York are now. The list below suggests some ways you can help St. George’s to be ready to serve as a rallying point for our region’s response to future disasters, or email for more information about the center and projects underway.

And as we enter this season of thanksgiving and sharing of gifts, please remember those who are counting on our National Church for support of their efforts to help their communities. Please consider making a donation to Episcopal Relief & Development, and help others see our faith in action and God’s church at its very best.


Fr. John Major
Diocesan Representative to Episcopal Relief & Development

Janine Ungvarsky
Diocesan Program Manager for Episcopal Relief & Development

St. George’s
Regional Disaster Recovery & Outreach Center

A SHIELD in the midst of life’s storms… 

A cooperative effort of the people of the regional churches of the
Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem

Ways to put you faith to work:

-Donate or organize a collection of disaster response supplies such as:

  • Cleaning supplies– buckets, mops, brooms, sponges, gloves (work gloves, rubber gloves), etc.
  • Sample size toiletries and personal care items
  • Gift cards to “big box stores” (Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart, Target, Kmart)

-Volunteer for the soup kitchen.  Cooking, serving and clean up help needed

-Volunteer for ongoing maintenance and improvement projects

-Make a donation towards improving services at the center (donations towards cots ($75 each), new community room flooring ($2.79/square foot), installation of shower rooms
Email for more information, to volunteer or make a donation.


Prepare for Hurricane Sandy!


Dear Bakery Friends,

The forecasters have clarified their predictions about Hurricane Sandy which is working its way up the Atlantic seaboard. It appears that Monday night or Tuesday night the eye of the storm could pass through our diocese. The storm is huge, with hurricane force winds 300 miles from the storm center. Predictions are the storm will collide with a cold front coming from the north and west so where these two meet in the north and west of us and at higher elevations could see snow. The storm will be fed by usually warm Atlantic waters so the possibility of flooding appears high, even if the storm should veer and take the eye elsewhere.

We should expect to see damage from high winds, heavy rain (and in some places snow), and flooding. The flooding will come as flash flooding and then extended periods of high water. It is recommended that our communities, particularly in low lying areas and along the coast, should begin preparations for a major storm. The European and NOAA weather models have projections that would almost be worst case scenarios for the mid-Atlantic, including eastern Pennsylvania and the Diocese of Bethlehem in terms of winds and power outages, and potential flooding.

The Disaster Response and Community Resiliency Committee of the Diocese will attempt to get information out to you via Bakery, newSpin, Facebook and Twitter. The Rev. John Major and Janine Ungvarsky are our contacts with Episcopal Relief and Development.

In addition, we’ve provided some links to preparedness information from our friends at Episcopal Relief & Development that are helpful to those in parish leadership as well as individuals in the path of this storm.  Please take a few moments to review these links and give prayerful consideration to how you will prepare to weather this storm and help your neighbors to do so as well.   The needs could be many, and the idea of responding can seem overwhelming.  But we all have more resources than we think, from offering food, shelter and other material help to simply being a comforting presence.

Plan now to use the weekend ahead so that your congregation can help your members be sure that they are stocked up for prescription medicines, have flashlights and fresh water at the ready in case of power loss and food that can be prepared if there is no electricity. Collect the emergency contact numbers for these congregants and have them in a safe place. Lay people and clergy can coordinate their efforts in reaching out to people.  Consider setting up a call tree system so that members of your parish can check on each other, in particular the homebound and those with special needs.

Finally, think about how your congregation will respond to your community should a disaster situation arise in your community. Chances are that other agencies such as the Red Cross, FEMA and even other denominational groups will be able to provide immediate crisis response, but if power is lost for extended periods, or if flooding occurs, think about ways that your congregation might be of service to your community in coordination with local disaster management officials.

If you have any questions or concerns please contact Fr. John Major and Janine Ungvarsky ( who are our contacts with ERD and have taken the lead on our disaster response and community resiliency program.

We encourage you to take some time now and over the weekend to think about what resources you and your parish have, pray and reflect on the ways these things can be used to help, and then start where you are with what you have to reach out to those who will be in need.


Diocesan Disaster Relief & Resiliency Committee

Rev. Canon Andrew T. Gerns, Chairman                     Rev. John C. Major

Rev. Timothy Alleman                                                 Janine Ungvarsky

Rev. Canon Charles Cesaretti                                     Rev. Charles Warwick

Rev. Eddie Lopez                                                         Rev. Jane Williams



St. George’s Regional Disaster Recovery & Outreach Center
408 E. Main Street
Nanticoke, PA 18634


A SHIELD in the midst of life’s storms….    

Preparedness Links:Episcopal Relief & Development–for a helpful form for gathering phone numbers and other parish information you should have on hand in a disaster please click on this link and then click on “Resource Library” under “Quick Links” on the right, scroll to “Preparedness Planning Tools” and then open “Bronze Level Preparedness Planning Guide.”

Personal & Family Preparedness

Tips for Providing a Temporary Neighborhood Shelter

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hurricane Information Site

PennDOT 511 Travel Info to Go

Thank You From St. George’s Regional Center!

The socks and t-shirts collected forthe ministry at St. George’s Regional Disaster Recovery & Outreach Center through the dedicated efforts of ECW and the generosity of the people of the Diocese of Bethlehem filled the back of a pickup truck.
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
We scarcely have the words to express how grateful we are for the tremendous outpouring of support the ministry at St. George’s Disaster Recovery & Outreach Center received from those of you who were at convention this weekend.  So many of you stopped by our booth to visit, check out our pictures, ask questions and share encouragement.  You offered wonderful suggestions and promises of support, and many of you told us you are praying for us and this ministry, which means a great deal to us.   And your attention and interest in the hearing on the disaster preparedness resolution was gratifying because we know only too well how important being prepared will be when disaster strikes.As if all of this wasn’t enough, the response to the ECW collection on behalf of the ministry housed at St. George’s was truly overwhelming.  As you can see in the photo, your generous offerings filled the back of the pickup truck and far exceeded our expectations.  We look forward to inventorying the socks and t-shirts this week and will provide an update on the totals received.  In the meantime, please know that we are deeply grateful for all the support and encouragement for this ministry that will benefit so many.  You have provided a wonderful affirmation for what we have been saying all along…this is truly a regional ministry, and our diocese’s way of telling the most vulnerable in this area that the Episcopal Church is there for them at the times when they most need to hear that.  Please continue to keep this ministry and our efforts to move it forward in your prayers–there is still much work ahead and your continued prayerful support and gifts of time, talent and treasure will be needed and appreciated.   And please know that we offer prayers of gratitude for all of you and the many wonderful ways you have supported disaster preparedness and recovery ministry in the Diocese of Bethlehem.


Fr. John Major                                                          Janine Ungvarsky
Diocesan Representative                                             Diocesan Program Manager
Episcopal Relief & Development


Wheels of Recovery Ministry Rolling!

Dear Friends,The wheels of regional disaster recovery and outreach ministry are rolling, thanks to a very generous donation received on the first anniversary of the Susquehanna River flooding that devastated West Pittston and a number of surrounding communities.From September 8, 2012 to September 8, 2013, the regional ministry based in the new St. George’s Regional Recovery & Outreach Center in Nanticoke will have the use of a Dodge Ram pickup truck, including insurance, courtesy of a donor who has chosen to remain anonymous.  While it is in use to support this ministry, the truck will sport door magnets featuring the Episcopal shield and the words “A SHIELD in the midst of life’s storms…the Episcopal Church,” making it a mobile reminder of our church’s presence and ministry in the community.

The use of the truck is one in a series of donations that have been received in support of this new outreach ministry.  Other support has come in the form of cash donations that continue to be made to the Diocesan Disaster Relief fund and the Episcopal Church Women’s collection of t-shirts and socks at the upcoming convention.

This ministry and St. George’s Regional Center have also benefited from the generous sharing of time and talent from around the diocese, including a number of volunteers who have assisted with painting, cleaning and other tasks at the center, as well as the skilled woodworking of Rick Logan, who created a beautiful new altar and cross for the worship space at St. George’s.  Rick, who is the senior warden and verger at Trinity West Pittston, spent hours hand crafting the oak cross and altar from one of the former church’s pews.

These donations of time, talent and treasure are providing a great start for the outreach and ministry at St. George’s, which will continue to need support as it becomes this region’s shield in the midst of life’s storms.  Please look for the diocesan Disaster Relief & Community Resiliency booth at this weekend’s convention to learn more about the center and how you can help this new ministry.


Fr. John Major                                                           Janine Ungvarsky
Diocesan Representative                                             Diocesan Program Manager
Episcopal Relief & Development

25 Years of Priestly Ministry

Fr. John Major Celebrates 25th Anniversary of Priestly Ministry:
Seeks Help for So Much Left Undone

Not too long ago, I found myself standing on a 21-foot ladder removing boards covering the windows of the former Nanticoke, PA church recently reborn as St. George’s Regional Disaster Recovery & Outreach Center, trying to hold onto both the ladder and a power screwdriver while ducking the wasps swarming out of the nest I had just disturbed.  When I was safely on the ground, my assistant for this little project looked at me and asked, “Did they have a class for this when you went to seminary?”

If they did, I was absent that day.  Maybe I was absent a lot more than I thought, because in my 25 years of priestly ministry, there have been many instances where the work before me was simply not something I was prepared for by any training.  The biggest example of that would be the flood recovery work that was suddenly thrust on so many in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.

What prepares you for seeing water lapping at the doors of homes just a block from your church?  Where do you begin to help when one third of your West Pittston neighbors and hundreds more in nearby towns are piling all their mud soaked belongings at the curb?  How do you even think about slowing down on efforts to help when the sounds of hammers and saws still ring out on many streets a full year later as so many still try to put their lives back together?

How can you not ask what you can do to be better prepared next time when experts say it’s not a matter of if there is another flood—but when, or when you see nearly daily accounts of tornados, wildfires, prolonged power outages, and other disasters?  These are questions that I can’t stop asking.

Looking back on this past year, the people of Trinity West Pittston and the Diocese of Bethlehem can be proud of the way they  lived out our Christian calling to care for those in need.  Unprepared though we were, the response was wonderful and continues to this day.  And on September 9, just one day after the one year anniversary of the flood, Trinity West Pittston will host our neighbors in a celebration of Holy Eucharist followed by a free cookout.  We want our neighbors to know that we, and the Episcopal Church, are still there for them.

That same week marks the 25 anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood.  As I consider this ministry I find that instead of thinking about what has been done in the past, I see so much more that must be done, especially in my newest ministry as Episcopal Relief & Development representative for the Diocese of Bethlehem.  Reflecting on how unprepared so many were, I see a great need to step up our efforts to be prepared at all levels across the diocese as urged by the national Church through Episcopal Relief & Development, and I invite you to mark your calendar now for our next disaster preparedness plan training on October 27.  Details will follow soon on Bakery.

And I would like to ask you all to help me as I move forward to the many tasks I still see before me after 25 years of effort.  It is so clear to me how much we need places like St. George’s Regional Center not only here in Northeastern Pennsylvania but across the diocese, places where we can all be encouraged to put our faith to work to help the most vulnerable among us.  But St. George’s Regional Center needs more help to become fully functional than originally thought, and disasters small and large can strike here or in any part of the diocese at any time, so I humbly ask that you consider offering a gift of $25, $250, $2,500, $25,000 or – yes, I believe in the generosity of the people of God– even $250,000 towards disaster preparedness and future disaster recovery efforts not just at St. George’s Regional Center but throughout the Diocese of Bethlehem.

Some ways you can help prepare St. George’s Regional Center for ministry:

Sponsor replacement of 25 square feet
of mildew-damaged flooring in community room & office
25 sq. feet @ $2.79/ft =$69.75
Sponsor replacement of 25 sq. feet of damaged ceiling in community room & office 25 sq. feet @ $2.10/ft = $52.50
Sponsor cleaning of 25 square feet of sanctuary carpet 25 sq. feet @ $.75/ft = $18.75
Sponsor one of 25 lights/emergency lights needed @ $54 Sponsor one of 25 cots for emergency use or housing volunteer work crews @ $75 Ask your congregation to collect quarters to make a group donation to disaster preparedness  relief diocesan-wide

Of course, donations in any amount to further the work of disaster preparedness and recovery throughout our diocese will be gratefully accepted, and can be made out to Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem with the notation Fr. Major 25th/Diocesan Disaster Recovery Efforts/Episcopal Relief & Development.

Thank you for the many ways you have supported disaster recovery efforts in West Pittston and across the diocese in the past, and thank you for your consideration of helping in this vitally important new ministry I see before me, helping all our sisters and brothers in their time of greatest need.


Fr. John Major

The Rev. John C. Major is the rector of Trinity West Pittston, a member of the Diocesan Disaster Relief & Community Resiliency Committee, and the Episcopal Relief & Development representative for the Diocese of Bethlehem, as well as a member of Diocesan Council.