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Above: Directly in front of the house was the location washed-out-to-sea St Elisabeth’s Chapel, Ortley Beac wooden interior is visible on the sand. Left: The chap

n of the now ch. A piece of the pel before Sandy

The churches and people of the Diocese of New Jersey took the full brunt of Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012. The losses were many, among property, people, and places. Tragedy occurred randomly, with some churches spared and others swept out to sea. Damage was often slow to reveal itself. Foundations, thought solid, weakened and buildings became precarious. Water damage, with all its hazards, became more widespread. As soon as Sandy had passed, people and churches throughout the Diocese of New Jersey began to take stock — and take heart.

Shortly after the hurricane left the westward region of the state, the Diocese of New Jersey began mobilizing its own website, video, and social media to link people and churches. Those who needed help could connect with those who could offer it. Parishes across the diocese stepped up to serve as resource and distribution centers and an interactive Google map was created to allow any interested person or agency to locate a center of interest and gain further information. Bishop Councell addressed the diocese in a YouTube video a few days after the hurricane, assuring us of the good will and prayers of dioceses across the country and the world and relaying specific offers of help from brother and sister bishops.

The week after Sandy, Bishop George Councell and Bishop Mellick Belshaw, ninth Bishop of New Jersey, along with staff from Episcopal Relief and Development, headed to three churches near the Jersey Shore, all of which are serving as resource centers and beacons of light and hope. Here is the group at St Mark’s Church, Keansburg, which has served meals seven days a week, distributed clothing, connected people to appropriate resources for aid — all of that while holding ‘normal’ church services! Left to right: Christine Ruland (St Mark’s), the Reverend Becky Michelfelder (Christ Church, Middletown), Cindy Medina (St Mark’s), the Reverend Edwin Chinery (St Mark’s), Bishop Councell, Bishop Belshaw, the Rev. Jackie Rowe (St Clement’s, Belford), Harvey Cottrell (St Mark’s)

As the scope of the devastation became known, the generosity and abundance of help grew. Dioceses from around the Episcopal Church mobilized to assist New Jersey. The Diocese of Alabama arranged for a ‘shower truck’ to assist those without access to hot water and offers came in from Maryland, Texas, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, among others. And miracles occurred! A company in the Bronx would give away 1000 ‘mold out’ buckets — large buckets filled with all necessary supplies for cleaning — but if they couldn’t be picked up in 24 hours, the offer would end. The Reverend Joan Pettit Mason of Christ Church, Toms River, posted a heartfelt cry on the Diocese of New Jersey’s Facebook for help. Christ Church would distribute the buckets if they could be picked up! Within hours, trucks were making their way to the Bronx and then transporting the buckets south to Toms River.

Christ Church, Toms River, turned again to Facebook to arrange a ‘bucket brigade’ to offload the mold-out buckets. Parishioners, a Boy Scout troop, and a host of volunteers did just that.

The stories of devastation and loss in the Diocese of New Jersey made national headlines. The New York Times featured a an article focusing on the destruction of St Elisabeth’s Chapel in Ortley Beach and the devastation at All Saints’ Church, Bay Head. The rectory of All Saints’ was destroyed and the church itself will be uninhabitable for close to a year. This photo shows the Reverend Neil Turton inside All Saints’, Bay Head. In the background are vast ducts for pumping out the massive amount of water that all but destroyed the foundation under the church. (Photo: Marcus Yam for the New York Times)

Good Shepherd Episcopal School in Dallas, Texas, reached out to the Diocese of New Jersey in solidarity and fellowship. Teachers, schoolchildren and their families — all spearheaded by Tad Long, a faculty member — collected clothing, supplies, gift cards, about $7000 worth — for the people in need in New Jersey. Tad and a companion drove in a 16-foot kitchen trailer and two 15-passenger vans stripped of their seats, loaded to capacity. They drove straight through from Dallas to Jersey in less than two days, arriving at St Mark and All Saints Church in Galloway after sunset. The story of the school’s generosity was featured on several networks in the Dallas area.

St Mark’s, Keansburg, outside and in! From the church’s latest update on Facebook: “Gave out over 50 turkeys and boxes filled with traditional fixings. Preparing for our thanksgiving dinner on Thursday 12 to 3. Tuesday evening all the churches in Keansburg, Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Methodist, and Pentecostal, are gathering to give thanks together in one service.” “VNA nurses on site, social workers, possible English as a Second Language classes starting, Youth and family nights — and meals served seven days a week. All this in our “Mission” Church!”

St James’ Church in Long Branch is ramping up its meal program and food pantry to meet the needs of people displaced from their homes by the hurricane. A local Boy Scout troop volunteered to help unload all the additional supplies pouring in.

The Reverend Michael Bamberger, Diocesan Disaster Coordinator for Episcopal Relief and Development, talks with the Reverend Susan Michelfelder and the Reverend Jackie Rowe.

Bishop George Councell presenting gift cards to the Reverend Edwin Chinery. Gifts cards are often more useful and appropriate for displaced families than donations of clothing.

A Eucharist by candlelight at Canterbury House, Rutgers. The power was out for more than a week in the New Brunswick area. ‘The darkness and the light to Thee are both alike’ Psalm 139

This image, posted on Facebook, shows part of a memorial plaque that had hung on a wall of St Elisabeth’s Chapel, Ortley Beach. Washed up on the shore, some distance from the location of the church, it was found by a local resident. Through Facebook, it was identified and returned to the senior warden of the church, who wrote: “Thank you so much for posting the photo!. The wall plaque is from St. Elisabeth’s Chapel, Ortley Beach. I have contacted you with more information.” “GOD BLESS YOU for taking the time to reach out to us. We have so little left.”

Please keep the Diocese of New Jersey in your prayers. Recovering from the effects of a massive storm like Sandy won’t be short, easy, or without setbacks and pain. It will be a long haul. But Jersey Episcopalians are a faithful, tough people. We’ll get through this. We’ll continue to work together to assist those in need. If you’d like to keep up with how we’re doing, we’d suggest that you check in to the diocesan website from time to time. You can find it here: The Diocese of New Jersey Facebook page is a wonderful interactive community of Jersey Episcopalians. Once you join the group, you can post or comment on a post. Go to If you’d like to donate to our Hurricane Sandy Relief fund, you can do so securely online. Go to And, above all, pray with us: O God, in Your mercy, make New Jersey new!

Jersey strong!

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After Sandy: Life in the Diocese of New Jersey  

Following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, the people and churches of the Diocese of New Jersey rallied to become centers of hope and lig...

After Sandy: Life in the Diocese of New Jersey  

Following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, the people and churches of the Diocese of New Jersey rallied to become centers of hope and lig...

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