It has been a tough week at my church in Shrewsbury in Shropshire. Our church building is on the banks of the River Severn whose source is in the hills of mid Wales. The very heavy rainfall has really affected us. The Severn gathers a vast amount of rainfall as it descends from mid-Wales into the West Midlands. During the past few days the river rose and rose and rose… and our district of the town was completely flooded out. At the height of the floods our street was like a river and people went up and down by boat! Our main church building was under a foot of water for a couple of days. Yesterday I went in as our team assessed the damage and started the clear up… it has been a tough week. In this flood, for the first time, my office was flooded. It all became rather personal.
Lots of troubling memories have come back into my mind:
- The day in 1996 when we bought our building at which time the experts told us not to worry about flooding and that the church site was only predicted to flood every 50 years at most;
- The day in 1998 when the church building flooded with the highest river level recorded in living memory, causing enormous damage which took a year to sort out;
- The day in 2000 when the church building flooded again…
Last year I raised the issue of flood risk as an agenda item at our church trustees meeting. So why did I do that? Because I think about climate change. I know that the rainfall cycle is intensifying around the world – more droughts in some places, more heavy rainfall in other places. By far the worst impacts are seen in poorer countries which are located in tropical regions, but we are beginning to see some significant impacts here in the UK – especially through flooding.
Our church community is rising to the occasion. We have an army of volunteers helping with the clean-up. Our foodbank is open again today. We will pull through. However, we are mindful of our neighbours in the local community who have had worse impacts than we have had. Those whose homes have been inundated. Businesses whose trade has been deeply impacted. Those who couldn’t get any flood insurance and now face unpayable bills to restore their properties. So we have teamed up with Christian charity ‘Acts 435’ who source grants from generous donors to help people in financial crisis. We will be the link between the charity and our friends and neighbours in the community as we help them to obtain grants towards household damage caused by the floods.
And here is my most troubling memory. Last summer I gave a seminar on the environment and climate change at a big summer festival. I explained how the impacts of climate change can generally be managed in the West but cause long-term and catastrophic loss in poorer countries. Many people came to talk to me afterwards. One man waited patiently at the back of the queue. When I spoke to him all he did was show me some video footage from his smartphone. It showed heavy rainfall and a storm surge destroying houses. “This was my city, this was my home – in the Philippines” he said. “My home was destroyed and has not been rebuilt. I had to leave. That is why I am living in the UK.”
It puts it all in perspective.
To learn more about the work of Acts 435, read our blog from earlier this week.
To give to needs in this area, register an account with Acts 435 and set up email notifications to be alerted when needs are listed.