Bishop of Carlisle praises support offered to those affected by floods

The Bishop of Carlisle has praised the huge support being offered to those affected by the unprecedented flooding across Cumbria.

 Bishop James with emergency incident commander George Sansom from Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service at Warwick Road in Carlisle.It comes after the Rt Revd James Newcome yesterday visited as many areas as he could to see the damage caused and the relief effort that is now in place.

The floods have left hundreds of homes and businesses flooded and the county’s transport network and roads system badly damaged.

Bishop James said: “I feel humbled to have met so many wonderful and generous people; from centre managers and clergy through to volunteers and even children who have donated their toys.

“This has been a great example of the way in which Cumbrian communities rally together when disaster strikes; frequently with a supportive church at their centre.

“Having seen the damage caused to so many properties and businesses, I fully realise that it will take a long time for things to get back to normal. I want to reassure people that church communities across Cumbria will be there for them – no matter how long it takes – to help and support those affected.”

Bishop James began by touring some of those places hit by flooding in Keswick, where he lives. He was able to spend time with members of the emergency planning team who helped set up a reception centre at St Herbert’s CE Primary School, as well as speaking to local people and visiting the town’s fire station.

Later he was able to travel to Carlisle where he was joined by the Archdeacon for Carlisle ,The Ven Kevin Roberts, to meet with members of the emergency services in Warwick Road, one of the areas to be hit hardest by flooding as well as seeing the damage which had been cause to St Aidan’s Church. The Rev Keith Teasdale, Priest-in-Charge of St Aidan’s, is also one of the hundreds to have been flooded out of their homes.

The Revd Sue Wicks with Bishop James at the Greystone Road Reception Centre.Bishop James spent time at two reception centres in the city, first visiting the Greystone Road Community Centre. There he met with church volunteers including the Revd Sue Wicks from St Elizabeth’s Harraby as well as University Chaplain, the Rev Matthew Firth and spent time talking to volunteers and those evacuated. The centre has become a focal point for people to donate blankets and food to those forced to leave their homes.

Gareth Weber, the centre manager, said: “We got a call on Friday night to say could we open our doors and since then we have been taking people in. We have two rooms where people can sleep and we are providing them with meals.

“We have had fantastic help from some big companies and local people have been bringing in blanket, food, toiletries and toys; it has been a massive community effort all-round.”

From there Bishop James was able to spend time at the Holy Trinity Church reception centre on the city’s Wigton Road, chatting to those who are helping as well as others who have been affected by the floods.

The Revd Eleanor Hancock (in glasses) at the Holy Trinity Church Reception Centre.The Revd Eleanor Hancock, who is co-ordinating the centre, said: “People have been absolutely amazing. We have created a drop-in centre for people who are staying in their homes to have a hot meal. We have so much food donated. We have had local people baking and making soup.

“People have just been looking after each other; there have been lots of hugs, cuddle and tears but things are going well.”

Bishop James then visited Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary where emergency generators have been used since Saturday to provide power. All elective surgery has also had to be cancelled, while emergency surgery remains in place.

He met with hospital chaplain the Revd Anne Roberts as well as staff in one of the hospital’s surgical wards and emergency admissions.

Lynn Anderson, chief matron for emergency and medical care, said: “It’s been a challenging time with the amount of patients we have had here and the fact that it has been difficult for staff to get in. But we have had a fantastic response and people have made their way here.”

Bishop James and the Revd Sarah Lunn by the Appleby Bridge which is currently closed due to suspected structural damage.Late last night Bishop James paid a visit to Appleby to spend time with the Revd Sarah Lunn, Team Rector for the Heart of Eden Team Ministry.

Appleby Parish Church has been badly affected with 26 inches of water sweeping into the building. The floods had breached a recently constructed bund defences paid for by the local community which raised £50,000.

Sarah said: “There has been an absolutely amazing resilience and generosity displayed here. People just want to help as much as possible.”

Bishop James has also kept in touch with church teams in the Cockermouth area, where Churches Together in Cockermouth have provided shelter and food for those affected at Christ Church.

The Bishop of Penrith, the Rt Revd Robert Freeman, also visited St George’s Church in Kendal which is open as a drop-in centre as well as visiting Sandylands Methodist Church which, although affected by flooding, is open to those needing help.

Bishop Robert with some of those people in flooded homes in Cockermouth.Bishop Robert has also visited Cockermouth to see the work ongoing there. Christ Church is being used as a drop-in centre as weell as a focal point to provide information to those evacuated from their homes.

The Revd Godfrey Butland, Team Rector for the Cockermouth Team Area, said: "Since the weekend the church has essentially served as the command and control centre for the town. We have all the local council services, charitable organisations and CAB here. If anyone has had any problems then they come here for help and we filter them to which ever organisation they need to speak to."

The community of Barepot in Workington - close to the banks of the River Derwent, also saw flooding though the town did not suffer as badly as in the floods of 2009. The Revd Ian Grainger, vicar of Camerton, Seaton and West Seaton, has provided practical and pastoral support to those affected. On Wednesday night he met with Bishop Robert to tour the area affected.

The Rev'd Ian Grainger chats to a Barepot resident about the flooding.  Ian said: "Flood defences seemed to have worked but what we have been doing is to get out and about and knock on people's doors and say those words they need to hear 'Look we are here to help if we can'."

Bishop Robert said: "Despite the awful mess which the floods have left behind I am amazed at the stoicism which is being displayed by everyone I have spoken to. People want to get on with their lives and as church families we will be there to help them do that."

Bishop James added: “As churches we will be with those affected by the floods all the way through this.”

Notes to editors

The Diocese of Carlisle has issued a prayer for all those affected by the Cumbria floods:

Creator God, we remember at this time all those whose homes and communities have been damaged by flooding in Cumbria.
In the name of Jesus we give thanks for the courage and dedication of the emergency services who have come to the help and rescue of all in need.
We celebrate the kindness of neighbours in caring for the most vulnerable.
Lastly, we ask in the power of your healing Spirit to rebuild not just the physical communities which are coping with many problems today but also to give us a sense of trust in your goodness through the kindnesses of one another, in Your Holy Name.
Amen



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For further information please contact Dave Roberts, Diocesan Communications Manager on 07469 153658, 01228 815401 or at communications@carlislediocese.org.uk.