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Churches inundated by floods

Churches and diocesan buildings in the northern and western regions of Brisbane are among those inundated by floods.

Mary Frances Schjonberg  |  12 Jan 2011  |

Churches and diocesan buildings in the northern and western regions of the Anglican Archdiocese of Brisbane are among those that have been inundated during flooding that began before Christmas.

Thirty people have died and 78 people are missing since the flooding began in southeast Queensland, according to one report. About 200,000 people live in the area.

On Jan. 10 a wall of water burst through Toowoomba, a town 125km west of Brisbane, according to a report on the Christian Science Monitor's website. What is being called an "inland tsunami" was reportedly caused by severe thunderstorms.

The Australian Broadcasting System reported on Jan. 11 that more than 9000 homes in Brisbane and Ipswich are expected to be impacted by flooding over the coming two days. About 40 Brisbane suburbs may be affected, according to the ABC report.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh called on residents to look out for their friends and neighbours. "If you live on high ground in Brisbane now is the time to be reaching out to friends and offering help, and offering where necessary a bed for the night, over the coming two to three days," she said.

"Damage to residences and businesses has been both devastating and costly," Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, the primate of Anglican Church of Australia, said in a letter to his clergy in the Diocese of Brisbane.

 "Crops and livestock have been lost or spoiled. While many people fear for their future there is a lot of resilience within the affected communities as they begin to cleanup and resume their normal activities."

Archbishop Aspinall said clergy are helping to care for those most affected by the crisis. "This care will continue long after the crisis is over as people repair and rebuild their homes and livelihoods," he said.

"Parishes which have been hit hard economically will struggle for some time to pay stipends and other operating costs at a time when demands on clergy are greatest."

Appeal for help

The Diocese of Melbourne, unaffected by the flooding, has asked its members to support Archbishop Aspinal's appeal to help flood victims.

The only church buildings in the Brisbane diocese to have suffered damage are All Saints' Warra and St Mary's Church Condamine, where people have not yet been allowed to return to Condamine Township, Archbishop Aspinall said.

Bishop Bruce Clark, the retired bishop of Riverina, said in a Jan. 10 e-mail to friends in the United States that "we are all right here in Banksia Beach, Queensland, very wet and soggy around the yard with fairly constant and at times, heavy rain."

"We may well have some local flash flooding which will come and go reasonably quickly, but nothing like the devastation and widespread flooding of more western areas and Rockhampton," Bishop Clark added.

In the hard-hit Diocese of Rockhampton there has been widespread flooding for weeks.

"The damage to church property in that diocese is more widespread," he said, reporting that St George's Theodore, St Mark's Alpha and All Soul's Wowan were flooded.

With the Rockhampton Diocesan Registry offices inundated, staff managed to remove the archives and lift files and computer equipment to higher ground, but there has been at least a foot of water through the office complex.

A photo on the diocesan website showing flooding on New Year's Day has superimposed part of Psalm 93: "The floods have lifted up their voice, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their pounding; but the Lord on high is mightier than the sound of many waters."

-- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.