As fires ravage Victoria's east, Anglicans do what they can to help

Anglicare Victoria launches bushfire emergency appeal as Anglicans across state pitch in with help and prayers

The sky turns an apocalyptic red as fires approach Mallacoota on New Year's Eve 2019.

PHOTO: Supplied/@Brendanh_au

By Chris Shearer

January 8 2020Anglican agencies across Victoria are launching bushfire emergency appeals as a number of fires continue to burn out of control in the state, mostly in East Gippsland and the state’s north east.  

A state of disaster has been declared in much of the eastern half of the state, with thousands potentially needed to be evacuated in the coming days as Friday’s hot weather is expected to make the day a critical day of fire danger.

On Monday Chair of the Melbourne Anglican Foundation Bishop Brad Billings announced that MAF was launching a bushfire emergency relief appeal, with the donations raised being “distributed to those in need in consultation with the bishops of the Victorian dioceses affected”.

The Diocese of Gippsland has also launched its own appeal to support its continuing work in affected parishes.

The provincial bishops will meet in Melbourne on Monday to formalise a coordinated response to assistance.

Anglicare Victoria is also appealing for donations to be used by its regional offices for emergency supplies and other support, saying many people in the region had been left without shelter, food, water and everyday essentials. You can donate to the emergency appeal here.

In Mallacoota, where the navy has been called in to evacuate about 4,000 people trapped in the town since New Year’s Eve, Melbourne priest the Revd Dr Chris Mulherin said the situation is “tragic and very sad” for the many people who have lost their homes.

“I would guess [there are] 50 or 100 people who have lost their homes completely,” he told ABC24 on Thursday 2 January.

“We’re doing what we can. You know I’ve bumped into a number of people who have lost their homes. One man was just walking through yesterday and I said ‘how are you going?’ … he said ‘oh, I’ve lost everything’. It makes me choke up a bit, it’s really pretty sad.

“So there’s people like that all over the place trying to work out what they do next … People do want to talk, but there are no solutions for them but to just listen and hear their stories.”

Dr Mulherin was in Mallacoota as part of a two week youth camp. Since the emergency began the youth group has been trying to assist where it can, holding a community barbeque and hosting activities for young people.

“They’re looking to be helpful in whatever way we can without getting in the way,” Dr Mulherin said.

“They had a youth meeting last night, a youth program, for the local youth who have lost their homes. It was just good for them to come and have somewhere to be and play ping pong and that sort of thing,” he said.

“Our own circumstances, we’re just about to have a meeting with the team and work out whether we stay. If we can be useful we’ll stay, but at the same time some people are feeling a bit nervous and obviously it’s not the two weeks at Mallacoota that they expected to have.”

Dr Mulherin told TMA on 8 January that the youth team had been evacuated by ship from Mallacoota earlier in the week, but that he and his wife would remain in the town for potentially a few more days.

Bishop Richard Treloar of Gippsland paid tribute to the emergency services, CFA, and the workers and volunteers of various organisations who “have stood in the breach to keep others safe”.

“We commit ourselves to a sustained relief effort, working within and beyond our churches with people of good will to support those most affected by the fires and their aftermath, and to rebuild hope where hope has been lost,” Dr Treloar wrote in a pastoral letter read at services on 5 January.

“I convey the many – literally scores – of messages of concern and solidarity that have been sent to me this week from all around the Anglican Church of Australia – and indeed the wider Anglican Communion – including from [former Bishop of Gippsland] Archbishop Kay Goldsworthy…

“In the body of Christ we are never alone. Thus, alongside our prayers for Gippsland, we continue to uphold other parts of the country where there are fires or the threat of fires, and all who offer assistance in such challenging and complex conditions.”

In Melbourne Vicar General of the Diocese of Melbourne, the Very Revd Dr Andreas Loewe, asked Anglicans to pray for all those affected by bushfires across the nation.

“I have been in contact with the State Emergency Management Commissioner, Andrew Crisp, Bishop Richard Treloar and Dean [of Gippsland] Susanna Pain, and assured them of our prayers and concern for the safety and wellbeing of the people among whom they work and minister.

“Closer to home, Bishop Kate [Prowd] has been in contact with the clergy of parishes affected by local fires in the Northern Suburbs.”

Dr Loewe said that in addition to praying for the affected communities and people there were a number of other things concerned individuals could do to help the situation, including:

Dr Loewe also shared a prayer that has been said in St Paul’s Cathedral in the past days, which he said churches would be welcome to reproduce for their social media, pew sheets or bulletins:

Almighty God and heavenly Father, we pray for this world that you love so much

that you sent your Son Jesus to be born as the child of Bethlehem:

We pray for the safety of those sheltering from fires and those fighting fires,

for livestock, native animals, paddocks, bushlands and sacred places.

We remember our own loved ones and those who are dear to us facing this crisis.

We pray for those tending to the injured, the frightened and the broken-hearted,

for emergency services, emergency broadcasters, chaplains and counsellors.

We ask for your forgiveness for our own failures in safeguarding your good creation,

and pray for political and community leaders, and all those responding

to the current crisis in our nation.

Above all, we pray the peace that passes all understanding,

in our nation and state, in our homes and in our hearts.

This we ask in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Donate to MAF’s bushfire emergency relief appeal here.

Donate to the Diocese of Gippsland’s emergency relief fund here.

Donate to Anglicare Victoria’s bushfire appeal here.