In the historic Parish Church of St. Helena Sunday morning, clergy delivered a message of gratitude in the calm following Hurricane Matthew’s storm.
“The question for us today is ‘are you thankful?’” Rev. Shay Gaillard asked during his sermon taken from the New Testament book of Luke.
Residents who stayed in town to ride out the storm might have felt alone, Gaillard said, and those who evacuated might have felt vulnerable without their normal support system.
“God wants to meet us in that place,” Gaillard preached. “...He never left you during the storm.”
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Other messages in northern Beaufort County were shaped by Matthew — the hurricane, not the gospel.
At Community Bible Church in Port Royal, associate pastor Larry Bennett said he began memorizing one sermon this week but was compelled to go in another direction after the storm. Bennett included the hurricane, contentious election cycle and a moral downturn in declaring “A Season of Distress,” in his sermon title.
A recurring refrain from people he talked to about the storm this week was that they were tired. Bennett taught from Psalm 42, among other points, and preached the importance of an outward perspective.
“Yes, we’re worn out and tired after the hurricane,” he said. “This ought to be a time we give God thanks.”
The question now turns to what is to be done from here, Rev. Todd Simonis said during announcements at Parish Church of St. Helena.
The church provided hot meals for hundreds during the week, distributed frozen pizzas and in 48 hours collected enough groceries for 100 families in area apartment complexes, Simonis said.
Food is still being collected. A team from the church armed with chainsaws and rakes is prepared to continue cleaning up storm debris for those in need.
“If you have a chainsaw and are good with it, please let us know,” Simonis said. “If you have a chainsaw and are not good with it, don’t pick it up.”
A church administrator maintains a spreadsheet of people and specific needs. Clergy implored those who needed help to be honest and ask.
“This is a time we need to be family,” Simonis said. “Jesus defined family as those who heard the word of God and put it into practice.”
At Community Bible, Bennett noted the danger of dwelling on the negative. He said when he and his wife evacuated, they watched the Weather Channel until they could no longer tolerate the bleak outlook.
“The torment of hell is going to be watching the Weather Channel for eternity,” Bennett joked.
He walked down the stairs from his pulpit and asked the congregation for what they were thankful.
Family, health and faith came the answers.
“I thought you’d be talking about electricity and bathrooms and bed and a pillow,” Bennett said. “This is a time we ought to stop and say God you gave me this pillow and bed to lay on. I’ve got food to eat and water to drink.
If there was ever a time we needed to stop and thank God, it’s right now. We’re all alive here.”