Magazine article Anglican Journal

Dioceses See Warmer Side of Ice Storm

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Dioceses See Warmer Side of Ice Storm

Article excerpt

STAFF WRITER

Embattled churches in eastern Ontario and in Quebec coped as well as they could with a crippling ice storm that lasted almost a week in some areas. Many closed, particularly in Ottawa, where officials declared a state of emergency as the storm knocked out power to large sections of the city.

Some churches with power cancelled services to encourage parishioners to stay home and not venture onto icy streets, where falling branches made travel

perilous.

In Montreal, most diocesan staff made it in to work even on the worst days of the storm, only to be asked to stay away from the downtown area after the weather improved. (Hydro Quebec wanted as little electricity used as possible downtown while it tried to restore power to other areas.)

"I'm blessed with light and heat and power both at Bishopscourt (his home) and Cathedral Place (the diocesan offices), so we're coping well," said Bishop Hutchison on Jan. 8, Day Four of the storm.

More fortunate than many staff and clergy, Bishop Hutchison lives between two major hospitals, so his neighbourhood had high priority when power was being restored. As a result, he and his wife opened their home to storm refugees.

"Oh, yes - there's room at the inn," said the bishop. "I'm happy to report that it's having a rather good effect in that people are reaching out to one another and huddling together in cramped quarters and making do."

(The bishop later posted a note on the Internet saying that he did lose power at his home for more than two days.)

Many parishes in the diocese were shut down during the week for lack of heat and hydro, with clergy staying home with their families. Bishop Hutchison did not know of any churches used as shelters, since most were without power.

Rev. Joan Shanks, incumbent of St. Margaret's, in east end Montreal, elected not to hold services at her church on the Sunday following the storm, despite the building having only intermittent power. Fallen trees and blocked side streets would have made travel too difficult for the many elderly parishioners. A quick phone around - complicated by the fact that many were staying with friends and family - spread word of the cancelled services.

Despite Montreal's diocesan offices being open the first week of the storm, it wasn't quite business as usual. Bishop Hutchison had to cancel plans to head to Ottawa for three days in his capacity as Bishop Ordinary to the Canadian Forces - not only because of the state of emergency, but because parts of the highway linking Montreal and the capital, as well as train service, were shut down.

In Ottawa, the diocesan offices were closed Jan. 8 and 9, as was much of the rest of the city. So, too, was Centre 454, a diocesan dropin day centre for low income and homeless people. Director Ken Gibbs said the centre would have opened but for lack of staff, some of whom couldn't safely leave their homes.

Located in the basement of St. Alban the Martyr Church, near the downtown core, Centre 454 had a normal attendance on the Monday morning following the storm. Surprisingly, Mr. Gibbs said many of his clientele were not as affected by the storm as others, some because they are unaccustomed to the luxury of power and heat, others because their downtown shelters or homes did not lose their utilities.

Even though the centre has showers and laundry facilities - while many emergency storm shelters did not - Mr. Gibbs said he did not expect to see too many new faces, since many middle class people would be uncomfortable around people who use the centre, many of them homeless and psychiatric patients. …

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