Mission Visit to the Keys

This past Monday, October 2nd,  Irene and I, together with another priest from our diocese, went to visit the Keys.  The damage we saw, particularly around Marathon and Big Pine Key, was extensive. 

Our first stop was at St. James-the-Fisherman in Islamorada.  The church there suffered relatively minor damage.  A fiberglass steeple atop the bell tower over the parish hall was blown off.  The steeple was on the side of the road along with other debris.  Their day school has reopened and they are holding services inside the church. 

From Islamorada all the way down to Big Pine Key we saw mound after mound of debris.  The debris was a mix of vegetation, major household appliances, and other housewares.  It is clear from seeing the piles of debris that many lives have been severely impacted by the storm and that it will be a long road to recovery for the residents of the middle and lower Keys.   

Our next stop was at St. Columba in Marathon, where we spent most of our day.  Electricity has been restored to the parish, which is serving as one of the major operations centers for the Marathon relief and recovery effort.  The parish hall is where relief supplies are being distributed to the community (see photo).  There I met with Kamy Moghbeli, a member of St. Paul’s, who has been helping in Marathon since Saturday morning (see photo).  Kamy plans to stay in Marathon through this weekend and return home early next week.  

Rev. Debra Maconaughey, the rector at St. Columba, is doing incredible work.  She has purchased two RVs and is renting six others for families who have been left homeless.  Three of the RVs are parked at the church (see photo) and the others are at the properties of those who lost their homes in the storm and are in the process of rebuilding.  She hopes to eventually get at least 20 RVs through donations and fundraising.  If you know of anyone who may want to donate an RV, it would be an incredible blessing to the people there.  They are buying, renting, and receiving donated RVs, they are not taking loaners.

Many left homeless by the storm have received assistance from FEMA to stay in hotels.  That assistance is scheduled to end October 7.  FEMA is also paying for debris removal, but only until October 11.  That is why there is an urgent need for teams of people who can assist residents in removing debris from their homes and placing it curbside (see photo).  A team of four young adults from St. Paul’s is heading to Marathon on Saturday. 

Rev. Debra is deploying three teams every day: one for debris removal, one for tree cutting, and one to sort and distribute donated supplies.  She is also trying to organize a team for mold mitigation.  As you might imagine, mold has become a huge problem there.  She is working with the Red Cross and several area churches to supply meals at a temporary shelter that has opened at a Marathon mental health clinic.  She is working with houseboat owners and the City Marina in Marathon to try and reclaim houseboats that were washed ashore by the storm. 

After visiting Marathon, we headed south to Big Pine Key.  The damage there is substantial.  The priest who serves St. Francis-in-the-Keys Episcopal Church also serves Lord of the Seas Lutheran Church down the street.  Lord of the Seas is where a lot of the donated supplies are being stored.  Lord of the Seas has sustained roof damage, and so leaking and mold have become serious issues.

Big Pine Key has been receiving a lot of assistance from Veterans groups, the National Guard, the Red Cross and FEMA, in addition to others.

As you can imagine, the needs are great and the communities in the Keys are grateful for volunteers coming down to help with the cleanup effort.  Please contact Deacon Helen if you want to volunteer with the ongoing relief and recovery effort in the Keys.  This is truly God’s work!

October 5, 2017

Episcopal Charities has asked us to purchase the following items to assist their work in the Keys:

New Items Needed:

  • Rubbermaid bins
  • Rubbermaid sheds
  • Pods
  • Small bottles of laundry detergent

Ongoing List:

  • Mulch shredded redwood
  • M35 respirator masks anti-mold
  • Power Weed whackers
  • Power Shrubbery trimmers
  • Stable wheel barrows (like Home Depot orange ones)
  • Phone carrier gift certificates
  • Men’s work gloves and rubber gloves
  • Bedding
  • Send stuff in plastic storage boxes and buckets
  • Brooms
  • Mops
  • Bug spray
  • Socks
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Plastic cups
  • Paper towels
  • Cots
  • Inflatable camping mattresses
  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • New or good condition sheets, pillowcases, blankets
  • New pillows
  • Adult Diapers
  • No clothing – Red Cross is overloaded

Most urgently, there is a need for blue tarps that can be purchased at any home store and placed in a bin in the parish hall.  

Please, please consider teaming up with some friends and spending a day or two in the Keys.  Workers are being dispatched everyday by Rev. Debra at St. Columba’s on Marathon Key.  All you have to do is turn up. Workers are needed to help people clean up their houses and clear debris.  If you have DIY skills to assist in rehabing houses, please consider putting them to use.  

If you can volunteer, please let Rev. Helen know!

September 28, 2017

Dear Members and Friends of St. Paul’s,

Thank you for your generous support of our Hurricane Irma relief effort!
To date, we have collected $3,622 in cash donations, $675 worth of Home Depot gift cards, and a tremendous amount of the following in-kind donations: batteries, baby wipes, band aids, bug spray, and big garbage bags. The gift cards and other in-kind donations were taken to Episcopal Charities (EC) in Ft. Lauderdale on Sunday afternoon (see photo) and from there EC shipped them to Marathon on Monday.
We continue to be in contact with clergy and other community leaders in the Keys. They have updated their needed supplies list. Here are the supplies we will collect this weekend at St. Paul’s:
• adult diapers
• phone carrier gift certificates
• men’s work gloves
• rubber gloves
• bug spray
• socks
• baking soda
• plastic storage boxes
Also, if you can donate (or loan) cots or inflatable mattresses, that would be very helpful.
In addition to updating their list of needed supplies, those leading the relief operation in the Keys are also requesting volunteers to help with the clean-up effort.
I’m happy to share with you that St. Paul’s will be sending a team of volunteers to Marathon on Friday. The team will help with the clean-up effort over the weekend and report back to us as to how we can best continue assisting with the on-going relief and recovery effort. Please keep the team in your prayers!
If you would like to donate to the Hurricane Irma relief effort, please make your check out to St. Paul’s and indicate “Hurricane Irma relief” in the memo section.
May God bless you abundantly for your kindness to those in such desperate need.

In Christ,

Donation Items Needed for Hurricane Irma Relief – September 21, 2017

Dear Members and Friends of St. Paul’s,

After a couple of very stressful, and often chaotic, weeks, things seem to be coming back to some semblance of normalcy for us here in south Palm Beach County.  As we know, that is not the case with many other communities, including communities in our own diocese. 

One area that was particularly hard hit by Hurricane Irma is the Keys.  This weekend, we will collect donations of some critically needed items that our churches in the Keys have requested:

  • Home Depot gift cards
  • batteries
  • baby wipes
  • band aids
  • bug spray
  • big garbage bags.

You can put your donated items in designated boxes that will be in the parish hall.  Episcopal Charities will be transporting these donated items down to Marathon on Monday morning. 

If you could not bring items to donate, but you would still like to help the relief effort, please considering making a financial donation.  Checks can be made out to St. Paul’s Church with “Hurricane Irma relief” on the memo line.

Thank you,


RE:  Hurricane Irma Aftermath Update from St. Paul’s – September 13, 2017

Dear Members and Friends of St. Paul’s,

I hope this update finds you and your loved ones doing well.  I’m happy to share with you that we have been in contact with our vulnerable members who stayed here in south Florida during the storm.  If you know of anyone who needs assistance, please contact Fr. Paul at (561) 921-7667 or Rev. Kathleen at (561) 445-5440. 

I’m also happy to report that we have reopened our parish office, albeit on a limited basis.  We still do not have telephone service.  We do have power and internet service.  Thanks to many dedicated volunteers and staff members, we took down and stored our storm shutters yesterday and cleaned up most of the debris on campus.  For events that were postponed due to the storm, stay tuned for information about when they will be rescheduled.

All parish ministries can now resume activities, subject to local curfew restrictions.  Until further notice, the curfew for Delray Beach is 12:00 midnight to 6:00 am.  We will keep the church open during regular office hours (8:30 am to 4:30 pm) if you would like to come by and spend some quiet (and air conditioned) time in the church.

Our regular church service schedule has resumed, starting with our Thursday 12:10 pm Healing Service.  This, of course, means that we will have our full, regular service schedule this weekend.  It will be important for all of us, as we continue to deal with the storm’s aftermath, to come together in worship and be with one another this weekend.

Our Music at St. Paul’s concert will proceed as scheduled this Sunday afternoon at 3:00 pm.  This Sunday’s concert is the first in our 30th Anniversary Season.  The concert will be preceded by a lecture at 2:30 pm from Dr. Paul Cienniwa, our director of music ministries.  The concert will provide a wonderful respite for all of us who have been busy with the aftermath of Irma.

Our Day School and Paul’s Place Afterschool program follow the Palm Beach County Public School schedule, which means they are closed through Friday, September 15.  Liz Ryan, our Day School director, has been in email contact with our Day School families and she will continue to keep them updated as to when the Day School will reopen. 

Let’s keep in mind that we are in the resuce and relief stages of this natural disaster.  Our first responders are busy in the rescue effort.  Utility companies are busy trying to restore service.  Many relief organizations, like Episcopal Relief and Development, are in the process of taking care of those who are vulnerable and needy.  Locally, the Caring Kitchen does not have power, but they are serving sandwiches for lunch.  Let me say once again, if you or someone you know is in need of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.  For those of you who are able to help, opportunities to do so will be forthcoming.

Here is a message sent to the clergy and faithful of our diocese from Bishop Eaton: Click here for a message sent to the clergy and faithful of our diocese from Bishop Eaton.  Also, I want to share with you a message to all of us in the Diocese of Southeast Florida from the Most Rev. Michael Curry, our Presiding Bishop:


Prayer for first responders

Merciful Father, we commend to your loving care all first responders who are working, often at risk to themselves, to bring rescue and relief to those in need, especially our firefighters, police officers, paramedics, medical personnel, members of the armed forces, and all volunteers. We pray for our sisters and brothers at Episcopal Relief and Development and Church Insurance, as well as for the Red Cross, Food for the Poor, and other national and regional relief agencies. We pray also for those who are working to restore essential services. Give them courage in danger, skill in difficulty, and compassion in service. Sustain them with strength of body and calmness of mind, that they may perform their work to the well-being of all, so that lives may be saved and communities restored. All this we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.