By anguillian October 30, 2017 10:14 Updated




The Anguilla Circuit of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas has been counting its losses following the trail of destruction in the wake of Hurricane Irma on September 6, 2017.

Half of the six church buildings, located across Anguilla, were severely damaged by the hurricane. The main two are Ebenezer Chapel in The Valley, where a recent upper level addition and the roof of the entire historic building were blown off; and Bethel Chapel at South Hill, where the western portion of the roof was ripped off.

The Anguillian discussed the situation of all the Methodist church buildings with the Superintendent of the Circuit, Rev. Dr. Wycherley Gumbs. This was how that conversation went:

“At least three of the church buildings were severely damaged by the hurricane. What is the response and plans going forward?”
“Three of our church buildings have gone down, as you said – the bigger ones – Bethel, Ebenezer and a small part of Maranatha, in the kitchen area. Some of the others have suffered minor damage. These are Zion at North Hill; Trinity at Sandy Ground; and Immanuel at West End which had some of its top blown off and where we were getting ready to do some work.

“As I said, the bigger challenge is that of Ebenezer and Bethel. Ebenezer was built in 1830 and is one of the oldest Methodist chapels in use in the Caribbean and the Americans. It was built by former slaves with hard work and toil so it is a treasure for us. The roof has gone and this has happened before as far back as 1838. We lost the roof about four or five times: in 1960, maybe in the 90s and then, of course, this year. It has been the same thing for Bethel which lost its roof in 1950 and subsequently 1960, in the 90s, and now again in 2017. We have seen a lot of damage and of course a lot of cost as well.
“Insurance never pays all you need in terms of rebuilding, but we are working on that. We are looking to partners in the United States, Britain, and elsewhere for assistance. We cannot appeal much to our Caribbean neighbours as some of them have suffered as well. But we are sure we will be getting help from circuits like St. Kitts-Nevis, Antigua, Aruba, and Curacao, as well as Methodists living in the United States who have already begun to organise help for us.
“On that basis, we are now waiting for insurance claims to kick in. In the meanwhile, our Property and Resource Development Committees are looking at possible ways to build so that we can be insurance safe – if that is a phrase to use. Hopefully, by the end of this year, our plans should be well underway with the help of the Property Committee and people like Elkin [Lloyd], Kenn [Banks] and others. I am sure they will involve other builders from Blowing Point and all around the island with experience in building. We are looking forward to their input and to be able to sit down, by the end of this month or next month, to map out the way forward.”

Rev. Dr. Gumbs went on: “We thank our members, other persons from the church communities – and the servicemen from Britain who helped with cleaning and the removal of debris. We are worshipping in the Bethel Chapel still, where the eastern portion of the roof is intact, and we are working feverishly to finish [repairs to] the Church Hall there. This should take another two weeks then, perhaps, we can worship there part of the time until the roofing at Bethel is completed or until we get a tarpaulin at least. At Ebenezer, we are worshipping in the Church Hall. We are slowly, but surely, gaining and our people are coming to church in spite of the difficulties of the weather which is beginning to calm down.
“As I said, Immanuel Chapel had some minor roof damage. We are planning to build a new chapel there, but that has been taking some time. We already had the plans drawn but they were too costly. The plans have been redone and, hopefully, the committees will meet shortly to decide how to go forward. With the help of insurance, and other things, we should be able to start building at the beginning of the New Year or early the following year.”
Asked how the congregations were responding to the hurricane damage and the inconvenience, the Superintendent Minister replied:
“The congregations have taken matters in stride. The older members know about all the hurricanes in the past so they have become accustomed to what I call the ritual of disaster; but they never expected a category 5-plus hurricane which has caused so much more devastation.

“We (including my wife and family) watched all of it on television from New Jersey. It was really sad to watch the island being torn apart and not being physically present. The congregations have done well and are coming out despite here at Bethel where there is a challenge. When it rains we have to do some shifting as half of the roof has gone; and some persons have to sweep out water in the early mornings and get the benches ready, but we are managing.”

Rev. Dr. Gumbs added: “The warnings are clear for these islands. It is that we have to build stronger and better and, hopefully, the storms that are getting stronger and much scarier, will eventually abate – and we can have some peace.”

By anguillian October 30, 2017 10:14 Updated


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