Churches put faith in action to help those hurt by mudslide

ARLINGTON — The tragic Oso landslide triggered the spirit of service among churches around Snohomish County in all kinds of ways — physical, emotional and spiritual.

For members of the Arlington Free Methodist Church, the best way to help was to take action, lead pastor Chuck Shocki said. Members raised donations, prepared meals and in some cases opened homes to neighbors who were temporarily displaced by fears of flooding.

“I think probably our disposition is the compassion of Jesus,” Shocki said. “When you see Christ responding to the multitudes, he was responding with compassion. His compassion compelled him to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick.”

Shocki also coordinates the larger Arlington Ministerial Association, which encompasses about 25 other churches in the area.

For the community at large, compassion translates into action, and the congregation at Arlington has been stepping forward to help out, and looking for places that they can be effective.

“I think our church finds the most value in hearing about logistics, what are some of the evolving needs, and how we can play our part in being a responding community,” Shocki said.

“Probably our theological underpinning is that love is a verb. Love is in deeds, and not in words,” Shocki said.

The pastor also participates in the chaplaincy program, which provides ministerial services to police and fire departments, including first responders still working in Oso.

The chaplaincy program stresses a “ministry of presence,” Shocki said.

“When you’re responding to people in the presence of disaster, they’re not necessarily looking for answers as they just want to be with someone,” Shocki said.

“I think that’s the assurance that we have of the living Christ, is that he is present with us in the midst of our brokenness,” Shocki said.

For the larger communities that might not be directly affected, the spiritual needs are different but no less real.

On Tuesday, pastor Ryan Williams of the Everett branch of Mars Hill Church sent a social media message to congregation members.

He asked them to pray for more survivors to be found; for safety for those on search teams; for comfort of family members who have lost loved ones; for support for churches to provide help and care, and for Jesus to reveal himself to those having difficulty processing their emotions.

“Our sermon this week is on James 4:13-17, which is a passage of Scripture that speaks to the uncertainty of life and how to entrust your life to the Lord, making plans that consider him first and foremost,” Williams said.

He said he’d already planned this sermon before the slide, but it couldn’t be more appropriate, Williams said.

The church also is looking at rounding up financial contributions and encouraging members to get involved in efforts on their own, he said.

A couple of people at last Sunday’s service at the Evergreen Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Marysville expressed concern about people affected by the landslide, interim minister Linda Hart said.

This week, she said, there will be a table set up where members can light candles of special concern and remembrance for those who are missing or dead.

“There will be an opportunity to write the names of those who are being especially held in love and concern,” she said. “I will be referring to this in our time for meditation and prayer, too.”

The congregation will take a special collection to be sent to the Red Cross, Hart said.

An extra plate also will be passed at Westgate Chapel in Edmonds, where the landslide’s ripple effect quickly reached the opposite end of the county.

“We know people who are missing, so this hits very close to home,” said Carolyn Crane, who is executive assistant to pastor Alec Rowlands at Westgate.

One of the church’s members works for Support 7, an Edmonds-based chaplaincy that provides comfort and spiritual support for people who have been through traumatic events. He responded to the landslide scene shortly after it occurred, she said.

The church also has a commercial kitchen, “and our chef was out there (Wednesday) with the Red Cross making sandwiches,” Crane said.

Others in the county have expressed their spiritual feelings about the tragedy in spontaneous ways.

A makeshift sign posted at the Darrington IGA store this week quoted Isaiah 54:10 (New International Version): “‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; bsheets@heraldnet.com.

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