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The Anglican Church of Canada

Diocese of Athabasca
From the desk of The Rt. Rev. Fraser Lawton

May 5, 2016
To The People of the Diocese of Athabasca
As you are all aware, the community of Fort McMurray is being devastated by
wildfire. As I write, the fire is still raging, and it is unclear as to the extent of the
damage or when we might see an end to it. We are grateful and give glory to God
for the safe evacuation of 88, 000 people. The kindness and generosity of Albertans
has been incredible. There have been so many extraordinary stories of people
helping those who have been in such need. Many of those stories are deeply
personal for me. Fort McMurray was my home for 13 years, and I feel the loss along
with my family and friends who reside there. The past few days have been hectic
and chaotic in our office as weve tried to keep track of where evacuees have gone,
their safety and how we might respond. I can only imagine what it has been like for
the evacuees themselves. In spite of this, I continue to be amazed at their patience,
faith and attitude. Please continue to pray for them, especially as the systems to
help them are becoming stressed and stretched. Pray for those who continue to
staff operations around Fort McMurray. Pray for firefighters, pilots, emergency
workers and those who are directing operations.
We are also very grateful for the words of support we have received from across
Canada and beyond. It is consoling to know that people are praying with us and for
us in this very difficult time. The Primate has called and has made available funds
for us to use in support of responding to the fire. The Primates World Relief And
Development Fund is sending us $15000. Donations have begun to arrive to the
diocese from individuals. Many have given sacrificially of their time energy and
funds in many ways. The dioceses of Edmonton and Calgary have actively reached
out to our evacuees. Edmonton has received many of our displaced people and will
continue to care for them. Bishop Alexander and her people have been extremely
generous and supportive.
Our parishes of Lac La Biche, Northern Lights and Athabasca continue to be on the
frontlines of caring for evacuees both as resting spots and as places of refuge.
PO BOX 6868
9710 100 AVE

These communities have been working with the local community centres and efforts.
Please continue to pray for The Rev. Lesley Wheeler-Dame, The Rev. Deborah
Scheepers, and The Rev. Clive Scheepers, all of whom have been very busy in
providing direct support and care, as well as helping in organizing and directing our
efforts, and in helping the synod office in responding.
Once it is safe to return to Fort McMurray, we will know the extent of the damage
and begin to have an idea of the need. This will be a difficult moment, and may yet
be even weeks away. We will need to come together as a family to support those
who will face that on a personal level, as well as facing it as the loss we share as
family. We are committed to not just dealing with building clean-up and rebuilding,
but also to the healing of people, communities and the reformation of the church
family. We will continue to try and keep parishes updated as to the situation. The
diocese will do its best to have current information available and to function as a
coordination point. I am asking each of our parishes to get ready to be able to
function as local centres to receive donations and to organize support. Eventually
not yet, though we will seek people willing to help with physical labour for cleanup
and repairs, support for workers, material goods, and finances. Those wishing to
donate may do so to the Diocese of Athabasca with donations marked for Fort
McMurray Fire. For other information to help support, please contact the diocese.
To any Fort McMurray parishioners who may hear or read this note: please know
that you are in our hearts and prayers, and that you are our family. We do not know
what you are going through, but do know that we care about you and want to be
there for you. Please do not be afraid to ask for help. That may be material things.
It may also be for prayer, for counsel, for a quiet place, or a shoulder to cry on.
There is an exception to the previous comment. The people of Slave Lake do know
what is being experienced by people from Fort McMurray. This year is the 5 th
anniversary of the fire that devastated that community. Our prayers are also with the
people there at this time.
I ask your prayers for our staff as we continue to do our best to minister with you and
for the people of Fort McMurray.

The Lord be with you,


PO BOX 6868
9710 100 AVE

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