By Bob Allen
A youth ministry aligned with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has postponed the normal Nov. 1 registration for its popular Passport camps by one week in light of anticipated power outages in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast caused by downgraded Hurricane Sandy.
Historically, half of church groups that attend one of 35 sessions of Passport camp each summer sign up on the first day of registration, officials of the Birmingham, Ala., based ministry said Oct. 29. Many of the most popular dates sell out the first day, and returning campers have learned to register early.
“We understand that church calendars are planned months in advance, so having fair access to sign up for a specific session is critical,” Passport President David Burroughs said in a news release.
As a result, the ministry decided to move the first day of registration to Wednesday, Nov. 7, so people in affected areas don’t miss out on a chance to attend because they are shut out by the storm.
“Our prayers are with those in the path of this storm,” Burroughs said. “The student ministers who lose power in the affected areas will have more important priorities to manage then getting on-line and in the line for next summer’s camp.”
Spanning 900 miles, Sandy has cut power to about 8 million customers from South Carolina to Maine. Damage forecasts already exceed $20 billion, about half the economic impact of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the nation’s most costly natural disaster.
The storm crashed into southern New Jersey at about 8 p.m. Monday, local time, bringing high winds and record storm surges. Lee Spitzer, executive minister and senior regional pastor of American Baptist Churches of New Jersey, said Tuesday morning members of his ministry team are trying to contact pastors and churches across the state to assess damage and identify emergency needs.
“We are a fellowship of 284 churches and 320 pastors, and so this will take some time,” Spitzer said an e-mail. “We are using every means at our disposal, including phone calls, Facebook, Constant Contact and e-mails. Difficulties we currently face are loss of power in many communities throughout the state, road closings, Internet service provider outages and inability to reach pastors and other leaders who may not be near their means of communication because they are out and about in their neighborhoods.”
Spitzer said his goal is to have a comprehensive report in time for a conference call Thursday afternoon for regional and national leaders of American Baptist Churches USA to coordinate their response through One Great Hour of Sharing, an ecumenical relief program with nine participating communions, including American Baptists.
“I anticipate that dozens of ABCNJ churches will need assistance as they recover from Hurricane Sandy,” Spitzer said. “Damage from both wind and water has been extensive across the state, and communities near the Jersey shore, where we have many churches, have no doubt been impacted.”
Spitzer said many of those churches are smaller than 150 members and worship in older building structures more susceptible to damage.