This weekend Albany Presbytery welcomes Sally Dyer, Rev. Katherine “Cully” Cullpepper and Rev. Thia Reggio to journey with us. Sally and Cully are a part of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance’s National Response Teams who go out and visit with communities that have been impacted by disaster. These NRT’s first visit work is to assess, bring the care and support of our connectional church and to begin to plan for short and long term recovery. Rev. Thia Reggio serves as the Moderator of the Synod of the Northeast and also as our local Synod PDA representative. Thia is our ongoing bridge of communication with PDA as we move into our future work with impacted communities.
We have an unfolding water contamination crisis in the Hoosick Falls and Petersburg communities. So far we know members of our Hoosick Falls and Brunswick congregations are affected by this water crisis and as a Presbytery we must plan for short and long-term recovery, pastoral care and community assistance. If your congregation or community as affected persons, please let us know.
The Hoosick Falls congregation also suffered a water main break that flooded their assembly hall last month with contaminated water. This week they were awarded an additional 5K grant from PDA to assist with their cleanup and mitigation.
The team will meet this weekend with Presbytery leadership (officers, COM, Trustees), neighboring congregations of Cambridge and Brunswick, visit the affected region, worship with the Hoosick Falls church and host a community forum in Hoosick Falls on Sunday afternoon. After their visit they will work with us on planning and accessing needed resources.
I encourage you to read Rev. Donna Elia’s blog, Water Crisis in Hoosick Falls, NY about the water situation in Hoosick Falls and to also keep watch on local media channels which are doing an excellent job telling this story as it unfolds.
Let us hold Sally, Cully and Thia in our prayers–giving thanks to God for the love and care that drew them to answer God’s call to serve our Presbytery in this way this weekend. Let us hold the affected communities in our prayers, for healing. And let us redouble our efforts to serve as stewards of God’s Creation.
Shannan Vance-Ocampo, Transitional Presbyter
Meet the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance’s National Response Team
The Rev. Katherine N. “Cully” Culpepper and Ruling Elder Sally Dyer have served as volunteers on the National Response Team (NRT) for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) since 2011.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance enables congregations and mission partners of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to witness to the healing love of Christ through caring for communities adversely affected by crisis and catastrophic events. The role of the NRT is to support the ministry of the mid councils of the PCUSA (Presbyteries and Synods). The NRT has three functions when deployed to the field:
- Present the visible witness of the Body of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (USA) to those who have been affected in a disaster.
- Support the work of the mid council in assessing the impact of the disaster on both the community and the church.
- Assist Mid Councils in connecting with the resources that will be of help in the response.
Sally Dyer’s involvement with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) began in 2006 when she began going on her church’s intergenerational mission trips to do Katrina recovery work in Mississippi at sites sponsored by PDA. In subsequent years, she has participated in more than 14 trips, responding to natural disasters in 6 different states. Sally is a 27 year member of Westminster Presbyterian Church, in Dayton, OH. She has served as a Ruling Elder, a longtime advisor in the youth program, and currently is managing the church’s partnership with a local elementary school.
Katherine N. “Cully” Culpepper
Cully is a member at large of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan. Prior to joining the NRT, her work in disaster response has been primarily through experiences serving in 11 transitional ministry positions in congregations ranging in size from 50 to 1200 in rural, suburban and urban settings, transitional ministry for two presbyteries, camp ministry, and through Habitat for Humanity projects during her five years as an Associate Pastor for Christian Education. She currently serves on an Administrative Commission for the Presbytery of Lake Michigan.
In the fall of 2011, Sally and Cully both answered the call put out by PDA for people interested in serving as a National Response Team (NRT) member. Following a weekend of discernment, training and reflection, they were invited to join the NRT. Their experiences since then have taken them on responses to both natural and human caused disasters including wildfires, floods, hurricane Sandy, tornados, and school shootings. They have also been involved in leading Emotional & Spiritual Care workshops.
They are grateful for the opportunity to partner with Albany Presbytery in responding to the Hoosick Falls disaster.
The Reverend Thia Reggio serves as pastor of Astoria First Presbyterian Church in the borough of Queens. Just days after her ordination to the small, re-emerging congregation, Superstorm Sandy hit New York City. Still living at Union Theological Seminary, the newly minted Rev. Reggio answered a call to volunteer in the nearby office of New York City Presbytery helping to coordinate relief and recovery efforts across the city. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance quickly deployed a team in response to the presbytery’s request for help, and a partnership began that continues to this day. After serving the presbytery for six months, Reggio was recruited to work on behalf of PDA in the ongoing Sandy Long Term Recovery. This position continued through September 2015. In the meantime, while serving as moderator of the Synod of the Northeast, Thia was asked to assist in coordinating a response for the severe winter storms that had wreaked havoc in New England in 2015. Given PDA’s awareness of the increasing inevitability of extreme weather events due to climate change, and the shared commitment of the synod and PDA to addressing needs for preparedness, recovery and resilience across the Northeast region, Thia has migrated into a collaborative role with PDA and the synod, serving the presbyteries, communities and congregations of New York, New Jersey and New England in disaster-related work in all its varieties, from human-caused to weather-related disasters, wherever needs arise.