Finding new life at St. Peter's, Rockport

"I've never seen all the oak trees in Rockport so bare," said the Rev. Jim Friedel, rector of St. Peter's, Rockport. "When I returned from evacuating a few days ago, every single tree was bare. But today, if look closely at the oak trees on our church grounds, new leaves are budding."

group.jpgFriedel evacuated Rockport before Hurricane Harvey made landfall in the small coastal community last Friday, August 25. On Sunday, September 3, he welcomed parishioners into the parking lot of St. Peter's for a service of Holy Eucharist under the blazing South Texas sun. "Our community is in disarray; a real storm has come, a tangible, visible storm," said Friedel.

But Friedel said there are other kinds of storms in life - some that come in the different seasons of life, others from oppression. In Sunday's Gospel reading from Matthew, Jesus begins to show the disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, undergo great suffering, be killed, and be raised on the third day. "We can understand why Peter, his beloved disciple, says he can't imagine anything like that happening to the Son of God," said Friedel. "But even the Son of God suffered."

eucharist.jpgSt. Peter's buildings sustained damage from Hurricane Harvey, but a drive through the City of Rockport shows a substantial amount of devastation throughout the coastal community. Houses and businesses are torn apart; trees and limbs and signs, as well as large debris, are strewn throughout the neighborhoods and streets. The schools have closed indefinitely; and the storm's damage is evident at every turn.

"But we have an opportunity to respond in a way that will give new life," said Friedel. In the morning's reading from Exodus, Moses questions God's mission for him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. But God continually tells Moses that he will be with him. Referring to this, Friedel said, "Who knows how God will use our hands; he has heard our cries and the cries of this community. We have suffered, and now with grateful hearts, we will press forward."

bulletin.jpgThe crowd that gathered for Sunday's service flipped through the printed bulletins that were originally produced for Sunday, August 27. On the front cover was a picture of bright yellow flowers and the Psalm verse, "At the works of your hands, I sing for joy."

Though the morning was hot and the humidity was thick, the sounds of voices being raised in praise drifted into the St. Peter's parking lot from a neighbor church just down street. "Bless the Lord, oh my soul" was heard in the background during the readings. Throughout the rest of the service, the sound of helicopters overhead filtered down.

Friedel said during the chaos of a storm the place to turn is to each other, to those in your community, and to God. "We can do more as a community and even more as a community of faith when we realize God is always present and we are in the company of the faithful."