New Book a “Disaster Response Toolbox” for Local Congregations

May 7, 2014

2014-05-07-news-book-350NEW YORK — When disaster strikes, people inevitably turn to local faith communities for help and spiritual care.  A new book prepares congregations to respond effectively and with confidence, whether it’s following a devastating tornado like Joplin, Mo.; a school shooting like Newtown, Conn.; a superstorm like Katrina or Sandy, or an individual house fire.

Help and Hope: Disaster Preparedness and Response Tools for Congregations is a practical, thorough, inspiring how-to guide for pastors and volunteers that draws on lessons from real-life experience to help faith communities expect the unexpected and respond in ways that help and not hinder survivors’ relief and recovery.

The book includes such chapters as “Systems and Supplies: Some Lists and Tasks for Preparing Your Congregation for a Disaster,” “Knowing When to Stay and When to Go: A Guide to Volunteering,” “The Long-Term Recovery Process and Your Faith Community” and “The Importance of Spiritual and Emotional Care,” along with a Bible study and post-disaster worship resources.

Published by Chalice Press in collaboration with Church World Service, it includes contributions by several CWS disaster response specialists.  Help and Hope is available wherever books are sold, but special discounts are available when ordering from or 1-800-366-3383. There, the print version is available for $15.99, with deeper discounts available for orders of 51 copies or more.  E-PUB and E-PDF versions are available for $10.19.

Help and Hope is an indispensable tool for faith communities to prepare for the critical role they can play when disasters impact their hometowns,” Donna Derr, CWS Director of Development and Humanitarian Assistance, said in the book’s Foreword.  “This resource provides what the disaster relief and emergency response field has been missing and what North American communities of faith have needed – guidance on how to be an asset rather than an obstacle when assisting those who have been affected by disaster.”

Help and Hope was co-edited by Amy Gopp and Brandon Gilvin while they worked together at Week of Compassion, the relief, refugee and development ministry fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  Gilvin continues as Week of Compassion’s Associate Director.  Gopp, who was Week of Compassion’s Executive Director, subsequently joined CWS as Director of Member Relations and Pastoral Care.

“It’s amazing how many congregations have been directly or indirectly affected by disaster,” Gopp said in an interview.  “The unexpected happens all the time, and we need to be prepared for what maybe wasn’t on our radar screen.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever met a congregation that was fully prepared,” she continued.  “A pastor might start by carrying a printout of members’ addresses and cell phone numbers at all times.  If the information is only on the computer in the church office and the church has been destroyed, or the power is out, you can’t contact your congregants.”

Help and Hope is “your disaster response toolbox,” Gopp wrote in the book’s Introduction.  “A nuanced look at all aspects of any emergency response, this resource offers practical tips for any individual, group, layperson, ordained clergy, youth or mature adult to become better informed and equipped to react during and after disaster strikes.

“All the practical tips and tools inside these pages have been applied. They have been tested and can be trusted—offered to you, the reader, as part of the contributors’ lived experiences,” Gopp wrote. “Insight is offered from theological, pastoral, spiritual, psychosocial, psychological, liturgical and ecological perspectives. Experts in spiritual and emotional care, trauma healing, children’s psychology, congregational life, pastoral care— and in the disaster, emergency response and humanitarian sector—offer vital information for how anyone can not only respond to a disaster but also, and just as importantly, prepare for a disaster.”

Chalice Press is the publishing house of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).