From the Introduction by The Reverend Stephen Harding, Editor:
certain houses of worship and religious leaders in New York City had done good work in the field
of disaster response before the World Trade Center attacks, the landscape for communities of
faith and houses of worship changed forever in New York City after September 11, 2001. Because
of the enormous role that imams, pastors, priests, rabbis, anyone with a responsibility for a
house of worship played in the recovery effort, the needs of our City called each religious
leader to a new level of disaster response. Worshipping communities, too, faced a new challenge
of responding and, as individual members of a house of worship, faced a new array of difficult
decisions regarding individual safety. Going to help; caring for the families; listening; and
then preparedness and planning were the watchwords of the day once the recovery effort was
The challenges of those times are still with us, and the need to remain vigilant and prepare for
the next disaster has not gone away. This manual was developed by New York Disaster Interfaith
Services to help you do several things as individual leaders of houses of worship:
Prepare yourself and the members of your worshipping community by developing a disaster plan in advance;
Help you identify the phases of disaster so that you know where you are as things are going on around you;
Provide you with information about preparation and your role as religious leaders in all phases of disaster;
Provide you with information and resources that you can call on and use if you need them; and
Help you to start thinking about what you would do if a disaster happened to your own house of worship or in your community.
The contributors to this manual all have experience in responding to disasters. Some worked as part of the
recovery effort for the World Trade Center and/or other disasters; others have extensive experience in working
with relief organizations; still others are therapists; others teach; and all write from the experience
of 'having been there.' These chapters are the things they have done and that have worked for them.
The Rev. Stephen Harding is the Disaster Response Coordinator for the Episcopal Diocese of New York and Protestant Chaplain for the Fire Department of the City of New York. Father Harding is also an Disaster Chaplaincy Instructor for the National Disaster Interfaiths Network and the former Director of Pastoral Care at NYU Medical Center.
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