Churches Hold Storm Services

Some ministers included Florida's (search) double hurricane strike in their sermons Sunday, but not the Rev. Rob Combs. He wants this community, ravaged by Hurricane Charley (search) three weeks ago, to put that storm in the past.

"We're trying to return to some sense of normalcy," said Combs, minister at the local Church of Christ.

Like many churches in southwest Florida, Combs' church held services despite leaky roofs and other damage from Charley, which pounded the area Aug. 13. Port Charlotte had light rain and wind Sunday as Hurricane Frances (search) crawled across the center of the state.

Church attendance was down, but not everyone heeded emergency officials' pleas that they stay home or in shelters.

"The last three weeks we've centered on the fact of God taking care of us and not worrying about the circumstances that we're in," Combs said.

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church moved its service into a small chapel because of leaks in the main sanctuary.

"The pulpit area is wet and stuff is starting to drip from light fixtures," the Rev. Ken Barrios said.

Churches throughout the region have organized relief efforts to help hurricane victims. At Holy Trinity, Barrios asked members to fill out assistance forms describing help they may need and things they might be able to do to help others. The church has been distributing food to anyone who needs it.

"As we look around us we see nothing but destruction. ... If you watch the pictures of what's going on on the east coast you can't help but recall what happened to us just three weeks ago," Barrios said.

The First Christian Church had considered calling off its service but decided to go on with it because there weren't enough volunteers available Saturday to call everyone, said Lou Manning, chairman of the church elders.

The church was a third full with about 100 people. Trash cans and buckets were placed in strategic locations to catch dripping water.

In his sermon, the Rev. Dale Roberts' compared the hardships of the storms to the travails of Daniel in the Bible.

"What do you do when life throws you a curve?" he asked. "Certainly we've seen that recently being hit by a Category 4 hurricane and then a few days later dealing with even more disruptive weather."

Nancy Horn, 59, a member of Roberts' congregation, said the double dose of hurricanes had done nothing to shake her faith.

"God set up nature for a reason and hurricanes have a reason and a purpose," she said. "It's so great to see how it draws people together, how people help each other and are concerned about each other. I think every now and then we need a disaster to shake us out of our complacency."

Members of her church have been helping people put plastic tarps on storm-damaged roofs and clear their yards of debris. The church also has served as a center for distributing aid from the Red Cross and other agencies.

At the Church of Christ, members were preparing to go to Florida's east coast with food, water, ice and muscle power to help Frances victims, although many of their own homes remain damaged from Charley.

"We'll be in West Palm Beach helping the Church of Christ over there," said Randy Kluge, whose North Port home escaped damage. "They came and helped us."