Monday, March 17, 1997
Falmouth summons faith
to see it through disaster

Flooded churches 'back in business'

The Cincinnati Enquirer

FALMOUTH, Ky. - The streets were almost empty and a light wind blew, carrying the soft tinkle of church bells down West Shelby Street.

Services were held Sunday in many Falmouth churches for the first time since the floodwater of the Licking River tore through town two weeks ago.

Falmouth was at peace Sunday, at least for a few hours. In more than one instance, churchgoers came equipped with lawn chairs and folding chairs.

''Good morning,'' the Rev. John Verburg told the congregation at Falmouth Christian Church. ''We're back in business.''

Even without pews and familiar hymnals, members were glad to have a place to pray. Scenes inside the worship houses were like those of family reunions. Neighbors hugged; friends gossiped.

Inside the Falmouth Christian Church, twins Marty and Mark Hart, Falmouth firefighters, were pumping hands instead of water, accepting thanks for what they've done to help flood victims.

At St. Francis Xavier Church, Pendleton County EMS workers Tony Justice and Bethany Hanser listened hard as Diocese of Covington Bishop Robert Muench spoke.

Mass was held inside the high school gym. The church structure was too cluttered with debris.

Nearly shouting over the rush of dry air being pumped into the gym by Munters Moisture Control, Bishop Muench said he will do everything he can to help this Falmouth parish rebuild.

''I always think of water as about the most harmless thing there is,'' he said as more than 150 people sat in metal chairs on the ruined gym floor.

Some wore their Sunday best. Others donned what they had left. This was a group filled with solidarity to begin again.

''I'm sure many of us have said 'How can I go on? Where do I start?' Hold onto your faith,'' Bishop Muench said.

Support is coming from all directions and in many forms: furniture, clothing and notes of support.

Tacked to the wall at the waterline in St. Francis Xavier School are 15 cards sent from seventh-graders at Mary Queen of Heaven Church in Boone County.

''We will always be praying 4 U,'' Alisha Sandman wrote.

Ms. Hanser, the EMS worker, said being able to attend church relaxed her. Even during the service, she and Mr. Justice were on duty, their radios turned down low.

''It's been a crazy week. We feel like we're depleting our reserve tanks now,'' she said.

Bishop Muench offered encouragement, saying there will be a tomorrow.

''There are times when it's difficult to know how to pray and what to pray for,'' he said. ''We're going to need to hold on to one another.''