Hurricane Harvey may have led St. Cuthbert’s Episcopal Church to a new way to reach more people.

With rain, wind and flood pummeling Houston on Sunday, the church canceled Sunday services, but officials, including a former Mainer who runs the church’s family formation ministry, turned to Facebook to reach the roughly 300 members of its congregation.

About 6,000 ended up logging onto the church’s Facebook Live broadcast, with the Rev. Bruce Bonner leading the service from his living room, his wife holding a cellphone to capture it and the couple’s dog occasionally wandering into view.

“It was kind of comforting, having 30 minutes of ‘God’s in charge, take a breath for 30 minutes,’” said Gail Jackins, who is originally from Houlton.

Jackins said the Facebook Live approach was a last-minute decision when it became clear it wasn’t safe for either church leaders or members to try to get to the church while the hurricane was lashing the area and floodwaters were rising.

Church members spread word of the broadcast, Jackins said.

“Their friends watched it and then their friends posted it,” leading others to watch it, she said. “It really was just grass-roots word of Facebook.” Jackins said the church plans to use Facebook Live again Thursday to broadcast some prayers and spread the word that, as bad as the storm and flooding has been, it can be surmounted.

Jackins, 55, grew up in Houlton and ended up in northwest Houston about 20 years ago, after living in several towns in Maine and Massachusetts. She said Hurricane Harvey left her mostly unscathed, although she recognizes and feels for millions of others in Houston whose lives have been upended by the flooding caused by the massive storm.

Her apartment complex is on relatively high ground, Jackins said, and her first-floor unit hasn’t been flooded. St. Cuthbert’s had a few classrooms flooded when a nearby creek spilled its banks, but the main church building has stayed dry.

Jackins said her Maine roots led her to wisely stock up in advance of the storm. She’s ventured outdoors a few times in the last few days – the rain finally stopped Tuesday – to find that little is normal in her neighborhood.

A nearby grocery store was still open, but had a limited number of workers. Customers had to line up outside, tell workers at the door what they planned to buy, go in, get the items, pay for them and then leave, Jackins said.

“It’s not worth getting out of the house because there’s no place open,” Jackins said, adding that she’s also refraining from venturing out too far because she is trying to conserve the gas in her car. No gas stations are open.

“But the rain is done,” she said, noting that the sun peeked out Tuesday after being absent for days.

“We’ve seen the sun for the first time, it’s been, since the eclipse,” she said. “I’m going to need my little eclipse glasses.”

Jackins hopes her church will be open for services this Sunday, and schools that haven’t flooded are expected to open Tuesday, after Labor Day. That’s the target date for people in her community seeking a return to what will pass for normal as the region embarks on a long recovery, she said.

But in the meantime, water is still rising in many parts of Houston as flooded neighborhoods, rivers and creeks begin to drain.

“I’ve been so lucky, but people who thought they weren’t going to flood, boom! It’s so depressing,” Jackins said. “Any little creek, any retention pond, any duck pond is just flooded. It’s just crazy.”

Jackins said she and fellow ministers and church members plan to meet Wednesday night to discuss outreach efforts to help those affected by the flooding.

Another former Mainer living near Houston said she would prefer snow to the devastation she’s seeing now.

“I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss the snow right now,” said Anna Schmidt, who grew up in Thorndike and graduated from the University of Maine before relocating to Texas with her husband. “I will take a snowstorm over a flood any day of the week.”

Schmidt, a photographer, said she, her husband, Josh, and their two children live on high ground in Katy, Texas, an unincorporated city of about 300,000 people west of Houston. They live near a large reservoir that officials say is safe, at least for now.

Although their house, more than 100 feet above sea level, is safe and dry, Schmidt said, their former house in another neighborhood in Katy is underwater. While taking photos of the devastation Tuesday, Schmidt said she ran into friends who still live in their old neighborhood. They were boarding an airboat, she said, to head back to their house and see if they could get in to salvage some items.

Schmidt said there’s a great deal of uncertainty about recovery.

“There are a lot of people in this area who don’t have flood insurance,” she said,

Schmidt said she’s now facing questions about school for her children. Local schools have been closed all week, with no word on when they might reopen. And the Montessori school her youngest attends was flooded.

“She’s not going back anytime soon,” she said. “I’m working from home and we all have cabin fever.”

Schmidt’s husband, an IT specialist for a Houston hospital who is from Bangor, returns to work Thursday, she said, and some stores, gas stations and restaurants in Katy are starting to reopen. She said her regular grocery store reopened Tuesday, although it was operating on limited hours.

Schmidt said her family is grateful to have experienced only limited impact from the storm and flooding when so many others have lost so much.

She laughed when recounting that they only lost power for about 5 minutes.

“Losing power down here when it’s 95 degrees out, losing air conditioning,” she said, chuckling. “That’s what we were most scared about.”

At least one Maine town is standing ready to help in Texas.

Owen Casas, a member of Rockport’s select board and a state representative, said he and five town firefighters are hoping to help out in Rockport, Texas, which was hit by Harvey as it came ashore. Casas said Rockport’s Texas namesake hasn’t suffered the devastating flooding that’s hit other parts of southeastern Texas, but did sustain wind damage from the storm.

In the meantime, Casas said, the town has launched a fundraising effort on Gofundme to help with the recovery. As of Wednesday night, the page had raised over $5,600 of its $15,000 goal.

Casas said the town needs authorization from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Maine Emergency Management Agency before going to Texas, so there is oversight and control of relief efforts. If they are called on, Casas said, he and his team will use part of the Gofundme money to help cover expenses associated with traveling to Texas. He said the firefighters have been trained in water rescues.

If they are not requested, he said, the town will earmark any money raised to benefit Rockport, Texas.

Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills is urging Mainers to help those affected by the flooding in Houston, but warned that scammers also will seek to take advantage of people’s generosity.

In a release, Mills said Mainers should only make donations to organizations with which they are familiar, and to call her office’s consumer protection division at (800) 436-2131 if they are unsure.

Other sources for guidance on reputable aid groups can be found at websites for the Maine attorney general, the Texas attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission.

“A natural disaster brings out the best us, and people around the world offer whatever we can to aid victims like those down in Texas this week,” Mills said. “Unfortunately, it also sometimes brings out people who take advantage of our good nature and provide no help to those in need.”

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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