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Southminster Presbyterian Church serves as Disaster Relief Site

Three days after a storm system of straight line winds caused power outages for nearly 300,000 residents across Oklahoma, Southminster Presbyterian Church opened its doors as a Red Cross disaster relief site and cooling center in Tulsa, where the Public Service Company of Oklahoma reported “substantial damage to the grid including transmission structures, broken poles, cross-arms and downed wires.”

Tulsa residents salvage items from their car after a tree fell on it at Easton Place and Tacoma Avenue on Sunday, June 18, 2023. (Photo credit: Mike Simons, Tulsa World)

Rev. Olivia Lane witnessed first hand the destruction in Tulsa. Having to wake up her two young, sleeping children, and her out-of-town guests to seek safety in their basement, Rev. Lane remembers stark details of what made this storm different from all the other storms she’s grown familiar with as a native Oklahoman.

Our tornado sirens did start going off. Within about 20 minutes from getting the alert, you can just hear a wall of sound, which is the wind itself. And right down the street from us, they recorded the 110 to 120 mile an hour winds. But we really did not know how long this was going to take or what was going to happen.

Over the next 24 hours, Rev. Lane gained an in-depth understanding of the impact of this storm: widespread power outages during a dangerous heat wave affecting people’s ability to live, work, and find connection and safety within their own neighborhood and city.

In the morning, when Rev. Lane checked in on the church building, she found Southminster Presbyterian Church itself sustained damage from the storm. But to her, “This is minor damage. The church is still operational. What can we do to try to use this as a resource right away?”

You can listen to Rev. Lane’s recollection of this event, the aftermath in Tulsa, and Southminster’s response and partnership with the Red Cross on the July 10th Sunspots podcast episode. Find Sunspots wherever you get your podcasts or find the video version HERE:

There are several takeaways to be gleaned from Rev. Lane’s experience and Southminster’s capacity to be a source of respite, hope, and healing to their neighbors in need:

  • Church leaders knowing who the most vulnerable members of their congregations are and checking in with them when a disaster occurs.

  • Congregations developing partnerships with local nonprofit organizations before disasters, which facilities the creation of institutional policies and flexibility that fosters collaboration when there are opportunities to serve the broader community

  • Paying attention to the needs of the most vulnerable who are impacted by disasters and whose challenges are often overlooked in damage reports and resources offered by insurance, federal/state programs, and other services

  • Tapping into our imagination and creativity in finding ways to share the abundance of vital resources we have as Presbyterians with others in your community

As Rev. Lane articulated on the podcast, “The reality of disasters is that the most vulnerable are at such high risk of complications after the disaster has actually passed.” Southminster remains committed to advocating and serving among the most vulnerable in their community.

If you would like to support Southminster’s ongoing efforts, financial gifts may be given directly to the church with the designation of “Disaster Relief” on checks or online gifts.

Southminster Presbyterian Church

3500 S Peoria Ave.

Tulsa, OK 74105

Designate gifts: Disaster Relief

Southminster Presbyterian Church became a critical Red Cross Disaster Relief Center and Cooling Station when a powerful storm left hundreds of thousands of residents without electricity during a dangerous excessive heat wave.

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