Holy Innocents Episcopal Church in Lahaina, Hawaiʻi, was destroyed when wildfires swept through the island of Maui. Photo: Bruce DeGooyer

[The Episcopal News] The town of Lahaina, Maui — once a royal capital of Hawai’i — burned to the ground in a wildfire last week, which was exacerbated by strong winds from Hurricane Dora following a period of drought. With the death toll at 96 and rising, the blaze was the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century.

Hundreds of Lahaina residents have lost their homes, and Holy Innocents Episcopal Church, a parish of the Diocese of Hawai’i, was completely destroyed.

“As is usually the case in the immediate aftermath of disasters, monetary gifts remain among the Episcopal Diocese of Hawai’i’s most urgent needs,” Bishop John Harvey Taylor of the Diocese of Los Angeles wrote on his Facebook page Aug. 16, “second only to your prayers for those who are have been lost and those who wait in agony for news of the missing.”

Episcopal Relief & Development, an agency of the multi-nation Episcopal Church, is asking for financial support to help those affected by this devastating event. Funds will go to immediate relief efforts, in addition to emerging needs, a situation in which Episcopal Relief & Development has extensive experience.

Holy Innocents Episcopal Church in Lahaina, Hawaiʻi, before it burned down after wildfires swept across the island of Maui. Photo: Bruce DeGooyer

“Right now, we are standing by ready to support the Diocese of Hawai’i as they mobilize local assets and ministries to respond to the immense need,” according to an appeal letter from the agency. “While it will surely be some time until we know the full extent of the damage, we’re connecting with diocesan leaders and doing everything we can to help form a ground response as swiftly as possible.”

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Episcopal Relief & Development will continue to work with the Diocese of Hawai’i and other agencies after the initial response period to support redevelopment efforts.

In addition, the Diocese of Hawai’i is working through A Cup of Cold Water, its community outreach program, to distribute toiletries, food and pet food, bottled water, clothing and other necessities to displaced people. Donations to the relief effort may also be made through the Hawai’i diocese’s Bishop’s Pastoral Fund or directly to A Cup of Cold Water, either online here or through checks sent to the agency at 2140 Main Street, Wailuku, HI 96793. (Read more about diocesan relief efforts here.)

“The short-term issues are going to be helping the people who have been displaced,” Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick of Hawai’i told Episcopal News Service. “There were lots of people who had their second homes [in Lahaina] or people who retired there who don’t have long-term ties. I don’t know what this will mean for them,” he said. “And then there are the families that are local, and this is home, so how do we keep them cared for?”

Fitzpatrick said that rebuilding Holy Innocents is “not a priority” while relief efforts are underway, though he noted the church’s building was historically significant for Lahaina, which was the capital of the Hawaiian kingdom until 1845. (Read more from ENS here.)

Maui’s other three Episcopal churches – Church of the Good Shepherd in Wailuku, St. John’s in Kula and Trinity by-the-Sea in Kihei – are also working to offer help to Lahaina’s displaced residents with an emergency food pantry and collections of water, nonperishable food, and clothing, according to ENS reports.