Terry Threadwell leads a small but active Christian ministry in Asheville, N.C., working with many who are poor, homeless and drug addicted. He worries about these people during the best of times, but his concerns mount when he considers the threat to the whole community that could be brought about by the year 2000 computer problem.
In Upton, Mass., Dacia Reid also worries about the havoc that could result from the computer glitch, and she has left her post as a Unitarian Universalist minister to devote herself full time to educating churchgoers and church leaders about its potential impact.
Y2K, as the computer problem is often called, stems from the fact that many computers and computerized systems are designed to read only the last two digits of a date and will not be able to distinguish the year 2000 from 1900 when the glittery ball drops on 1999.
Predictions from business leaders, politicians and computer wizards vary greatly as to what may unfold, but most agree there will be some level of service disruption -- from minor power outages to major tie-ups in transportation and other services.
Both Threadwell and Reid have joined the ranks of church leaders around the country who are helping communities prepare for a potential crisis in a way that promotes the golden rule of 'do unto others ...' rather than survivalist individualism.
Threadwell, pastor of Asheville City Church, is striving to help his own community prepare for a worst-case Y2K scenario. The church is already stockpiling food and preparing to provide basic necessities and medical care to a community that could find itself without power or water.
While the Y2K problems may cause little more than minor inconveniences, he said, there also exists potential for serious trouble. Computer glitches could keep much-needed government checks from reaching people in his community. At the same time, power outages could close banks that would cash those checks, as well as lead to all sorts of problems, from halting food distribution to limiting people's ability to cook the food they do have.
'This church is in a poor area with lots of drugs. If there's no food, there's going to be looting and rioting. We want to be able to feed people. This is a good opportunity for the church to do something useful,' Threadwell said.
While preparing for possible chaos, Threadwell said he is not a 'fear monger' and wants only to be prepared to serve his community if there's a need. 'If nothing happens, that will be great. We'll use the food we've stored to feed the hungry.'
That fear of being wrong and predicting a crisis that may not come is one of the challenges he said he must overcome as he tries to encourage other local churches to become involved in preparing for Y2K. 'Some ministers are hesitant to put their names out there in case nothing happens,' he added. Still, four churches in the area are at various stages of considering the possibility that they will join Threadwell in his efforts.
Reid contributes to Y2K preparedness efforts by promoting awareness through a comprehensive web site with many links (at http:\\www.uuy2k.org) and by using her skills as a preacher. Though she left her post at the helm of a Massachusetts church to devote herself to what she considers a mission, she still takes to the pulpit to help educate The Unitarian Universalist community about possible ramifications of Y2K.
'We're all computer users whether we've ever touched a keyboard or not. We're dependent on them. The average person needs to know that and think about this before there's a crisis,' Reid said.
She said she often uses the Titanic to create an analogy about the need to prepare. 'The ship was such a powerful technological wonder, but there should have been more life jackets just in case. Despite our faith in technology, as a society, we need to be prepared for a possible breakdown that would come in the year 2000. 'We need a life jacket for Y2K,' she added.
'Preparedness is one of the major solutions. Most people could take some steps to being prepared personally,' Reid said. 'But there are some who can't prepare; they're homeless, elderly, disabled. It's the responsibility of the rest of us to meet their needs in the event of an infrastructure disruption.'
Dacia Reid, the UUY2K Project, Upton, Mass., 508-529-4458; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; web site: www.uuy2k.org. Terry Threadwell, pastor, Asheville City Church, Asheville, N.C., 828-232-1914; fax: 828- 683-4887; e-mail: email@example.com; web site: www.hebronministries.org.
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