Pastor urges brethren to get ready for Y2K

By Dixon Cartwright

GILMER, Texas--The United Church of God is preparing for the Y2K computer problem, announced Roy Holladay, pastor of the congregation that meets here, the Sabbath of June 26.

The council of elders and administration of the United Church of God, an International Association (UCG-AIA), based in Milford, Ohio, recommends a twofold approach to preparing for possible problems on or after Jan. 1, 2000, Mr. Holladay said.

The first part of the approach is preparation by individuals; the second involves congregations.

The Y2K computer glitch, sometimes called the millennium bug, will result from the rollover of the year '99 to '00 in mainframe-computer programs. Because much computer software is decades old, it doesn't always allow for four digits to designate a year. As a result, programmers say many mainframe computers will not recognize "00" as 2000 but as 1900 and will churn out erroneous information or simply shut down.

The problem, depending on which experts you listen to, will range from minor inconveniences to global disaster and could affect everything from payroll and retirement checks to national electric-power systems.

During the June 26 church service Mr. Holladay, who serves on the UCG-AIA's council of elders, handed out copies of a brochure produced by the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services, P.O. Box 419047, Rancho Cordova, Calif. 95741, U.S.A.

Getting specific

The pamphlet recommends a conservative approach to Y2K preparation that includes families storing a three- to seven-day supply of water and food. Here are some of its suggestions:

  • Store a gallon of water per person per day, along with a supply of nonperishable foods.
  • Acquire barbecue grills and camp stoves for emergency food preparation.
  • Stock up on sleeping bags, blankets and warm clothing, since Jan. 1 (in the northern hemisphere) comes along in the dead of winter.
  • Make plans for emergency storage of refuse because garbage collection could be disrupted.
  • Maintain up-to-date copies of health, medical and dental records because computers storing such information may not function.
  • Keep an extra supply of prescriptions and medications and other medical supplies.
  • Set aside some extra cash in case banks are closed and automatic-teller machines and credit cards don't work.
  • Have access to at least one nonportable telephone because a dwelling's portable phones will not work if the regular house current to the building is cut off.
  • Keep gas tanks fairly full in the days before Jan. 1.
  • Consider the availability of alternate transportation including bicycles.
  • Think about acquiring a portable generator.
  • Winterize homes and other structures that could provide shelter for family, neighbors, livestock or equipment, including protecting water pipes from freezing.

The brochure recommends stockpiling basic supplies such as paper plates and plastic utensils; flashlights and batteries; matches; lamps, lanterns and fuel; toilet paper; plastic garbage bags; soap; bleach; fire extinguishers; first-aid kits; antiseptic; and full supplies of prescription medications.

The brochure suggests that family members learn basic first aid and cardiopulmonary-resuscitation (CPR) techniques.

Mr. Holladay's recommendations

Mr. Holladay endorsed the brochure's suggestions but said he would go farther. Although the brochure recommends preparing for a three- to seven-day disruption of power and supplies, he recommends storing food, water and supplies for a disruption of a couple of weeks or a month.

"There seem to be two extremes concerning the Y2K problem," he said. "Some people think there will be very little disruption, while others believe that it signals the end of the world. You'll find that there are those who will tell you that the apocalypse is upon us."

The truth, he believes, lies somewhere in between.

The Bible, he said, recommends readying oneself for emergencies. He quoted Proverbs 6:6-8 about the ant and the sluggard. The ant stores her supplies in the summer so she can gather her food at harvesttime.

He criticized, however, people who adopt a "bunker mentality."

"They're storing a couple of years' supply of food. They're getting machine guns and shotguns, and they're loading up. They're practicing the Christian principle 'If you try to come and take my food, I'll kill you. Do unto them before they do it unto you.' "

The problem with someone hunkered in a bunker, he said, is that he cares not about his neighbors.

Y2K meetings

Mr. Holladay said the UCG-AIA is asking its pastors to meet with their congregations to discuss the potential problem.

"It's important to avoid causing panic or creating an atmosphere of apocalyptic doom," he said. "But we should take a balanced approach."

An overriding consideration, he commented, is whether electric power will be disrupted come Jan. 1.

"Stop and think," he said. "There's 7,000 utility companies across this country. They're divided up into four major power grids. If the electricity were to go down with SWEPCO [Southwestern Electric Power Co.], then they would roll over to the next company and then the next."

Normally, if generators in one power grid (a huge regional array of interconnected electric companies) went down, the grid would draw on power from adjacent grids.

If many lost power at the same time, a chain reaction might occur (say some of the experts) that would knock out the power in all the grids.

Mr. Holladay said it is his understanding that power outages could be a greater problem in cities than in rural areas.

"In fact, if you live in an area where the water or electrical system is really old, they may not even have computers, or they may not be as dependent on computers. You might be better off in some of those particular areas. But, whether that's true here or not, I can't tell you."

When Mr. Holladay pastored Worldwide Church of God congregations in Florida, each church implemented an "action emergency plan" for the hurricane season, he said.

"If there was a category-one hurricane, we knew exactly the people who were in the path of that and who would have to be moved or have to go someplace else."

The brethren in Florida knew the locations of the residences of elderly and handicapped church members and those without transportation so other church members could readily reach and assist them.

"That's the same type of action plan to be set up for every local church area [in the UCG-AIA], to make sure that nobody falls through the cracks and that everybody is looked after."

The arrangements would apply to any emergency: an earthquake, tornado, hurricane or Y2K-related loss of electricity.

Extra can or two

The brochure from the California agency recommends setting aside food for a few days, "but I would say that we need to be prepared at least individually for a couple of weeks," said Mr. Holladay.

"It wouldn't hurt to have food set aside for a month in preparation."

Mr. Holladay and his wife, Norma, have been buying an extra can or two of various kinds of food every time they go shopping.

"Especially if you go to places like Sam's [a wholesale buying club], you buy six or eight cans of tuna fish. We put three or four cans in the pantry and set aside two or three cans."

Residents of Texas and other southern states would not have the same problems heating their homes as would northerners, he noted.

"We [in Texas] could probably get by, even if we didn't have heat, with a lot of extra clothing."

But people in "Wisconsin, Minnesota, Alaska, Canada and Maine," he said, would be much more affected by a lack of warmth in the middle of winter.

"What if you're a diabetic and Jan. 1 comes and there's no record that you take insulin?"

He recommended keeping an extra supply of prescription drugs and other medical supplies.

"What about us as a congregation?" he concluded. "What about us as the East Texas United Church of God? . . . How will we plan?"

Congregational planning

Each family and each congregation needs to plot a strategy for taking care of itself "and the larger church family."

The brethren should pay special attention to the requirements of the elderly and disabled in the event of a national or regional emergency.

"A communication system should be established in every congregation," he said. "Every member should have someone who could communicate with them about their situations and needs.

"If the telephones are not working, how will you check up on members within the congregation? Members who are within reasonable driving distance of others may need to check on them and report to an area coordinator."

"We are our brother's keeper," he declared, although the brethren should be concerned about other people as well.

"Brethren, I think the Bible is very clear that there is nothing wrong in being prepared. We don't want to take the bunker mentality or the apocalyptic approach, but neither should we just shrug it off and say that nothing is going to happen. We should try to have a balanced approach in this."

For more information about the UCG-AIA's Y2K recommendations, write the church at P.O. Box 541027, Cincinnati, Ohio 45254, U.S.A., or visit the UCG-AIA on the Web at

The Journal has published several articles, letters and editorials on the Y2K situation, including "Y2K Scenario: Blind Man's Bluff, Anyone?," by Gary North, in the Aug. 31, 1998, issue. Dr. North publishes the largest Y2K-related Web site on the Internet at

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