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Louisiana church leaders urge caution in rebuilding process

 


Louisiana church leaders urge caution in rebuilding process

Sept. 24, 2005

By Betty Backstrom*

BATON ROUGE, La. (UMNS) — United Methodist church leaders for the Louisiana Annual Conference advised all clergy to use caution and to be prepared when evacuating from the path of Hurricane Rita. 

Pastors from the Lake Charles and Acadiana Districts received this encouragement, along with a number of clergy who had returned to New Orleans area churches to begin the rebuilding process from Hurricane Katrina.

A Sept. 23 break in the already fragile levees protecting the Ninth Ward of New Orleans dumped flood waters back into areas where pumping was in progress.  

According to the Associated Press, water streamed through gaps at least 100 feet wide in a levee and was soon waist-deep on a nearby street in the Ninth Ward, an area of neighborhoods heavily damaged by Katrina. The water began covering buckled homes, piles of rubble and mud-caked cars that Katrina had swamped with up to 20 feet of water nearly a month earlier. The Army Corps of Engineers was working to repair the levees.

First United Methodist Church in Slidell was already in the process of drying out damaged sheet rock when the wind and rain of Hurricane Rita forced evacuation of the area.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Rita was causing major damage in southwestern Louisiana. The conference office received reports of a tornado striking the small fishing community of Dulac, La., home to Clanton Chapel United Methodist Church and an active ministry serving the area’s predominantly Native American population. The community had recently recovered from the devastation of flooding and tornadoes caused by Hurricane Lilly in September 2002. 

Also in the path of Hurricane Rita was the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s Sager-Brown Depot, in Baldwin, La. The depot was evacuated Sept. 22, 2005.

Church officials announced the establishment of relief centers in key areas of south Louisiana, including the Northshore and Westbank of New Orleans. Centers will likely be established in southwest Louisiana, as well as inside the metro area of New Orleans, when possible.

“These centers will serve as a hub for Volunteers in Mission teams, assessment, case management and counseling services,” said Rev. Don Cottrill, conference provost.

The La. United Methodist Storm Recovery Center, housed in the conference area offices in Baton Rouge and established in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, received a flood of calls Sept. 23 with offers of assistance.

“The conference has advised all clergy to notify the district and conference offices of their location and contact information once they are safely evacuated. They should be prepared by having a copy of all church records, including financial information and insurance records,” Cottrill said.

“We are relying on God’s prevenient grace. The Louisiana Annual Conference has already been blessed through many gifts, support and prayers. The system of support through the United Methodist connection continues to help sustain us as we cope with these events.”

*Backstrom is editor of Louisiana Now!, the newspaper of the United Methodist Church’s Louisiana Annual Conference.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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