Clergy Fight Katrina Depression
Depressed and overwhelmed. Clergy affected by Gulf Coast hurricanes are not immune to the feelings – even while serving parishioners and fellow survivors, some pastors are becoming increasingly despondent. As Reed Galin reports, hundreds of clergy lost their homes, their churches and their jobs and just like anyone else, it’s a struggle to start over.
(Locator: New Orleans, La.)
The Rev. Connie Thomas: “Oh, Lord, no! Look at the pews.”
The Reverend Connie Thomas has lost not one…but two churches. She’s pastor of Napoleon Avenue and Peck United Methodist Churches in New Orleans.
The Rev. Connie Thomas/Peck and Napoleon Avenue United Methodist Churches, New Orleans, La.: “It bothers me a lot to come in. I’ve probably been back twice and that’s because I needed to come back.”
Displaced from her own home, Thomas doesn’t know if her parishioners will ever return. The same concern is echoed by clergy across the Gulf coast.
The Rev. Ellen Alston/Covenant United Methodist Church, St. Bernard Parish, La.: “There are still many of them, I don’t know where they are. It is an uprooted situation for us.”
Mental health professionals are warning of an increase in suicides, divorce and abuse.
The Rev. Jerry Hilbun: “Expect a much higher suicide rate, maybe 80 percent, and maybe an increased rate of family separations and divorces, as high as 50 percent more.”
Experts also note that church professionals who serve during a time like this often end up leaving the ministry within three years.
The Rev. Jerry Hilbun: “I think a lot of it has to do with the overwhelming nature, and the depression, the pressure, the stress that comes from going through an experience like this.”
These United Methodist pastors from Louisiana and Mississippi gathered to encourage one another…and, to listen.
The Rev. Ellen Alston: “Let’s get your tool bags, let’s get your hammers.”
For these clergy, ruin and rubble have not destroyed their faith. And pastors like Connie Thomas say that’s what it’s all about.
The Rev. Connie Thomas: “Long road to recovery. Lot of work to be done.”
There is no accurate count of how many churches have been destroyed due to the hurricanes, but some estimates say as much as 50 percent of churches along the stricken region have been damaged or destroyed.
For more information contact the United Methodist Committee On Relief by logging onto: http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/emergency/hurricanes/2005/katrina/index.cfm
or calling 800-554-8583.
Also see: Retreat gives Louisiana pastors strength for challenges ahead.