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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Grace Episcopal Church, a fixture on Canal Street in Mid-City for nearly 60 years, will close next month, Episcopal Bishop Morris Thompson said Monday.
The Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana hopes the closure is not permanent. It may be able to reopen the church in a year or so after rethinking its mission and gathering new resources, Thompson said.
Thompson said he informed Grace’s small congregation of his decision Dec. 4. He said there were fewer 15 people in the pews at one of the two services that morning.
Read it all.
The Rev. Jerry Kramer, the Episcopal priest who threw his church into the recovery of Broadmoor after Hurricane Katrina, has left the church for a more conservative Anglican community.
Kramer, the former rector of the Free Church of the Annunciation, said by e-mail he now is affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America.
That community is composed of former Episcopalians who split with the U.S. church in 2008 over deep theological differences.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Missions Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Hurricane Katrina
Five years after Hurricanes Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, survivors and those working on their behalf say work is far from finished.
Church World Service says that what progress has been made is in great part due to the support, funding and labour of the US faith community and of humanitarian agencies.
"If it weren't for the volunteers and agencies who assisted me, I don't know where I would be," said Gloria Mouton, 62, whose home in New Orleans East was among those repaired by volunteers from across the US during the 2009 CWS Neighborhood New Orleans ecumenical project.
Read it all.
It was a celebration of how people of different faiths can work together for the common good. An interfaith sunrise worship service at Trinity Episcopal Church in Pass Christian recognized the impact that many religious groups have had in hurricane recovery.
Jews, Christians. Muslims and Hare Krishnas were at the sunrise worship service. All believers were welcome.
"That we all serve an awesome God," said Alice Graham, Mississippi Coast Interfaith Disaster Task Force. "We come to that service of God from different faith traditions. We're unified in that we serve a God that calls us all into community."
Read it all
KIM LAWTON, correspondent: About 20 minutes outside New Orleans, worshippers gather at First Baptist Church in Chalmette, the largest city in St. Bernard Parish. It’s a pretty typical Southern Baptist Sunday morning service.
REV JOHN DEE JEFFRIES (Preaching at First Baptist Church, Chalmette, Louisiana): Lord, what’s going on? Lord, why?
LAWTON: But that belies the incredible journey this congregation has made since Hurricane Katrina. More than half of the churches in St. Bernard Parish still haven’t come back, and most of them probably never will. First Baptist is not only back, but reinventing itself to help a community still struggling to recover.
Read it all
As far as I am concerned, Tulane University President Scott Cowen is a national hero--someone needs to give the man a medal--KSH.
Locally and nationally, [Bishop Charles] Jenkins has described how the post-Katrina suffering of poor New Orleanians transformed his ministry and awakened him to the broad social and economic inequalities of life in New Orleans. But he has said the aftermath also left him medicated, prone to depression and frequently unable to focus on administration.
In the short term, Jenkins said in an interview this week, retirement will mean rest and diversion - building a new life with his wife, Louise, in rural St. Francisville, 100 miles north of New Orleans. Still a product of small-town north Louisiana, Jenkins has a new truck to enjoy. A new tractor is on order. He hopes to plant some trees and a garden.
And having rebuilt the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana after Katrina to reflect his own radical conversion to social justice and racial reconciliation, illness or not, he said he hopes to stay involved in the work of Episcopal Community Services, the new social-justice arm of the diocese, “as much as is appropriate.”
But having said that, he also expressed a temporary desire to “recede into the mist; deep into the mist.”
If that sounds contradictory, so be it, Jenkins said. If Episcopalians traditionally value the “middle way,” Jenkins has raised it to an art. “I’m good at living in tension,” he said.
Read the whole article.
The Rev. Jerry Kramer, a hyper-energetic Episcopal priest who transformed a small neighborhood church into a powerhouse that helped drive the post-Katrina recovery of the entire Broadmoor neighborhood, stunned his parishioners last week with news that, sick and exhausted, he has resigned.
In an accompanying e-mail message, Kramer said that if he recovers after several months on a temporary medical disability, he hopes next year to return to missionary work in Tanzania with his wife and two children.
"But I have to get well to do that, " he said last week. "I need some rest. I absolutely need some rest.
"I haven't been able to put in a full day (of work) in over a year."
In the four years since Katrina, Kramer developed a reputation as a innovative priest who, from the moment he paddled up to his flooded church on South Claiborne Avenue, merged its recovery with the recovery of the surrounding neighborhood.
One of God's special people. May the Lord bless him and his family. Read it all--KSH
2) Several of you have begun to hear whispers of the financial challenge that the diocesan ministries will be facing in the year ahead. The impact of our nation's economy has impacted all of us and will contribute to a significant tightening of all of our budgets.
The unique challenge facing our diocesan ministries are twofold:
First, 30% of the diocesan budget is funded by investment income. We have been able to develop new and innovative ministries during the times of growth in our investment portfolio. These, as we all know, are difficult times for such income resources. Our income will be greatly reduced.
Secondly, the diocese took out a sizeable loan to buy properties on the gulf coast for the rebuilding of the congregations following Hurricane Katrina. When the original beach front properties are sold the loan will be repaid. Until such sale we are liable for a substantial interest payment. Until now, we have been able to pay the interest from contributions for post-Katrina recovery. Those funds are now depleted.
I have made the decision, and will ask the Executive Committee to concur, that to be "one church" means that we are willing to bear one another's burdens. To ask any of these three churches to assume their share of the indirect payment would be to crush them as they seek to recover and rebuild. Thus, I am prepared to make the necessary sacrifices within our common life and ministries to give these congregations relief from the unsustainable debt burden until their properties are sold.
Read it all.
The full details of what [Dr. Anna] Pou did, and why, may never be known. But the arguments she is making about disaster preparedness — that medical workers should be virtually immune from prosecution for good-faith work during devastating events and that lifesaving interventions, including evacuation, shouldn’t necessarily go to the sickest first — deserve closer attention. This is particularly important as health officials are now weighing, with little public discussion and insufficient scientific evidence, protocols for making the kind of agonizing decisions that will, no doubt, arise again.
At a recent national conference for hospital disaster planners, Pou asked a question: “How long should health care workers have to be with patients who may not survive?” The story of Memorial Medical Center raises other questions: Which patients should get a share of limited resources, and who decides? What does it mean to do the greatest good for the greatest number, and does that end justify all means? Where is the line between appropriate comfort care and mercy killing? How, if at all, should doctors and nurses be held accountable for their actions in the most desperate of circumstances, especially when their government fails them?
Read it all.
The storm that crashed into New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast four years ago wreaked a shocking $80 billion in damage and resulted in 1,836 confirmed fatalities. But since then, its overall legacy has broadened and, one hopes, has not been all bad.
Count these among the lessons it taught and the changes it spawned:
•Volunteers matter a lot in a time of crisis.
•FEMA's mission has shifted from a top-down to a bottom-up approach.
•New appreciation has emerged of the need to retain and restore wetlands to help absorb storm surges.
•Storm-tracking capabilities have advanced in ways that improve public safety.
•Hurricanes have moved to the center of the climate-change debate.
Read it all.
"You know the joke," ...[Gregory Aymond] said in an interview before his installation as New Orleans' 14th archbishop on Thursday (Aug. 20). "There are two things every bishop can count on — never missing a meal, and never hearing the truth."
Politically, while he says abortion and other life issues like euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research are fundamental, during the last election cycle he urged Austin voters also to be mindful of candidates' approach to other social issues, like the death penalty, racism and poverty.
"We're lucky to have had him," said the Rev. Louis Brusatti, dean of the school of humanities at St. Edward's University in Austin. "He's moderate; he's consensual; he's low-key. He's not an ideologue. We could've done a lot worse."
Read it all.
They are an unlikely pair, chatting up people on porch stoops in the poorer neighborhoods of New Orleans: Bishop Charles Jenkins, 57, the son of white, rural north Louisiana and pastor to 18,000 south Louisiana Episcopalians, and Jerome Smith, 69, black and rumpled, son of Treme, a former Freedom Rider from the civil rights movement.
Before Hurricane Katrina, in the days when Jenkins says he was focused more on the well-being of his predominantly white church than his predominantly black city, they might never have crossed paths.
But since Katrina, they have forged a relationship in which Jenkins, now deep into a profound personal and spiritual transformation, said he has come to love and rely on Smith.
Smith, a sometimes fiery activist in whom Jenkins sees a gentle soul, has become one of the bishop's principal guides into New Orleans' poor African-American culture, a landscape Jenkins said he previously glimpsed but did not understand.
"He's my mentor, you know," Jenkins said recently. "It is a good day whenever Jerome Smith comes by."
Read it all.
The Rt. Rev. Charles Jenkins, Bishop of Louisiana, has announced plans to retire at the end of 2009. He informed the diocese’s standing committee of his decision Dec. 4, according to a letter published on the diocese’s website.
“This move is based on issues of health and a concern for the mission strategy of the diocese,” Bishop Jenkins said. “To that end, I now call for the election of the eleventh Bishop of Louisiana.”
Read it all.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans has formally closed seven historic Catholic parishes as a painful downsizing of the regional church in the wake of Hurricane Katrina nears completion.
Archbishop Alfred Hughes signed the relevant decrees; formal notifications were to be distributed in letters hand-delivered to affected rectories on Friday (Oct. 17) afternoon, archdiocesan spokeswoman Sarah Comiskey said.
Read it all.
A prolonged recession and a tight credit market would cripple New Orleans' still-fragile recovery from Hurricane Katrina, delaying or eliminating road work, new construction and repairs to homes and businesses that have stood empty since 2005.
The city's infrastructure plans should stay on track, but a real estate expert calls it a "terrifying" scenario: A lack of sufficient credit would smother companies trying to start up or expand, and with them the new jobs needed to grow the area's economy. It would choke the flow of cash that developers need to build new homes and first-time homeowners need to buy them. And it would make it tough for the city to sell bonds to finance rebuilding projects on its appointed timeline.
Parking lots and buildings slated for reincarnation as gleaming high-rises might never move beyond blueprints. Small businesses, a lifeblood to the economy and neighborhood anchors, may never reopen or expand.
Read it all.
Watch it all. I kept thinking of what happened three years ago and those involved in terms of the Shakespeare quote posted below. The collateral damage from one of these major storms is hard fully to describe, and can only be partly understood by those who have lived through them--KSH.
Today, on this third anniversary of Katrina, there was so much i wanted to share about the progress we've made thanks to our dear friends, the lessons we've learned along the way, and some really exciting plans for continued Kingdom building and renewal here in New Orleans. Instead, we've spent the day packing up the office and church, making sure our parishioners have made plans, and checking on the more vulnerable members of our Broadmoor community.
For the most part, folks are doing quite well. We're miles ahead of where we were in terms of preparation for Katrina. Even the State appears to have its act together. No major news from our city, however, since "Our Mayor" lives in the Dallas area. All things considered, we're looking really good at this point in the ballgame.
While an official evacuation has yet to be called, the highways going out of town are stacked up with crawling traffic. Our Annunciation/Broadmoor caravan intends to leave for Tennessee on Sunday morning. Stacy and the kids will bug out for Baton Rouge at some point on Saturday.
The Annunciation campus will close officially at 5p today, Friday, and re-open after the storm passes. We have not only Gustav to watch . . . but Hannah as well.
I'm signing off for now...and will begin blogging at http://annunciationbroadmoor.blogspot.com.
Prayers and Blessings from the Big Uneasy,
--(The Rev.) Jerry and Stacy Kramer serve at Church of the Annunciation, New Orleans, LA
Heading into the final week of August 2005, the Rev. Louis Adams had a verse from Nehemiah much in mind. In the passage, the prophet described Jerusalem in ruins, its gates burned by invaders. Then he declared, “Come, let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.” Mr. Adams and his congregants in the Holy Ground Baptist Church here had spent three years and $125,000 buying and rebuilding a dilapidated church in the Lower Ninth Ward. Once their labors were done, they would no longer have to worship as weekend tenants of the Care Bear Daycare Center. They would no longer be sojourners.
The pews, the altar, the baptismal pool were already installed in their new home. The kitchen and the social hall were complete. All that was left was to lay the cedar planks of the floor, then tack down the carpet. On the third Sunday of September, Holy Ground’s members would march into a sanctuary of their own.
Before then, of course, Hurricane Katrina struck and Holy Ground sat deep in floodwater. A house across the street, which had been swept off its foundation, had smashed into one corner of the church.
And so began a story of destruction and dispossession, of natural disaster and human failure, that has yet to end, even as the third anniversary of the disaster approaches.
Read it all.
Watch the whole very encouraging story.
“IN an instant all will vanish and we’ll be alone once more, in the midst of nothingness.”
When the actor Wendell Pierce spoke these words in performances of “Waiting for Godot” here last month, he really was in the middle of nothingness, or what looked a lot like it.
The performances, by the Classical Theater of Harlem, took place outdoors in parts of the city particularly hard hit by Hurricane Katrina and slow to recover. In the Gentilly section, a gutted, storm-ruined house was used as a set. In the Lower Ninth Ward, where one of the largest black neighborhoods in a mostly black city was all but erased by roof-high water surging through a levee, the intersection of two once-busy streets was the stage.
The streets are empty now, lined with bare lots. A few trees and houses stand far off. Reclamation work by returning homeowners and volunteers is under way. But some residents live in cramped trailers supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, here widely despised for its inefficiency. Under the circumstances, Beckett’s words sounded less like an existentialist cri de coeur than like a terse topographic description.
Read it all
When Paul Chan visited New Orleans for the first time in 2006, the gutted houses, abandoned streets and bare trees reminded him of Samuel Beckett's legendary play Waiting for Godot.
"The sense of waiting is legion here," Chan said. "People are waiting to come home. Waiting for the levee board to OK them to rebuild. Waiting for Road Home money. Waiting for honest construction crews that won't rip them off. Waiting for phone and electric companies."
The artist and activist says the desolation in New Orleans inspired him to "create art in places where we ought not have any." This weekend, Chan's vision comes to fruition in the Lower Ninth Ward, where the New York public arts group Creative Time and the Classical Theater of Harlem are staging free, outdoor performances of Waiting for Godot. They will continue next weekend in the city's Gentilly neighborhood, in front of a flooded home.
Listen to it all from NPR.
Two months after the Rev. Lance Eden arrived as pastor of First Street United Methodist Church, Hurricane Katrina struck.
Mr. Eden, newly ordained, quickly picked up skills few in the pulpit typically need. He learned how to restore a church whose roof had been peeled off and whose bell tower had been knocked askew. He played host to hundreds of volunteers who came to gut and rebuild. And most recently — and reluctantly — he took on the role of developer.
“I’d rather be doing something else,” Mr. Eden said. “But when you hear stories like the Good Samaritan or about how Jesus walks into the temple and overturns the tables of the money-changers, it charges us as a church to make sure justice is done for all people.”
First Street’s community development corporation owns 28 properties in Central City, a neighborhood of candy-colored bungalows, and Mr. Eden said he would like to acquire 20 more for moderate- to low-income housing.
New Orleans’s patchy recovery has largely bypassed places where the working class and the poor lived, like Central City and the Lower Ninth Ward. Many former residents lack the means to return. Instead, churches and groups with religious affiliations, citing Scripture’s call to help the stranger and the neighbor, have taken on building affordable housing.
Read it all.
When all the bishops
Have rebuilt New Orleans
Painted, dry-walled, hammered nails
I wonder whether they will gather
And immediately see
They are as broken as New Orleans
We are as broken
As New Orleans
Even with the money poured in
And poured out
I wonder whether plaster dust
Will make a difference
In the complexion
Of the gathering
Or will they all be showered
And mostly shaved
Present themselves whole and healthy
Proud of what they accomplished
(the ones who stayed)
Proud of what they accomplished
(the ones who left)
Proud and whole
And never broken
September 21, 2007
Archbishop of Canterbury holds closed door meetings, visits 9th ward
By Bruce Nolan
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams spent seven and a half hours behind closed doors today talking with 150 Episcopal bishops and delegates from overseas Anglican churches about rising tensions over homosexuality that threaten to rupture the Anglican Communion.
He emerged from the Hotel InterContinental to be driven to the Lower Ninth Ward to see Episcopal hurricane relief efforts there, including a new church that will occupy a now-ruined drugstore a few steps from the home of New Orleans musician Fats Domino.
Williams blessed the grafitti-covered building and posed for pictures with curious bystanders. Diana Meyers, a worker with St. Anna's medical mission, gave Williams a rough, foot-tall wooden cross she said was made of the debris of wrecked shrimp and oyster boats.
Full story here.
During last week's bonfire of Katrina navel-gazing, there was virtually no mention of the hyperventilating and inaccurate media reports, even though this newspaper and the Times-Picayune (among others) received accolades for debunking the hysteria less than a month after the hurricane. Yet last week's saturation coverage contained little or no mention of the media's malpractice. It's as if it never happened.
Why? I think the answer is complex, but three factors are surely involved. One, the media are often good watchdogs of government but rarely of themselves. While recycling old complaints about government is permissible, dwelling on your colleagues' failures -- or your own -- just isn't done.
Two, the media have convinced themselves that they did a wonderful job covering Katrina. Dan Rather spoke for his colleagues when he said "everybody across the board did such a good job." It was one of the "quintessential great moments in television news . . . right there with the Nixon-Kennedy debates, the Kennedy assassination, Watergate coverage, you name it."
And, lastly, journalists are invested in the dominant narratives of Katrina, and they'll be damned if they'll let go, particularly if it comes at the expense of their own credibility, or make Bush's mistakes seem a little less horrendous.
No, it would be better, and much easier, to print the legend.
Read it all.
Clergymen struggling to comfort the afflicted in New Orleans are finding they, too, need someone to listen to their troubles.
The sight of misery all around them -- and the combined burden of helping others put their lives back together while repairing their own homes and places of worship -- are taking a spiritual and psychological toll on the city's ministers, priests and rabbis, many of whom are in counseling two years after Hurricane Katrina.
Almost every local Episcopal minister is in counseling, including Bishop Charles Jenkins himself, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Jenkins, whose home in suburban Slidell was so badly damaged by Katrina that it was 10 months before he and his wife could move back in, said he has suffered from depression, faulty short-term memory, and difficulty concentrating or sleeping.
Low-flying helicopters sometimes cause flashbacks to the near-despair -- the "dark night of the soul" -- into which he was once plunged, he said. He said the experience felt "like the absence of God" -- a lonely and frightening sensation.
Read it all.
Father Bill Terry of St. Anna's Episcopal Church in New Orleans wants everyone to know what's happening in New Orleans: too many murders with too few people held accountable.
He keeps track of the slayings on what he calls the "murder board," a plastic board that hangs outside his church. He started listing murder victims earlier this year to humanize the headlines.
At first, the names were neatly typed by a printer. But as the killings continued at a rampant pace, he says, he resorted to adding victims' names by hand with permanent marker.
"Numbers are very easy to deal with emotionally. When it becomes a human being, then we start to personalize and it's harder to deal with. I want people to squirm. I want people to feel uncomfortable about the murders going on in the city," Father Bill told CNN.
Read it all.
I've taken fierce pride in being a local. When I travel I'm a junky for talk about the city. Someone will ask "So, how is it down there?" I launch into a litany. There are busted traffic lights, leaky sewer lines, mountains of debris, the skyrocketing murder rate, miles of desolation, and the levees still aren't fixed. But you should come, I say. It's like a battered beauty queen. Hard to look at, and messed up even more on the inside, but still so regal and charming. This is where the listener I've taken hostage turns away slowly to engage someone less insane.
They don't understand that I'm in love. I talk to friends about New Orleans like a dysfunctional romance. I gush over it one day, then call up bawling and heartbroken the next. Why can't it change? Stop being self-destructive and violent? It has so much potential.
Recently, my blinders started to come off. It was building for awhile. My friend Helen Hill was murdered in her home;other friends have been mugged. We don't go out much any more...
But then there was this hot Friday night last month. I went on the perfect date with New Orleans . Saw live, local music, danced with friends on the stage, then headed home through my neighborhood of craftsman cottages and angel trumpet trees.
A block from my door, I was attacked from behind by a stranger. I escaped, with the help of my roommate. The case is moving forward, so I can't say much more than that.
Now I'm a jilted lover of the city. I'm angry and confused. Which is the real New Orleans? The one that's violent and desperate? Or the one that coos softly, and caresses me? The answer, of course, is both.
Read it all.
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