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Katrina one year later: remembering, rebuilding

By Kathy L. Gilbert
August 25, 2006

For many along the U.S. Gulf Coast, the countdown to the new year will start Aug. 29 - not Jan. 1.

Hurricane Katrina hit Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana Aug. 29, 2005, followed less than a month later, on Sept. 24, by Hurricane Rita, which struck Texas and Louisiana.

As the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, United Methodist churches everywhere will pause to remember lives lost and give praise for lives saved. Special services will be held, and congregations will collect an offering Aug. 27 for the Council of Bishops' Katrina Church Recovery Appeal.

United Methodist News Service will carry a series of stories running from Aug. 25 to Sept. 1 profiling the work volunteers have done in the past year to restore order to the chaos left behind by the storms. The series will feature an interactive coastal map pinpointing churches damaged and destroyed as well as churches rebuilt and restored.

United Methodist volunteers have put thousands of hours into the recovery effort and donated $7.6 million in relief supplies. The United Methodist Committee on Relief raised more than $66 million and was recognized by Newsweek magazine as one of the "big names in Katrina relief."

In New Orleans, Katrina damaged 90 churches and displaced 80 pastors. In Mississippi the entire coastline from Pearlington to Pecan was flattened and more than 300 churches suffered some damage - seven of them destroyed. In neighboring Alabama, one church was destroyed and another dozen suffered damage.

Hurricane Rita damaged church property in Beaumont, Port Arthur, Orange and Bridge City in Texas and in Lake Charles and Cameron Parish in Louisiana.

Remembering

A variety of services and vigils at United Methodist churches will mark the anniversary of Katrina.

The Seashore District of Mississippi will host an Aug. 26 Hurricane Katrina Remembrance Service at Seashore Assembly in Biloxi.

The 10 a.m. service will remember the lives lost in the storm and lift up in prayer the pastors and others who have been on the front line of relief and recovery. Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, the episcopal leader of the Mississippi Area, will speak. In the event of rain, the service will be held at First United Methodist Church, Biloxi.

The doors of United Methodist churches in the New Orleans area will be open for prayer vigils 7-8 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 27, and Monday, Aug. 28. Vigils will be held at Munholland, First Street, Bethany, Aurora and Aldersgate United Methodist Churches on Sunday.

Additional vigils will be at St. Matthew's, Rayne, Covenant, Gretna and Hartzell Mt. Zion United Methodist Churches on Monday night. An interfaith service will also be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29, at St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square in New Orleans, and a service of "Remembrance, Thanksgiving and Hope" is planned for 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27, at First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, La.

Rebuilding

The Council of Bishops is inviting United Methodist churches to support the Katrina Church Recovery Appeal by receiving a special offering on Aug. 27, the Sunday closest to the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

United Methodist Communications has developed Katrina Church Recovery Appeal worship resources, including an order of worship, children's sermon, and bulletin insert. More information is available at http://umc.org/churchrecovery. Katrina Church Recovery Appeal DVDs are also available from district offices in the U.S. annual conferences.

Proceeds from the sale of wristbands inscribed with the words "rebuilding churches and communities" will also benefit the Katrina Church Recovery Appeal. Bracelets are $2 each, with free shipping of orders of 50 or more. Order by calling (888) 346-3862 or going online to the appeal Web site.

Writing in the Mississippi United Methodist Advocate, Bishop Ward gave thanks "for every prayer, every gift, every effort" United Methodists have given to help the Gulf Coast recover.

"You have continued in generosity during the past 12 months. How thankful I am for the light that shines through you," she said. "On Aug. 27, may we once again be amazed by the overwhelming generosity of the connection of United Methodist people."

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.