Pastor ?goes with flow’ as he helps church, conference recover
March 22, 2006
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Rev. Darryl Tate unfurls a banner telling prospective worshippers that
Peoples United Methodist Church in New Orleans is closed.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
NEW ORLEANS (UMNS) — His prayer is the same every day: “Lord show
me my flexibility.”
The Rev. Darryl Tate, director of the United Methodist
Conference Storm Recovery Center, is good at “going with the flow” and “keeping
his cool” since Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast in August
and the 17th Street Canal broke in New Orleans flooding his Lakeview church
St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, where
Tate was senior pastor before the storm, is back open and holding services.
a floor-to-ceiling stained-glass wall, is clean but empty. Services are held
in a small room next door.
The 90-plus congregation sit in metal folding chairs instead of on purple
pew cushions, but life is returning to the church. Roses are blooming in the
“They are hoping to have the nursery open by late summer or September,” Tate
says. “A family camp is set for the last weekend of March.”
An enthusiastic electrician pokes his head in
the back door. “We are
going to have you back to full power,” he announces. “Tell the
church the electricians are working for you! We are even putting up some Sheetrock.”
Tate smiles, shakes his hand and says, “Thank
Continuing his tour through the wall-less bottom
floor of the church, Tate says help has poured into the church from across
country. Queen Anne United
Methodist Church in Seattle has pledged to raise $20,000 as part of its 100th
anniversary this year for St. Luke’s. Trinity-Gentilly, a nearby United
Methodist church, donated school supplies for the church school when it reopens.
Wistfully, Tate opens the door to his old office. “It is the prettiest
office in the state of Louisiana,” he says.
“It was like living in a tree house,” he
says, pointing to huge oak trees outside the windows whose branches cradle
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
months after the hurricane, the Rev. Darryl Tate checks out the newly
cleaned sanctuary of St. Luke's United Methodist Church.
Tate will not be returning as pastor at St. Luke’s but will continue
in his role as the conference’s storm recovery director.
“In my 28 years of ministry, I have never
had a ministry this rewarding,” he
says. “I am really touching the lives of humans. You know, so often
we just play church in the church, but I am really in ministry.”
Plan for rebuilding
Bishop William W. Hutchinson, who leads the Louisiana
Conference, has announced a mission-based plan for rebuilding New Orleans’ United Methodist churches
affected by Hurricane Katrina. The plan — which does not call for any
church closings at this point — is based on a system of seven groups
of Mission Zone Cooperative Parishes.
Thirty-eight New Orleans-area churches have been identified for the seven
Mission Zones. Each zone will be directed by a clergy team, headed by a designated
team leader. The team will develop creative ways to bring church ministry to
the areas served by the churches in the group.
Lake Vista, St. Luke’s, Brooks and Trinity-Gentilly
will form Group Seven in the new plan.
“It really puts the power back in the hands of the people,” Tate
Six storm relief/recovery stations have been set up in the state: Eastbank,
Westbank, Uptown, Slidell, Lake Charles and Abbeville. An executive case manager
will be based in New Orleans, and each station has a director, assistant director,
volunteer coordinator and case managers.
“Slidell is well into rebuilding, New Orleans is still gutting and mucking,
Abbeville and Lake Charles are close to rebuilding,” Tate says.
By the end of March, 1 million volunteer hours
representing the work of thousands of people will have been clocked by the
bringing in $20.4 million
in in-kind services, Tate notes. “The general church has been great.”
Personal journey continues
Walking through the remains of his once “pretty little house,” Tate
is grateful for the kindness shown to him and his family as they recover from
the storm that took most of their possessions.
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Rev. Darryl Tate walks through his former parsonage for the first time
since its interior was stripped to the wall studs by volunteers.
“All the crystal and china was saved, and all my chalices were recovered,” he
says. “We found most of my daughter’s quarter collection.”
Bishop Violet Fisher, New York West Area, brought
a team of 21 to New Orleans and cleaned out Tate’s home and the home
of the Rev. Freddie Henderson, New Orleans District superintendent.
“She called later and said, ‘We took care of your stuff, brother.’” Fisher
says she found credit cards in the street and clothes in the closet with the
price tags still attached. “His personal stuff was just scattered everywhere,” she
Broadmoor United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge has donated its parsonage
to Tate and his family. The parsonage Tate lived in was destroyed. He received
a check for $305.05 to cover the contents of his refrigerator and nothing else.
“We have been in six houses in the past six months,” he says. “We
will move into our new home March 31.”
Tate is concerned about the next hurricane season,
which starts in June. He is putting into place a plan whereby every pastor
have contact with another
pastor in the state, in case a storm knocks out communication as in 2005. “I
want every pastor in the south to have a contact in the north,” he says.
On the way out of his old house, Tate notices
a string of Mardi Gras beads draped over a yard sign printed by the conference
Methodists of Louisiana Care About You.”
Getting back in his car, he says, “Those came from our house.” He
shakes his head and smiles, demonstrating God’s answer to his daily prayer:
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville,
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or