Mission zones help New Orleans churches rebuild ministries
Aug. 30, 2006
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
Ruined choir robes still hang at Brooks United Methodist Church in New Orleans nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
NEW ORLEANS (UMNS) — When the water receded after Hurricane Katrina hit
last year, 90 churches in three Louisiana parishes were damaged and 80
pastors were displaced.
The widespread devastation left a lot of holes — physically and
emotionally — for Louisiana Bishop William Hutchinson and the conference
After many sleepless nights and countless prayers, Bishop Hutchinson and
a blue-ribbon advisory committee came up with a plan to get pastors
back in ministry.
At the June session of the Louisiana Annual (regional) Conference, 38
churches were each assigned to one of seven mission zone cooperative
parishes, so each parish has a team of pastors working with as many as
Station churches have also been assigned to each mission zone and
include churches that have a stable ministry but are geographically
connected to the seriously affected areas.
The Rev. Martha Orphe, conference mission zone director, knows challenges lie ahead.
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Rev. Irvin Boudreaux discusses recovery efforts at Brooks United
Methodist Church in New Orleans, nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina.
“Cooperative ministries are not new to United Methodism,” Orphe says,
“but the challenges and opportunities for creating dynamic cooperative
ministries are compounded by specific situations found in the
storm-damaged zone areas.”
The hurricane-damaged zones consist of churches in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, Plaquemines and Cameron parishes.
As a former district superintendent, Orphe worked with cooperative
ministries in Pittsburgh before assuming her present position.
“Louisiana’s mission zone churches have many of the same characteristics
of those in Pittsburgh and other parts of the United States,” she says.
“However, those churches were working together amidst more stable
populations and communities. Louisiana’s churches not only have to
rebuild their ministries but must also help rebuild, repopulate and meet
the needs of the community.”
Initially, 58 churches out of 79 in the Orleans District were damaged or
destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Today, 16 congregations are still
unable to meet in their buildings, and several churches are meeting in
Mission Zone 7
The Revs. Irvin Boudreaux, Deborah B. Williams and Jon M. Lord are stepping out on new pastoral territory in Mission Zone 7.
Boudreaux has been in ministry for several years, most recently as
associate pastor of First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge. Lord
comes to Mission Zone 7 from Johannesburg, South Africa, and as a recent
seminary graduate, this is Williams’ first appointment.
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
Revs. Irvin Boudreaux and Deborah B. Williams are part of a team of
pastors leading congregations in New Orleans' Mission Zone 7.
“I am committed to rebuilding this city and ministering to the people,”
Boudreaux says. He admits to feeling a little nervous about the new
Mission Zone 7 includes congregations from Metairie, St. Luke’s, Brooks
and Trinity-Gentilly, all severely damaged. Metairie and St. Luke’s were
predominantly white congregations, and Brooks and Trinity-Gentilly were
historically African American and are still in the early stages of
being cleaned out. Trinity-Gentilly will become a mission center and a
Trinity-Gentilly had a small congregation before the storm and is an
ideal place to store supplies — a resource that was in short supply
before Katrina, Boudreaux says.
Williams says the first “town hall meeting” with all four congregations was exciting.
“It is exciting to talk about joint Bible studies and missions,” she says.
The pastors agree it is hard for people to give up on churches they have attended since childhood.
“We need to get people to focus on God instead of how soon they will be able to put their church back in order,” Williams says.
Orphe stresses that the churches in New Orleans are going “back to the basics.”
“To be effective, we must engage people, wherever we are.”
*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 email@example.com.