Connectional system ‘works’ in recovery, pastors say
Sept. 13, 2005
|A UMNS photo by Larry Hollon
connection in action: The Rev. Jerry Beam, Gulfport (Miss.) District
superintendent, and three volunteers load a truck with relief supplies.
A UMNS Report
By Woody Woodrick*
wires and telephones lines might have been lost in the hours and days
following Hurricane Katrina, but the United Methodist connection was up
Two pastors in Laurel, Miss., which saw hundreds of
trees fall across homes and power lines, say the connectional system of
the United Methodist Church gave them aid and hope when other
“One thing that was so amazing in trying
to find help has been our connectional system,” said the Rev. Roy
Pearson, of West Laurel United Methodist Church.
“The connectional system works,” said the Rev. Don Patterson of First United Methodist Church.
Clergy are all right
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward extended a word of thanks for that connectional
system in a message to the United Methodist Council of Bishops. She
reported that all of the clergy in the storm-struck areas of Mississippi
have been contacted.
“We give thanks that we have now been in
touch with all the clergy of the Mississippi Conference and report that
we know of none who have been injured by the wind and water of Katrina,”
Ward said in a message to the council.
“There has been loss of
life in several of our destroyed churches where members and neighbors
sought refuge from the wind and water,” she said. “We are creating teams
of clergy to surround each impacted pastor with support and care.”
thanked the bishops for the care they have extended to the conference,
which comprises 1,160 congregations. She cited the provision of RVs for
housing displaced clergy. “As these temporary homes continue to arrive,
there is great relief and thanksgiving,” she said.
internally displaced families is a huge challenge, she said. “Thank you
for your offerings of shelter and long-term housing,” she said.
continue to be amazed at the patience and perseverance of the laity and
clergy of the Mississippi Conference,” she said in her message. “These
are times that try us — days without electricity, cell service, land
lines, water — and yet there is (an) overwhelming sense of the enormity
of the disaster and the need for cooperation and helpfulness.”
Help from Florida
In Laurel, Pearson contributed to the connection in the days following
the storm. The hurricane-force winds hit this town, more than 100 miles
north of the Gulf of Mexico, on Aug. 29. Downed trees blocked Pearson
from leaving his neighborhood for two days. Pearson’s parsonage had
moderate damage from a falling tree.
|A UMNS photo by Larry Hollon
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward leads prayer in parking lot of Main Street United Methodist Church in Bay St. Louis, Miss.
When he finally arrived at his church, Pearson found it had electricity and telephone service. Most of Jones County did not.
checking on church members, Pearson began calling area churches and
pastors to check on their condition and needs. Soon, however, he was on
the receiving end of calls from all over the country offering
assistance. As he thankfully accepted offers, Pearson also began leading
his church in aiding those in the community. The church cooked meals
and served as a distribution center for supplies.
The first work
team to arrive came from the United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches
in Florida. Pearson said the church’s pastor, the Rev. David McEntire,
counseled him both personally and about dealing with the disaster.
McEntire’s church in West Palm Beach had been through hurricanes itself.
The Florida team offered help in running the distribution center
and kitchen and with debris cleanup. Patti Aupperlee of West Palm Beach
said she began organizing the trip as soon as she heard how hard the
storm had hit. She e-mailed the Rev. Jeff Pruett, Mississippi Conference
coordinator for the United Methodist Committee on Relief, asking where
she could help. He suggested Laurel.
The team from Florida spent almost a week in Laurel before leaving Sept. 9.
of us thought about it,” Aupperlee said. “If we had, we wouldn’t have
done it. It has been such a blessing to be here. God truly paved the
Assistance also came to West Laurel United Methodist Church from
Hollandale, Miss., in the form of Buck Furr. A member of Hollandale
United Methodist Church, Furr had told his pastor, Sam Dodd, that if
someone needed help, Furr would provide it. While checking on his aunt
in Mobile, Ala., following the storm, Furr got a call asking him to go
to Laurel. He arrived and led a group of men from First Church in
Alabaster, Ala., that cut downed trees.
|A UMNS photo by Larry Hollon
Volunteer Margaret McKenzie prepares food baskets at Trinity United Methodist Church in Gulfport, Miss.
First Church Laurel
followed a similar path. Patterson, the pastor, said his members
delivered meals to those who couldn’t get out (150-200 per day), acted
as a distribution center, housed 50 deputies from other states who had
come to assist in law enforcement, and helped set up a medical clinic
for those dependent on oxygen to breathe.
The clinic and other
efforts have been part of joint efforts with nearby Episcopal and
Presbyterian churches. Patterson also cited churches from across the
nation that have sent aid or plan to send work teams.
Not all of the aid has come from out of state. Patterson said several churches in towns that weren’t hit have provided aid.
said the ordeal has brought out the best in his congregation. “This
congregation has pulled together,” he said. “They’re not just doing the
gospel; they are the gospel to this community. All of the spiritual
gifts have emerged.”
Kim Wheat stepped in to keep the work organized.
church is downtown, so we’re in the middle of every community,” she
said. “This is the first time in the seven years I’ve been part of this
church (that) I’ve seen every part of our community walk through the
For example, Wheat said Hispanic families have come to the
church seeking help. If language becomes a barrier, church workers take
the families into the storage area and let them point at items they
“We can’t wait for Sunday to invite our extended community,”
Wheat continued. “We’re within walking distance of communities we don’t
serve as a church on a regular basis. Now we can do that.”
Donations to support the United Methodist response to the Hurricane Katrina tragedy can be made online at www.methodistrelief.org
and by phone at (800) 554-8583. Checks can be written to UMCOR,
designated for “Hurricanes 2005 Global,” Advance No. 982523, and left in
church offering plates or mailed directly to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New
York, NY 10087-9068.
*Woodrick is editor of the Mississippi Advocate, the newspaper of the United Methodist Church’s Mississippi Annual Conference.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.