News Archives

Computers will help congregations stay in touch

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Woody Woodrick

Sean McAtee (left) and Jeff Byrd (center), of United Methodist Communications, and the Rev. Patrick Phillips of Jackson (Miss.) Central United Methodist Church unload donated computers.
April 6, 2006

By United Methodist News Service*

United Methodist churches in Louisiana and Mississippi devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita got a much needed delivery recently ? computers.

The donated computers ? 115 desktops and 20 laptops ? are the result of a joint effort by United Methodist Communications and the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits.

The pension board was in the process of replacing the computers in the fall of 2005 when the idea of giving the computers to pastors and congregations was conceived by Sean McAtee, tech shop director for United Methodist Communications, and Linda Haas, a senior analyst at the Board of Pension. The computers were three to four years old.

“These computers are important for ministry,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive at United Methodist Communications. “Many displaced members of local congregations remain in contact with friends and relatives by e-mail. Pastors need the capability to be connected in order to stay in touch with their parishioners. In addition, they will be able to use the computers for sermon preparation, writing and other more routine work that has become commonplace in our digitized society.”

In a statement about the donation of computers, Barbara A. Boigegrain, top executive at the Board of Pension and Health Benefits, said, “It is important to find meaningful ways to continue to assist those affected by the storms and especially to help rebuild churches, which help people to rebuild lives.”

From November to February, the computers were wiped clean, reloaded with software and tested to make sure they worked properly. The value of the gift escalated with United Methodist Communication’s provision of Microsoft Office software licensing and the cost of transporting the machines..

“They (the board of pension) even went so far as to carefully box each unit in its original Dell container so that all I had to do was pick them up for delivery to the Gulf Coast,” said McAtee.

On March 28, McAtee and Jeff Byrd, maintenance supervisor for United Methodist Communications, began moving the computers from the Board of Pension in Evanston, Ill.

“We were able to pick up all the units at one time. Seven of the office employees stopped what they were doing at their desks and joined Jeff and me in loading up the truck,” McAtee said.

The pair left Evanston in breezy, 40-degree weather to arrive 12 hours later in Jackson, Miss., to balmy 80-plus temperatures. “We definitely needed a wardrobe change,” said McAtee. With Byrd behind the wheel of the truck, the two made “great time” as they traveled south. “God truly blessed our trip,” Byrd said.

They stopped first at Central United Methodist Church in Jackson, Miss. The 23 computers left there will be distributed to churches in the Seashore District.

The bulk of the computers were off-loaded at the Louisiana United Methodist Storm Recovery Center in Baton Rouge. McAtee and Byrd were greeted by Louisiana Bishop William W. Hutchinson, the Rev. Darryl Tate, storm center director, and Fred Loy, a former member of the General Commission on Communication, the governing body of United Methodist Communications.

“We are appreciative for the generous gift of computers from the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, along with United Methodist Communication’s contributions,” Hutchinson said. “So many churches and pastors lost all their office equipment, and this will go a long way in helping to replace badly needed computers.”

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Betty Backstrom

The Rev. LeKisha Reed (center) of Boynton United Methodist Church in New Orleans stands with Sean McAtee (left) and Jeff Byrd, of United Methodist Communications after receiving donated computers.

McAtee and Byrd delivered the last load of computers March 31 to the Rev. LeKisha Reed, pastor of Boynton United Methodist Church in New Orleans. As the men carried the equipment inside the church building, Reed exclaimed, “Thank you so much. This is awesome!”

Reed plans to use the two computers for church administrative purposes and as part of the church’s ongoing tutoring outreach for children in the neighborhood.

“We have an older congregation with a number of retired school teachers and principals, so the tutoring ministry is a ?natural’ for Boynton United Methodist Church,” Reed said. “The kids really need help because so many of them were displaced from their schools for long periods of time after Hurricane Katrina hit.”

“Through my work, I have come to see how important it is to do everything you can with the resources you have to help others in ministry,” said McAtee. “If everybody would look around them, and assess their resources and connections that could be shared, the recovery effort will be that much stronger.”

“We are delighted to work with the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits and the annual conferences of Louisiana and Mississippi to provide these tools for ministry,” Hollon said.

Boigegrain said, “I am glad and proud of our employees and their ongoing efforts to make positive investments in people’s lives: our participants, our churches and, particularly, those in need.”

*This story was written by Betty Backstrom, editor of Louisiana Now!, the newspaper of the United Methodist Church’s Louisiana Annual Conference, and Woody Woodrick, editor of the Mississippi Advocate, the newspaper of the United Methodist Church’s Mississippi Annual Conference.

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

Related Articles
Students spend spring break helping hurricane survivors
Hurricane Headlines
Hurricane Relief Resources
United Methodist Communication’s Techshop
General Board of Pension and Health Benefits
Mississippi Annual Conference Disaster Response Center
Louisiana Storm Recovery Center