Two years after Katrina, several churches in the Diocese of Mississippi still struggle to rebuild:
Driving along what is left of the beachfront boulevard in Bay St. Louis, one sees a lot of green. Nature has reinvented itself; flora and fauna are prolific along the Mississippi coastline. A few people dot the beaches in between ruined piers. Houses, however, are missing. Miles of vacant lots dotted with concrete pipe sections and new septic tanks bear silent witness to the ever-present loss.
Heading east from New Orleans, across the water’s edge to Mobile, the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi has coped with its own losses and has struggled to mitigate the spiritual, emotional and physical deficits of the coast area clergy and residents pummeled by Katrina.
“Residents are still numb from the catastrophic forces which turned their world upside down on August 29, 2005,” said the Rev. Canon David Johnson, Canon to the Ordinary in Mississippi. “The work to recover will be at least a decade in being accomplished. For many, the magnitude and long-term impact is just now setting in.”
Many coast area clergy sustained major or total damage to their homes. Six of 11 coast churches on their beachfront properties were destroyed by the storm. Trinity Church, Pass Christian; St. Mark’s and St. Peter’s, Gulfport, have made long term plans and are building or rebuilding. Church of the Redeemer, Biloxi; Christ Church, Bay St. Louis; and St. Patrick’s, Long Beach — among the hardest hit congregations — are continuing with their planning processes.
St. Thomas’, Diamondhead; St. John’s, Ocean Springs; St. John’s, Pascagoula; St. Pierre’s, Gautier; and St. Paul’s, Picayune, have all participated in recovery and rebuilding projects of their own, having sustained comparably minor damage to their own structures.
While these congregations have been assisted by several aid programs, these programs are coming to a close and the conngregations face real difficulty in continuing rebuilding efforts:
However, with many aid programs’ funding expiring at year’s end, several affected congregations are faced with significant shortfalls in operating and rebuilding funds for 2008. The coming year will undoubtedly write the most challenging chapter of recovery yet.
“Through the generous support from Episcopalians from every diocese, we were able to continue to provide compensation and medical insurance for the clergy in the coast convocation in 2007,” said Kathryn McCormick, Canon for Administration and Finance in Mississippi. “Through action of the Board of Trustees of the Church Pension Group, the pensions of the coast clergy were waived through 2007. A financial assessment is being conducted to see what 2008 and beyond will look like; yet, we already know that the financial demands are tremendous.”
Funds are needed to support the clergy, which have not been covered by any other granting institution, and to fill in gaps left by rebuilding for the coast area churches.
Read it all here.