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Still processing….

I can’t really say much yet regarding the Annual Meeting. We allowed folks time to speak about their desires, about the pain of losing their church, about the holy ground that we may or may not return to. It was important and moving and good.
But a couple of things happened in that time that I need to reflect on internally. They were quite painful to me, personally. I cannot go into details in this forum. It was a sleepless night….

Progress??..

Are we making progress? How do we progress? Two good and different questions…
Lately the signs have been mixed. Some folk do seem to be getting there. Little signs of hope, of change. Some of the debris piles are beginning to disappear (although not along the beach). New construction is still a long way off as local officials struggle with elevation requirements and building codes. One of my folks was told that it may be as long as 24 months before sewer service is available to his slab….how can you think about rebuilding without water and sewer? So two steps forward and 1 or 2 or 5 back….
Two Saturdays ago the people of St. Patrick’s gathered corporately on our beach property for the 1st time since the storm (we don’t say Katrina any more – it’s just “THE STORM”). We worked hard cleaning the lot, then had a box lunch. We then made our way to our outdoor chapel, most of it was ok, in the park behind our church that we had donated to the city 4 years ago. We had Eucharist and my deacon and I laid hands and annointed the people with healing prayer and oil. Our seminarian, former youth minister, played and sang for us (he is quite the musician / singer). It was a very cathartic time, lots of tears were shed.
This coming Saturday we will have our Annual Meeting. We will elect 4 to vestry, then we will move into a “town hall” type meeting. During that time parishioners are invited to share their thinking, their hopes and dreams, their comments, on where to rebuild our church – return to the beach or not. We are also receiving written comments.
In letters sent out by me this week, I have stressed to everyone that the container for our deliberations must be the mission of our church – why are we here, who are we called to be. That must determine where we go, along with the practical and emotional pieces.
I appreciate your prayers as we go through this important and difficult process.

Weathering the Storms

Jan. 4 – 7 the National Episcopal church hosted a conference in Orlando called Weathering the Storms (WTS). Sponsored by the Church Pension Fund and put on by CREDO, they gathered clergy from the impact areas of Katrina, Rita and other storms. Families were TOTALLY included, as well as diocesan support staffs (and 3 bishops).
This is perhaps the best event / conference I have ever attended. The 5 Knight’s went down a day early (being the BAD BAD parents we are, having NEVER taken our children to Evil Land…er….I mean Disney) to have some fun. And BOY did we.
The first day we made it to the hotel and our room was ready EARLY! We were staying at the Marriot World Center, and amazing place. We headed to the pool (they have 7) and ended up at a pool and hot tub that was unoccupied by any non-Knights! For several hours we played, laughed, swam, soaked, played water volleyball together, just me, the LW, the 20 yr old LD, the 18 yr old LD and the 12 yr old LS. I cannot remember a time when the 5 of us have laughed and relaxed so well together. It was SUCH A BLESSING!! And our older children did not have to worry about being embarrassed hanging with the parents, cuz no one else was around. SWEET!
The next day we went to Disney MGM. It was OK. Long lines, expensive, only couple of rides worth doing – I truly do not get the whole Disney thing!
The conference started that evening. We were reunited with some dear friends from seminary who are now in Baton Rouge doing great work, and our former seminary Dean and his LW, he is now Director of Mission for the Ep. Church and did a great presentation. They are also good friends of ours and we really loved being with them again.
One of the best gifts of the conference was the freedom to do whatever we wanted – attend sessions, or blow them off! I did some of both. Played a round of golf. Got a goooooood massage. LW got a facial. They had planned activities for all the different age groups of kids (there were almsot 60 there under 18). The sessions I attended were SUPERB. The off time was awesome. The food tremendous.
We learned a lot about rest, about respite, about compassion fatigue, about taking care of ourselves. We networked and shared stories and made connections. We laughed and drank and laughed, gathering in the hot tub for “adult swim” time each evening. So fun.
I snuck out on Friday and took my 12 yr old LS to Epcot (man, I will NEVER go there again, but he liked it ok). Then on Sat after lunch, when the conference had ended, 16 of us went to Universal Studios and had a BLAST. It was quite cold, so the crowds were not too bad. I much prefer it to Disney. We would have done the Islands of Adventure but most of it is water rides and it was far to cold for that.
It was a great, great trip. I will have more to say about “re-entry” soon, but for now, thank you Lord for WTS!

Some links of interest

The Coast newspaper, the Sun Herald, has done an amazing job since Katrina (and the same can be said for our local TV station – WLOX). Like so many other businesses on the Coast, they have run with a skeleton staff, all of which were suffering from great loss. For weeks and weeeks after the storm they distributed the paper free all over the coast. The information was so needed and timely and was often the only way we knew about things going on, aid that was coming, drinking water safety (HEY – I CAN DRINK MY WATER NOW….WOOHOO), etc.
There are two links I want you to look at if you have time. The first is a series of before and after images. Once you get to the link, scroll down to select various scenes. I know most of you are not familiar with these properties, but you can still get a feel for the destruction. You need to realize as you look at a picture, that the same destruction extends the length of our Coast, especially from Waveland (near New Orleans) to Biloxi. It’s the same view over and over again. Click HERE .

The other is an editorial that echoes some of my own thoughts. As I have traveled around preaching and talking about our situation, I am constantly being told by folks “we had no idea how bad it was in Mississippi”. The focus on New Orleans really has taken attention away from us, the editorial speaks of a true thing, for I have run across this time and again. In addition, there are some stats at the bottom that help folks understand how bad it truly is. I use these wherever I go as well. Click HERE .

I am so appreciative of all the support and prayers from all over the country. It is overwhelming. The body of Christ continues to be present in powerful ways for us. This will be a strange Christmas for sure. We will gather at the local Lutheran church on Christmas Eve. We will celebrate the Greatest Christmas Ever. Pray for my folks, they are in a slump as the holidays overpower us. During this sermon , (ignore the wrongly named file, it IS from Year B) I absolved them from feeling guilty about not producing a “normal” Christmas, I hope they were able to receive that.
Blessings to all….Merry Christmas.

Waiting and watching…

So easy to preach Advent this year. We are all forced to be living testimonies to waiting and watching….on many days it’s all we do.
I was very proud of our local gov. folks giving it to Congress in hearings this week. Much of the recovery work has slowed or has not even started because we cannot get funding. The GREAT FEAR of being forgotten looms over us, and the reaction of congress-people from other areas is disheartening. I wish they would all come for a visit, see it for yourselves, work in the relief center, talk to the folks still coming for the basics of life. Spend the night in a FEMA travel trailer with 6 family members, if they dare, or better yet on a tent on a slab because you STILL WAIT for the trailer long promised, which they can’t deliver, by the way, because the debris they promised to move off your lot 4 weeks ago still sits.
The job is TOO massive folks. It will take more time and more resources and more people and more money than ANYTHING WE’VE EVER HAD TO DO BEFORE. You can’t judge by past storms, you can’t judge by the 4 that hit Florida last year, one Katrina has done more than all those combined and then some.
So we wait….and watch…..and wonder if anything we are doing is the right thing….

Sermons here