It’s been a very interesting few days. It’s Seabury Reunion time at Camp Coast Care. One classmate arrived last Friday and two others came on Monday, a fourth arrives tomorrow. They are all WORKING VERY HARD! I am so proud of them, and so very grateful that they are here. It is interesting, also, to preach in front of them, but mostly it’s FUN.
They are so helpful to me. I tell people all the time that I don’t have a &^%$* clue what I am doing. Bouncing things off of good friends whose advice I covet and appreciate is helping me with some struggles. Plus, I can let off steam around them and be comforted.
Today I drove two of them around the beach area, with a parishioner of one. I have made that journey countless times since Aug 29, but it is still hard. I am a little numb to the damage, and today I could even see some signs of advanced debris cleanup, but the task is SO huge. Couple that with the unexpected cold snap, and folks around here are deeply struggling. And I confess – I am whipped. I am tired and confused and drained and questioning. The hugs from friends are much needed these days.
As to “media star”, my very unflattering picture is on the cover of both the Arizona Episcopalian and the Virginia Episcopalian – and today I was interviewed by the local newspaper. I am SURE I will be misquoted (that’s my excuse and I am sticking to it). Anyway, it is very, very WEIRD to be in those papers, and I have received calls already from people and churches in both dioceses wanting to help. So THANKS to my unknown Arizona and Virginia friends!
I think I’ve mentioned before how different preaching is these days. Not just from the post-hurricane standpoint, but also because we often have 40 or more guests – volunteers serving at our relief center. They live in the gym where we hold services. They bring energy and enthusiasm to the service, they laugh at my old jokes, and they cry – a LOT.
We are blessed to have them and they influence what I say each week.
Last Sunday’s All Saint’s sermon included the volunteers in a big way. I will post a link when it gets online (yes, I am audio recording sermons again).
Jane Ellen asked me to post the new congregational prayer. It is glommed from various sources, some to do with new church plants, some with new buildings, etc. We will use it for church services and vestry meetings. I have asked my vestry to keep it in their cars and pray it as they investigate various real estate properties around town as potential church sites. It is posted below.
Meanwhile, please keep praying and coming. The work is so long and hard and overwhelming. I was back at church site today. It is still so hard to go there. The debris and the smell and the absolute RIDICULOUSNESS of how much is destroyed is beyond the senses.
FEMA reported today that Katrina had the highest ever recorded storm surge – over 35 feet in Pass Christian, which is where I live and 5 miles from my church. We never had a chance. The surge was more than 10 feet higher than Camille, the previous monster storm. All the more reason to pray:
O Lord God of Israel, the heavens cannot contain you, yet
you are pleased to dwell in the midst of your people, and
have moved us to set apart a space on which to rebuild a house
of prayer: Send us your Spirit, that we may learn what you would have us do and the words and
witness you would have us offer, Guide us as we continue your work;
show us the field in which to plant that your Kingdom may come and your power be revealed in this community; to the glory of your Name. Amen.
Lots of activity on the church rebuild front this week….
The folks who run the Industrial Park very near where we currently meet at the school, have graciously allotted us over 2 acres to use for a temporary location! This is most exciting. We will move the office trailer over there next week, and should be able to occupy it by the end of the week. Next up – finding temporary worship space to put on the same property.
Meanwhile we are awaiting word from gov. officials regarding feasibility of rebuilding on the beach site, and we are also checking out property north of the beach should we so choose. I put together a prayer, glommed from several sources, for our folks to use during this time of discernment over where we should build.
The relief center and medical clinic are actually busier now than ever. Probably because many other such sites have closed recently.
CNN and Time want to interview my LW, who has made this miracle happen at the medical clinic. It is amazing what has gone on and the numbers of people served.
Saints fill our relief center everyday. They come from all over and each is changed by their being here. The gospel gets preached powerfully 24 X 7. I am privileged to get to watch and listen.
More seminary friends are coming soon – YEA! And our new friend, Jen H. left Thursday (booo!). She was the perfect saint – working in the clinic during the day and doing stuff for us around the house at night, laundry, cleaning, etc. What a blessing she is to us! COME BACK SOON!
CNN has been running more stuff on the Miss. recovery, including a video diary by a senior at Long Beach High School (Long Beach is where my church was / is). If you missed it, some of the video is on cnn.com. It will make you cry.
See ya, Saints…
I know it’s been a little while since posting. The days and weeks all run together.
Since I last wrote, the LW and I had a wonderful trip to California. There I officiated her brother’s wedding in Napa Valley, preached at one church, did a Q&A at another, and met with two others. We were able to raise awareness and money for ST. Patrick’s and the Gulf Coast. Plus, at the end of all the “work”, LW and I had two very nice days in Oakland and in the Valley.
And, the truth is, it was VERY hard to come back home.
Meanwhile we plug along. My vestry has begun pushing for us to make some decisions on where to build and when. We have begun evaluating land, talking to officials about the feasibility of the former site, and looking at temporary office and worship space. Some good news on that over the weekend that I hope to report soon. I have underestimated the importance to my people-in-exile of having a church home, where we are not the visitors every Sunday morning. So I am now clear on that, and we will resolve that soon, I hope. Many of our adopting / partnering churches are ready to help make that happen as well.
In addition to all of your prayers for our church and people, please pray for my parents. My father is facing some difficult health problems, and over the weekend that became even more apparent. We see some docs tomorrow. My mother is a wonderful care giver, but this will be an enormous challenge.
Speaking of prayer, that is my sermon for today. I will talk about praying – and my own struggle with prayer post-Katrina. I am reminded of John Drebilbis (beloved Seabury prof) who often asked me “how is your soul”?
I do pray. But I struggle to PRAY….I don’t know if that makes sense or not. But I am committed to following Jesus’ example of praying through all things, of carving out that special time of communing with God, of being led by the Light and the Truth that is Jesus Christ, led to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy. How then can my soul be cast down, disquieted?
That’s the sermon. I wing them mostly these days, although I am again recording them and posting to our web site. The idea is above, what will come out I am not sure of. I am sure of this – we must pray.
We have officially entered the “despair zone”, and of great concern to me is how the focus of our nation seems to have moved on. Not to say that the recent disasters in Pakistan and Mexico shouldn’t take up much needed attention and appeals for help. But debates over woefully inexperienced Court appointees, and etc. now occupy much of the media’s attention. I wonder if those outside our region have a clue of the desperate situation we are in.
While some areas of the Coast are up and running, with a few businesses getting online, we still are in a stage of mass destruction cleanup and the need for the basics of life. Our relief center continues to see 100s a day, and we are very short on food and other supplies. We send appeals out now (we didn’t have to for a long time), as folks need the free food so they can spend what litle money they have on other things. Many are jobless, with not much hope on that front in the short term.
I know this is not the most popular of blogs in the internet world, but I did seem to have a lot more visitors leaving comments in the early days of Katrina recovery. I don’t see that any more. And as I puruse the blogs that I read most often, rarely is the storm mentioned any more. Being forgotten worries me more than the threat of more storms. This will be a long, long haul folks. Keep us in your prayers. Keep coming to help. Keep helping us think of how to put it back together again.
I will be in California this weekend. It was a pre-storm scheduled trip to do a family wedding, but now while there I am visiting several churches in the Bay Area to talk about Katrina and to raise money for the recovery efforts. Plus, the LW and I get a chance to escape the madness for a few days, and for our sanity we must do so from time to time. Problem is, we have to come back. Just typing that depresses me. This is the challenge of a life time. Don’t forget us.