December 13, 2005
By: Rev. Alan Coe, Minister for Disaster Recovery South Central Conference
The 2005 Gulf Coast Hurricanes will long be remembered - Katrina, Rita and Wilma - names that historians will recall for us in magazine/newspaper articles and books! The United Church of Christ in order to effect a strong recovery for our church members and to work ecumenically in neighborhoods devastated by these hurricanes, has called through the South Central Conference, The Reverend Alan Coe. This is a ministry that is partially funded by the South Central Conference and the One Great Hour of Sharing special fund, Hope Shall Bloom. Alan has begun his two-year contract to assist with coordination of repairing and rebuilding homes. In these early days, focus will be more on UCC church members homes. The New Orleans Long Term Recovery Committee is just beginning to organize. As the community works to determine its future, repairs and rebuilding will expand to homes of any members of the community with "unmet needs" (under-insured, no insurance, not eligible for FEMA funds). This will be a long journey. Please keep Alan Coe in your prayers. Following is a report from Alan.
An update on things in New Orleans. I have been traveling back and forth between New Orleans and Seguin in this transition phase of moving. Now I am mostly in New Orleans. My wife Maureen will be moving to the area shortly after the first of the year.
If you live outside this area, you don?t hear much about the hurricane recovery efforts any more. I noticed that on my trip back to Seguin for Thanksgiving. But here in the city it doesn't go away. It won't for a long time. It is right in front of your face every day. The recovery process is slow. It is always slower than you would normally expect with a disaster. Given the magnitude of this disaster it will be a long, slow and laborious process.
We have begun to work on the recovery process. Some initial groups have come to the area and done some work. More are scheduled for the month of December. From January on there will be more and more groups coming to work as the recovery efforts the United Church of Christ is undertaking get more organized.
As you drive around parts of the city, you see the water line on houses, you see the houses, but you don't see many people. The hardest hit parts of the city remain without power and services. Residents are allowed in during the day but a curfew remains in those parts of the city. Just this morning I rode around parts of the lower ninth ward and east of there into St. Bernard?s parish. It is heart wrenching to see, even though I have no ties to the area. I cannot imagine what residents of these neighborhoods are feeling. Some streets are blocked off and impassable. No one has been to many of these homes, debris still strewn about the streets and houses. Water does not discriminate. In our journey this morning we went through both middle class and poorer neighborhoods where the water was easily 8-10 feet deep.
At one point I said to my host, Lynn Slagle the New Orleans Association moderator, I don't see a waterline on these cars like I did shortly after the flood in another neighborhood. A few minutes later we saw debris on the rooftops and realized the vehicles were completely underwater.
One house we are gutting this weekend has a waterline about even with the ceiling. It sat in water for about two weeks. Words or even pictures cannot describe the scene. The smell does not go over the Internet. Nor does the three dimensional aspect of the scene transmit well.
While it is a bleak scene, there is hope. A great deal of hope actually. Residents and people like myself are working to bring back a city. People from all over the nation are coming to the area to help. People all over the nation are giving funds, goods and services to the region.
What will the UCC be doing here? Hosting work groups that come to work. Helping our churches rebuild, helping church member families rebuild and helping those in the community recover that need it the most. We will work with other agencies in the rebuilding process, like Church World Service, Catholic Charities, FEMA, Red Cross and Salvation Army, developing and being a part of long term recovery committees.
Churches received varying amounts of damage to their physical facilities. All churches have lost members, those not returning. It will be some time before membership numbers level out. A hope is that new people will come into the area and want to be a part of the United Church of Christ.
Bethel UCC had about 8 feet of water in it but is in an area of that floods on a regular basis so recovered fairly well and is worshiping again. The neighborhood around the church is still pretty devastated.
Beecher UCC had about 6 feet of water in it and is one of the areas of the city that does not have power and people have not come back. They have not held worship at the church yet. Several members have relocated at least temporarily to Baton Rouge and other areas.
Central UCC suffered water and wind damage. Power has been restored to the area but the building is not safe to worship in. Members met for the first time last Sunday at St. Matthew's in the chapel.
St. Matthew's UCC received minor damage and is worshiping again. Groups that used the facility have not returned yet and electricity is spotty in the neighborhood.
Good Shepherd UCC in Metairie had about 3 inches of water but got to work right away gutting out and is on the rebound. This is the first church to host work groups.
St. Paul's UCC received wind damage and then water damage from holes in the roof of its fellowship hall. They are worshiping again.
Little Farms UCC had extensive roof damage from wind and rain. I am using space in the church as an office. The other day it rained and in the limited time I was there two puddles began to form on the floor from dripping through the roof.
First Trinity UCC does not own its building but the building it rents did receive damage in its basement from flooding.
It is easy for us to look the other way as in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Some no doubt will, but others with hearts of compassion will want to help our nation recover from this horrendous hurricane season, here on the gulf coast and in Florida. If you feel compelled to help, if God is tugging at your heartstrings, I urge you to come and be a part of this wonderful opportunity for ministry. As the Shaker saying says, "Hands to work, hearts to God." Recovery takes us all. Blessings!
How you can help
1. Pray for the people who have been affected by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma, and all disasters.
2. To help those affected by the Gulf Coast Hurricanes you may send gifts payable to your congregation marked for "Hope Shall Bloom-UCC Hurricane Recovery Fund" with the request they are sent through your Conference office on to Wider Church Ministries.
3. Send gifts payable to Wider Church Ministries and marked in the memo portion "Hope Shall Bloom-UCC Hurricane Recovery" Fund to Wider Church Ministries; 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115.
4. Make a secure on-line donation now by clicking on the donation button on this page.