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Darkness into Day
A year after Katrina: Working to restore the church in Mississippi and Louisiana


9/1/2006

  

 
Anne Ditzler
HOME OF CHRIST CHURCH
Inside a Quonset hut, a lightweight prefabricated structure of corrugated steel, is the Rev. Robert Alves of Connecticut, Bishop Duncan Gray III of the Diocese of Mississippi and the Rev. Elizabeth Wheatley, rector of Christ Church, Bay St. Louis.   (Anne Ditzler)
One year after Hurricane Katrina, Episcopal churches along the Gulf Coast are struggling to rebuild. To assist them, a national appeal to support the restoration of the church’s presence in Mississippi and Louisiana is reaching out to individuals, congregations and dioceses to provide badly needed resources.

While Episcopal Relief and Development works to restore devastated communities and Episcopal Migration Ministries helps to relocate families to new communities, Darkness into Day is targeting the church’s infrastructure and rebuilding efforts.

This appeal has set a goal to raise $6.5 million to reconstruct church buildings, ensure compensation for clergy while congregations regain self-sufficiency and support essential ministries of churches and the dioceses.

The appeal is a unique partnership between the foundation, the dioceses of Mississippi and Louisiana and the Episcopal Church, said Rebecca McDonald, Episcopal Church Foundation marketing director. By Aug. 9, Darkness into Day had raised $1.2 million, she said.

St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Greenwich, Conn., was one of the first congregations to participate in the appeal, McDonald said. The Rev. Robert Alves, rector, invited Bishop Duncan Gray III of Mississippi to visit last winter to talk about the far-reaching impact of Katrina on his diocese.

Parishioners responded by sending volunteers to assist in the recovery effort. Through first-hand experience, they saw the extent of the damage to families and communities, including the church, Alves said. “There was a real need to help clergy during these critical times,” Alves said. “The foundation stepped up to fill the gap.”

The people of St. Barnabas committed $75,000 to Darkness into Day to provide for clergy compensation at Christ Church in Bay St. Louis, Miss., one of six Mississippi churches destroyed by Katrina.

At the time of the hurricane, the congregation was searching for a new rector. One of the candidates, the Rev. Elizabeth Wheatley, felt called to come and minister in this community, even knowing she would face unprecedented challenges.

“It’s important not only that congregations receive financial support to rebuild and move forward, but that the wider church stands with us at this critical time,” said Bishop Gray.

When Darkness into Day was launched, Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold praised Episcopalians for reaching out in unprecedented ways to provide relief, financial support and volunteer help for the victims of Katrina. “Dioceses and congregations around the country are developing new models of partnerships to provide both financial and volunteer support,” he said.

The appeal gives opportunities to individuals, congregations and dioceses who seek specific ways to connect with congregations in need, McDonald said. For example, she said, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in New Orleans is struggling to survive.

“An historic and highly regarded congregation, the church was flooded by Katrina, and every parishioner save one lost their homes,” she said. “Several parishioners perished, including a lay eucharistic minister and his family. Funds are urgently needed to repair the roof, provide for the rector’s salary and for critical ministry funds.” (Episcopal Relief and Development is equipping part of the property as a housing facility for volunteers.)

For more information, contact: Day of Darkness Campaign Office, Box 365, Madison, MS 39110, or call 866-530-1093., or visit http://www.episcopalchurch.org/darkness/