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Unique partnership to rebuild transformed Episcopal Church on Gulf Coast
Darkness into Day to restore buildings and people, create new ministries

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
[Episcopal News Service]  Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold has announced the launch of an appeal to restore the Episcopal Church in the Gulf Coast dioceses of Mississippi and Louisiana, both ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"Darkness into Day: Restoring Hope in the Wake of Katrina" is meant to raise money to rebuild church buildings and congregations, insure compensation until congregations become self-sufficient again, create new opportunities for church schools, and establish ministry centers, according to a news release.

The appeal will be a "unique partnership" of the two dioceses, the Episcopal Church, and the Episcopal Church Foundation, according to Rebecca McDonald, the foundation's marketing director.

"We have received an outpouring of generosity," Griswold wrote in a March 3 letter to Episcopal bishops announcing the effort. "The people of the Episcopal Church have reached out in unprecedented ways to provide relief, financial support, and volunteer help to the victims of Katrina."

For instance, about $15 million has been contributed to Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) for hurricane relief, Abagail Nelson, ERD's vice president for program, told the Executive Council meeting in Philadelphia March 6.

The church has learned a great deal about how to deliver needed assistance more effectively and how to form unique alliances for outreach and missions work, Griswold wrote.

While the situation in the affected dioceses remains critical and efforts to provide relief assistance will continue, "we must also look to how we will move forward, restore and transform the Episcopal Church in Louisiana and Mississippi," he wrote.

The news release said the appeal aims to "embrace a new vision."

"Life in Mississippi and Louisiana is forever changed. So must the role of the Episcopal Church be transformed," the release said. "It is not about merely rebuilding what was before Katrina. It is not about ensuring the future of the Episcopal Church in the region for its own sake. It is about participating in a restoration that will address new needs, respond to new awareness and bring a renewed sense of spiritual forces to its work."

Bishops Duncan Gray of Mississippi and Charles Jenkins of Louisiana will chair the appeal.

Griswold, former Presiding Bishop Edward Browning, and Ann Allin, widow of John Allin, who was bishop of Mississippi when he was elected Presiding Bishop in 1973, are the appeal's honorary chairs.

Matthew Chew of the Diocese of Arizona will be the appeal's treasurer and the Rev. Kyle Dice Seage is the manager. Seage will work out of an office in Jackson, Mississippi.

The effort will be aided by leaders from all over the church who are willing to be "ambassadors" for the appeal, McDonald said.

"Darkness into Day" will be publicized by a variety of events throughout the church, advertising, email, and a website that will offer, among other information, resources for congregations to download and use to promote the campaign.

As the appeal builds, it will include a congregation partnership program that will encompass existing partnerships, including those formed through the current We Will Stand With You program, McDonald said. That program grew out of efforts that began immediately after Hurricane Katrina to assess the needs of those hit by the storms and coordinate ways of meeting those needs. It has been run by the Office of the Bishop Suffragan for Chaplaincies.

McDonald said the new program will continue to the effort to provide aid to congregations and develop ways for volunteers elsewhere in the church to become engage with people on the Gulf Coast and create lasting relationships.

Anyone who wishes to donate to the appeal may send a contribution to the Rev. Kyle Dice Seage, Darkness into Day, Box 365, Madison, MS 39110.