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Remembering Katrina: New Orleans cathedral service unites faiths in worship

By Ann M. Ball

ENS photo by Ann M. Ball
Imam Rafeeq Nu'man, Pastor John Pierre, Bishop Charles Jenkins and Rabbi Edward Cohn recess for a community-wide Interfaith service of restoration, recovery and renewal at Christ Church Cathedral, New Orleans, August 27.   (ENS photo by Ann M. Ball)

ENS photo by Ann M. Ball
Shades of Praise Gospel Choir preludes the interfaith community-wide commemorative service for restoration, recover and renewal at Christ Church Cathedral, New Orleans, August 27.   (ENS photo by Ann M. Ball)

ENS photo by Ann M. Ball
Jazz Trumpeter Irvin Mayfield Jr. gives his musical reflection on hope for the city of New Orleans with piano accompaniment by Roland Markham, CEO of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, at Christ Church Cathedral, New Orleans, August 27.   (ENS photo by Ann M. Ball)

[ENS, NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana]  Three great faith traditions came together August 27 at Christ Church Cathedral, New Orleans, to lift up and commemorate the contributions of the faith community with a soul-inspiring blend of New Orleans music and interfaith prayers for the city's recovery and rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. The cathedral was filled with people of every background, from far and near.

The joyful voices of the Shades of Praise Choir filled the cathedral for the 4 p.m. service with selections of Gospel music as a prelude to the liturgy of remembrance, healing and hope, titled "Come Forth and be Renewed."

Christ Church Cathedral's new organist, Jarrett Follette, also set the tone, selecting Aaron Copland's moving "Fanfare for the Common Man" for the processional, accompanied by a brass orchestra and rumbling timpani.

The solemn procession, complete with incense, included Louisiana Bishop Charles Jenkins, joined by Rabbi Edward Cohn of Temple Sinai; Imam Rafeeq Nu'Man, Masjidur Rahim of the Muslim community; Christ Church Cathedral Dean David duPlantier; superintendent and pastor, the Rev. John Pierre; and visiting Bishop Suffragan Nedi Rivera of Olympia.

Following a litany led by Laura Bailey, the cathedral's Christian Education director and a young member of the congregation, Nu'Man read a passage from the Koran.

Cohn read the familiar words from Ecclesiastes, using a variation for some people's ears, "a time to rip, a time to sew."

Cathedral Choir Member Cedric Bridges' deep, mellow voice chanted the 23rd Psalm, followed by a reading from Romans by Ronald Markham, CEO of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. Elder John Pierre of the Living Witness Church in Central City read the Gospel.

Jenkins then moved to the cathedral's north transept where two large palm trees stood. He was joined there by members of the board of the diocese's Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative which, in partnership with Episcopal Relief and Development, builds homes in the Central City area near the cathedral for low income New Orleanians to purchase. Jenkins blessed the trees as a sign of the historic partnership and a sign of renewal.

"[L]et [these trees] remind us that life ever springs forth from death," Jenkins intoned, announcing that the offering would be given to the Jericho Road Housing Initiative. The offertory anthem, "Come Forth to be Renewed," was composed by Robert Powell for the 200th anniversary of the cathedral in 2005.

Nu'Man then blessed the Elysian Trumpet. "We now dedicate the Elysian Trumpet as a source of joy, hope and renewal for the city of New Orleans, the State of Louisiana and our brothers and sisters throughout the region," he proclaimed.

A work in progress, the Elysian Trumpet is being crafted in gold by Dave Monette of Portland, Oregon. It is given in memory of Irvin Mayfield, Sr. and all those who lost their lives in Hurricane Katrina.

The cathedral's 2006 Artist in Residence, Irvin Mayfield, Jr., then offered his trumpet reflections, accompanied by Ronald Markham at the piano. Mayfield played soulful renditions of "Go Down Moses" and "Amazing Grace," bringing his unique style and passion which ranged from tearfully downtrodden to wailing, breathtaking rafter-raising, all in the same piece. It brought everyone to their feet for a standing ovation.

In his greeting to the worshippers, duPlantier acknowledged his staff for their assistance with the service. He announced, "Two of the Jericho Road houses have been built and will be lowered into place." The congregation responded with more ovations and duPlantier reminded the gathering that another concert was planned for the 201st anniversary of the cathedral on November 17 and Irvin Mayfield, Jr. would hold a second concert similar to the one last year.

Nu'Man offered a closing prayer for the service. Cohn was to offer a closing prayer also, but instead put his arm around the imam's shoulders and told the congregation that the words the imam spoke were exactly what he would have said from his Jewish tradition. God's words had been spoken.

Jenkins concluded with the ancient Aaronic blessing in Hebrew, bringing the interfaith closing full circle.