By Tamica Smith Jeuitt, Sr. Communications Specialist, Mississippi Conference
Photo right: Barbara Ihne of Decatur, Ark., who led the procession, was the first person to give $1,000 towards the vision for the Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly Open Air Chapel.
Photo below right: Gloster Current, Jr. is Bishop Leontine Kelly's son.
Photo left: The seating capacity at the Bishop Leontine Kelly Chapel is approximately 125 under the pavilion with additional seating outside the area for another 100.
Photo bottom right: Bishop James Swanson Sr. greets Angella Current-Felder, the daughter of Bishop Leontine Kelly.
Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Virginia were just a few of the states from which United Methodists travelled to witness the consecration of the Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly Open Air Chapel. The chapel named in honor of the denomination's first African-American woman bishop, is located at Gulfside Assembly in Waveland, Mississippi. It is the first establishment since Hurricane Katrina washed away the area's 13 structures to ground zero back in August 2005.
A 14-year-old, Melissa Atkins, arrived by bus with her grandmother and nearly 40 other members of the Texas Annual Conference for the ceremony on Feb. 27. Along the way she listened to their stories about their experiences as youth visitors to Gulfside and what it was like for them to return for this occasion.
"They talked about how they felt the Holy Spirit when they just walked on the ground. I love church camps and I can't wait for Gulfside to be recreated so that I can come here and cherish moments," said Atkins.
If there was any one group that desires to see Gulfside return to full use, it is the Gulfside Association, Inc. The association organized this special ribbon cutting and invited members of Bishop Kelly's family to be present. Two of Kelly's four children, her son Gloster Current, Jr. and her daughter, Angella Current-Felder attended.
In his address to the attendees, Current candidly spoke of his own doubt that this day would come but praised the association for preserving Gulfside.
"We are very happy to be here today and thank you for having us and thank you for fulfilling the vision you were given by God," he said.
The chair of the board for Gulfside Association, Inc., Rev. Dr. Elijah Stansell (Texas Annual Conference treasurer) stated his appreciation for Current's honesty, noting that many people had lost hope in the resurrection of Gulfside, a sacred place that once was the only place African-American Methodist could gather for retreats.
"We are clear about one thing as a board and that is, haste will not resurrect what we have to do. We have a huge task before us. We are going to take it slow and we're going to work it meticulously. What we need from you are your fervent prayers and confidence in us that God is not finished with us yet," said Stansell.
He also shared that the board has been restructured and has a development plan for Gulfside with new partners, "we believe now we have the momentum and the capacity to move forward."
The Gulfside Association, Inc. board of directors will meet in the spring. Stansell said building a ministry center at Gulfside Assembly will likely be on their agenda.
Photos taken by Tamica Smith Jeuitt, Mississippi Conference. Additional pictures from the chapel dedication will be posted later on the Mississippi Conference Flickr page.