By Woody Woodrick
Guiding a church through recovery from a disaster takes a toll.
United Methodist clergy dealing with the impact of Hurricane Katrina found some healing of their own and added to their pastoral skills Feb. 6-8 at the Clergy Leadership Conference at
Led by a team from
“We hoped to provide time for all of us from across the conference to reconnect post-storm,” said Rebecca Youngblood, director of the Center for Ministry, which sponsored the event. “It numbed all our souls regardless of where we are in
Among the resource leaders for the event, formerly known as Ministers’ Week, was Bishop Kenneth Carder, who served the Mississippi Area for four years before retiring in 2004. Carder, who now teaches at Duke, led a session that focused on storytelling – how to let those affected share their stories. It also gave some of the storm’s victims a chance to tell their stories.
Rachel Benefield-Pfaff of Handsboro UMC in
Rick Brooks of Bay St. Louis, one of the hardest hit cities, told how his church, Main Street UMC, was heavily damaged, as were the homes of his congregation and his own parsonage.
Ed Moses of
While the greatest impact of the storm was felt along the
Culbreth said he had to help move an aunt from
Others from Duke providing leadership were former Mississippian the Rev. Connie Shelton, Dr. Keith Meador, Dr. Pam Hawkins and Dr. Bill Turner.
Benefield-Pfaff said one of Turner’s sermons reminded her of what the call to ministry is all about. “Bill Turner said we are called to be vessels and to preach the Gospel. That was a reminder that it’s not about our own agenda but God’s agenda. That’s a gift I hope to bring to my church,” she said.
The unquestioned highlight of the event, however, came Monday night when blues musician Willie King performed. King and Carder became friends during Carder’s tenure in
“Those present when Willie was here loved it,” Youngblood said.
She said those who attended the conference said they liked having time for less-structured events. “People have expressed appreciation for having time to talk with each other. Space was left to be in communion with each other.”
Youngblood estimated that about 250 pastors attended the CLC. In addition to the concert, the conference was able to secure tickets to a tribute to Medgar Evers held Jan. 7.