By Tim Tanton
UMNS Managing Editor
Beside her looms the ruin of Mississippi City United Methodist Church, a gutted building that still holds random attributes of a vital church – a few pews and chairs, a piano, a stuffed toy. Mostly, though, it has a lot of open space.
Like the church, much of the area along
“We will not shrink from this challenge,” Ward says. But she acknowledges the enormity of the job ahead. “The task of rebuilding is long, is arduous, is beyond our comprehension still.”
Ward is encouraging United Methodists to help the churches in
The bishops launched the appeal to raise money for rebuilding churches in the Katrina-stricken areas, help pay pastors’ salaries and re-equip congregations for ministry in their areas. The appeal is different from the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s fund-raising work, which is supporting humanitarian relief on the coast.
“This is one of our most historic churches,” Ward says. The church was founded in 1890 by a mission pastor who sent an appeal across the conference requesting dimes to erect the building.
Ward has preached twice here, including one occasion, right after the storm, when the church had its communion table set up in the parking lot. Today, about 100 members of the congregation meet for worship in a nearby warehouse that the church owns.
The conference is working with at least six congregations to figure out if their churches will be rebuilt.
More than 40 churches are expected to have losses of more than $150,000, and the conference is expecting more than $4 million in uninsured and under-insured losses to churches and related properties.
“It’s essential that we respond to the bishops’ appeal for the rebuilding of our churches,” Ward says. “Our churches are strategic centers” for nurturing and worship, she says, noting that 30 conference churches are hosting work teams along the coast.
United Methodist giving is helping keep pastors in their communities, she says. “In
Despite the adversity, Ward says she is seeing a new spirit in the congregations. At
Some congregations have drawn closer in connection with one another, such as a white church and an African-American congregation that have been worshipping together since their buildings were destroyed.