By Linda Green
United Methodist News Service
Gulfside Assembly, the historic United Methodist center in Waveland, is on a deliberate but not fast track as it continues to recover from Hurricane Katrina, says the president of the board of directors.
“Gulfside Assembly is on the move — not on the fast train, but on a deliberate track,” said Mollie Stewart, who is helping guide Gulfside’s reconstruction.
The nearly 85-year-old retreat center, built on 60 acres facing the Gulf of Mexico, was swept away when Hurricane Katrina cut a swath across the
Volunteers are urgently needed to help with the cleanup, officials said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will pick up the trash and debris collected at the site through June, and other arrangements for debris disposal are being considered. Gulfside’s board of trustees wants as much of the grounds cleared of debris as possible.
Gulfside also needs groups of volunteers to pick up bottles, cans, pieces of wood, asphalt, small stones and the kinds of things that would get in the way of the lawn mowers and other equipment, said Abraham Carey, chair of the building and grounds committee.
“We are building on our history and heritage but looking to the future to serve the generations to come,” Carey said.
“It really boils down to just kind of getting your hands in the dirt and doing what you can do,” he said. No special skills are needed from volunteers. “Just come,” he said. “... It is labor, but you can have a lot of fun when you come here, too.”
After being relocated temporarily to
The grounds also host the Mississippi Coast CARE (Community Aid Relief Effort) and Amish Relief, which do volunteer work in Waveland and other parts of the area. “Both groups have been a tremendous help to us, but their focus is in the community and not on our institution,” Carey said.
The board, through a long-rang planning team, is considering Gulfside’s needs and ministry for the future. A consultant is helping the members in a discernment process on what Gulfside will look like, what its ministries will be and what the timeline will be.
“We feel as a board that we are doing the right things that will make Gulfside stronger in the future,” Stewart said. “We are on target with God and seeking his guidance as we move into the future with greater hope than ever before. … (We) will not be restricted by what was.”
While no formal fundraising is under way, people are donating to a fund called “The Gulfside Recovery Fund,” and a full campaign is being planned, Stewart said.
Gulfside was a much-revered facility, and many of today’s prominent African-American United Methodist church leaders trace their spiritual roots back to the assembly. It provided a boarding school for boys from rural areas, a day care facility for community children and a theological training center for African Americans from
Founded in 1923 by Bishop Robert E. Jones, the first African-American Methodist bishop, it was the only place where blacks and their friends could meet for spiritual, educational and recreational activities of that era.
Gulfside also served the Central Jurisdiction, an entity created in 1939 as a racial compromise when the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the
Gulfside leaders applaud the church for its support in the past and encourage continued support for the future. Stewart affirms “the connectional system and all that means to us as a church” because annual conferences such as
“As a fellow United Methodist, this means a lot to me personally as I travel across this jurisdiction and beyond, encouraging and informing (the) church on the importance of paying conference apportionments,” Stewart said.
Those interested in volunteering at Gulfside can contact Wilma Dunbar, the assembly’s business manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gulfside receives funding as an Advance Special of The United Methodist Church. Checks should be made payable to “Advance GCFA,” designated for Advance #760235, and placed in local church offering plates or sent to GCFA, P.O. Box 9068, GPO, New York, NY 10087-9608. Call 888-252-6174 to make credit-card donations.