From one extreme...Services mark Katrina's 2nd anniversary


By Woody Woodrick

Advocate Editor

Those who lived through Hurricane Katrina and those who have been involved in the recovery live a bipolar existence, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward said.


Ward, speaking at three prayer services to commemorate the second anniversary of the worst natural disaster in United States history, said emotions range from joy one moment to despair the next; from discouragement to hope.


Among the scriptures Ward used in her remarks to the estimated 250 people who attended the three services were Ecclesiastes 3:1-9, which tells how there is a time for everything.


“I am struck by the extremes of Ecclesiastes. It’s hard to dance one moment and mourn the next,” she said. “One minute we’re the helper and one minute we’re being helped.”

The services were held Aug. 29 at Camp Gulfside in Waveland, Seashore United Methodist Assembly in Biloxi and at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Ocean Springs. The services were organized by the Seashore District of the Mississippi Conference.


Others taking part in all three services were the Rev. Bill McAlilly, superintendent of the Seashore District, the Rev. Rick Brooks of Bay St. Louis Main Street UMC and the Rev. Rachel Benefield-Pfaff, who played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.


Ward said despite the darkness of the storm, property losses and deaths, God offers the light of hope.


“Job says our place is barely between dark and light, despair and hope,” Ward said.

McAlilly said the goal of the services was to be thankful. “We hoped the services would be a way of giving thanks for how far we’ve come and a healing experience from the storm,” he said.


“We did not want to have a day of mourning,” McAlilly continued. “There are enough signs around us to remind us of the destruction. We wanted to give thanks for all that God has done with us and through us.”


The storm roared ashore on Aug. 29, 2005, taking the lives of 235 Mississip-pians and destroying 70,000 houses and apartments. Damages are estimated at more than $1 billion.


In Waveland, the storm wiped out historic Gulfside Assembly, leaving only slabs and pilings. Seashore Assembly sustained damage, but has served as a staging area for recovery efforts since the day after the storm struck. While St. Paul UMC wasn’t heavily damaged, its East Campus has served as a place for volunteers to stay and for some storage of supplies in the early days of recovery.


“I didn’t know what to expect,” McAlilly said of the services. “I had a number of people tell me they didn’t want to be reminded of the storm anymore. We stayed away from ‘storm stories.’”


McAlilly said three services were held so more people would have an opportunity to participate.


One of those was Kirk Newkirk, who arrived at Seashore Assembly with his wife Sallie and poodle Truffles. The three of them rode out the storm together, surviving, Newkirk insists, only by the grace of God. Wearing what he said were the same clothes he wore the day the storm hit, Newkirk said he wanted to attend the service to support the church (Mississippi City UMC) that supported him after the storm.


The Newkirks made a harrowing escape from their condominium, he said, only because they prayed. They were aided by the Rev. Rod Dickson-Richel, and in the time since the storm have begun rebuilding their lives by praying that God would make things “happen when they need to happen,” he said.