Magazine article The Christian Century

Two Years after Katrina

Magazine article The Christian Century

Two Years after Katrina

Article excerpt

PASTOR R. C. BLAKES has two flocks in two different cities. On Sunday mornings in New Orleans, services are packed at his New Home Family Worship Center, which is working to get all of its ministry programs up and running two years after Hurricane Katrina.

Blake's other church is 300 miles away in Houston, where hundreds of his former parishioners relocated. Earlier last month, they broke ground for a new church there.

"A lot of them are struggling with the loss of their culture. Even though many of them have been able to assimilate into that culture there, it's not New Orleans, and I see a lot of times that they are grieving for what they know to be home," Blakes told Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, the PBS television program.

For now, Blakes commutes back and forth twice a week. The traveling is taking a personal toll, he said, but he feels that both congregations need him right now.

"There've been a lot of things that I have preached prior to Katrina that I've actually had to live, and I've found that it's harder to live it than it is to preach it. One of the great lessons that I've learned is that we have to totally depend on God," he said. And so it goes as hurricane-devastated churches struggle to rebuild and rebound but not always in New Orleans.

[Church World Service, the ecumenical relief and development agency, noted that after $7.4 billion was donated in 2005, the 2006 total reported by Giving USA Foundation dropped to $1.2 billion. Homeowners awaiting insurance money have often found that lawsuits against major insurers have tied up payments. The companies argue that Katrina's damage came from flooding and therefore is not covered. The most common form of housing sought by people of limited means is rental. What few units are available are more costly than before Katrina. A two-bedroom apartment in the New Orleans area now rents for about $978 per month, compared to $676 in 2005.]

New Orleans native Pastor E. J. Scott had a thriving Baptist church until Katrina hit. Now he hosts a daily radio show and prays for people who call in with requests. He also has a fledgling church 500 miles away in Dallas.

"Two days after the storm ... is when God spoke to me and told me to start another church [in Dallas]," he said.

Scott and his wife, Dee, fled New Orleans just before Katrina and came to Dallas to stay with a friend. …

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