Flood Recedes, Ecumenism Rises

Tanya Dillon

As floodwaters that inundated Louisiana last week have receded, clergy have stepped across denominational lines to bring people together in prayer and hope.

Ecumenical services have been planned in several shelters in Baton Rouge, The Advocate reports. In the city’s Celtic Media Centre, one of the first shelters to open, Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Baptist, and Methodist clergy gathered at a service before the shelter’s scheduled closing on August 22:

The service was coordinated by Shanta Harrison Proctor, director of Women’s Policy in the Governor’s Office. Ecumenical services also were scheduled at shelters housed at the Baton Rouge River Center, the LSU Maddox Fieldhouse and the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, and the Mike Kennery Center in Hammond.

“The governor expressed a need to meet the spiritual and mental needs of the people in the shelters,” Proctor said. “So, we collaborated with community churches to put this ecumenical service together. The people in the shelters can’t travel to their churches, so we wanted to bring their worship traditions to them. And when I look around, even the volunteers and the National Guardsmen have been blessed by this.”

The Rev. Ashley Freeman, of Trinity Episcopal Church, later stepped to the makeshift lectern to pray, saying God is “our refuge and strength and is ever present in this time of trouble.”

Evacuee John Vary said he showed up because “we all need a little holy in our lives.”

Vary lived in the Greenwell Springs area. He came to the shelter on Saturday after water rapidly began filling his house.

“It was up to my chest when I left,” he said. “I am blessed. As long as you can open your eyes, you are blessed, and I am blessed.”

Nearby Episcopal churches continue work directly in relief efforts. WBRC in Birmingham, Alabama, reported that Church of the Redeemer in Biloxi, Mississippi, is one of several Gulf Coast Episcopal churches providing matching funds for relief after the flood, which affected tens of thousands of homes in Louisiana.

“We have an intimate knowledge of the impact communities like ours can make on the lives of people who are facing circumstances like the people in Louisiana are, and that definitely motivates the sense of urgency and gives us knowledge of the sense of timing when needs come to be,” the Very Rev. Robert Wetherington, Redeemer’s rector, told WBRC.

Episcopal Relief & Development continues to gather donations for flood relief. The organization is accepting donations to its U.S. disaster fund to help Louisianans recover, according to a press release issued by the organization last week.

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