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The Gulf Coast two years later: a reflection

[The following article from the Diocese of Massachusetts website features St. Mary’s own Tim Green in the accompanying photo, discussing his trip to Biloxi with Bishop Cederholm.]

In July, Bishop Bud Cederholm traveled again with 20 other missioners to the Gulf Coast. These are his reflections on the trip.

Missioners from the Diocese in New Orleans Missioners from the Diocese of Massachusetts at the end of their trip. Photo: Ron Presti

“Two years after Hurricane Katrina shattered the Gulf Coast, the sights, sounds and devastated lives and property throughout New Orleans are still heart breaking. In June, 20 other missioners from the Diocese of Massachusetts and I made a pilgrimage to witness for ourselves the lingering after-effects of the storm. Our hearts, minds and souls were transformed by what we saw – a quarter of a million people still cannot return home, and well over 100,000 homes are still uninhabitable. Those who remain and the few who have returned are stymied by poor health care and education, and a scarcity of jobs.

“There are, however, rays of light in the gloom.

“Recovery and renewal in New Orleans are being guided by the Five Ps: Prayer, Presence, Partnership, Prophetic Witness and Political Advocacy, and despite the ineffective response of the government, thousands of people from religious, non-profit and college groups all over the United States have stepped up and brought aid and hope these past two years. We saw that emerging partnerships have started to address the sins of racism, classism and economic oppression that existed before Katrina. Here at home, we can learn from and participate in such partnerships for their sake, and for the sake of the welfare and soul of our own cities and towns.

“The Diocese of Massachusetts continues its long term commitment to the Gulf Coast recovery and renewal efforts. On this trip, we presented more than $3000 in gift cards from several congregations and individuals, including notes of love and prayers sent by adults and children from St Paul’s parish in Bedford. As an ongoing effort, individuals and congregations in Massachusetts, together with Episcopal Relief & Development, are funding Jane Bearden, a priest from our diocese, as priest-in-residence. Jane has been assisting at Church of the Redeemer in Biloxi, Mississippi, which was destroyed by the hurricane; she aids Massachusetts mission groups and serves community organizations and churches who offer health care, counseling, housing and support. Her ministry on our behalf has exceeded our wildest expectations. We are raising another $60,000 to support Jane’s efforts for 2008. Donations, marked ‘Priest-in Residence,’ may be sent to my office.

“This trip was a transforming experience and some of us are already planning to return. If you want to be transformed by mission, to experience how the Gulf Coast has transformed congregations and dioceses in mission, let the Five Ps be your guide: Prayer, Presence, Partnership, Prophetic Witness and Political Advocacy. Donations are wonderful but there is also a real need on the Gulf Coast for skilled labor. Congregations are encouraged to sponsor, fund and send skilled workers who might need to take time off from work to go, but even “tool-challenged” folks, like many of us, with a willingness to learn, love, pray and work, are needed, too.

“We are eager to visit congregations and deaneries to show our pictures and tell the stories of people of hope and courage and congregations in mission in New Orleans and Mississippi. As Archdeacon Dennis of the Diocese of Louisana said to us, ‘We learned that mission is not something we plan, but is a response to a need.’ How true.”

–Bishop Bud Cederholm

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