Louisianians mark time by hurricanes—Andrew, Gustav, Rita, Ike. But there is none that has left its mark on Louisiana, the nation and the world like Hurricane Katrina.
It was almost 10 years ago that the world watched as the category 5 storm stirred in the Gulf of Mexico, then made landfall during the early morning hours of Aug. 29, 2005.
We then learned about the devastation of storm surge as the levees gave way to the power of water. Some of us experienced it firsthand on the ground. Others watched in horror from afar as people stood on rooftops, crying for help.
Homes were devastated, lives were devastated. Entire communities disappeared. Churches closed because the people were gone. But the power of the Spirit could not be quenched.
One of those places where the Spirit has continued to stir is in New Orlean's 7th Ward. For the last 10 years, there has been NO United Methodist presence in the 7th Ward. A church building remains, but no activity. What we as people of faith know is that even with no building, with no cross and flame--the symbol of Methodism--the Spirit continues to stir and prepares the field for yet another harvest.
After 10 years of lying fallow, the 7th Ward will be an intentional mission focus for the Louisiana Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church! Effective July 1, 2015, Rev. Hadley Edwards will be appointed to this historic place in the life of New Orleans and The United Methodist Church. Rev. Edwards is not being appointed to a church or a church building but to the Ward itself. Working with a team of dreamers and discerners, Rev. Edwards will listen to the leading of the Spirit for what might be once again.
The team will be made up of city leaders, pastors and others who will help guide the United Methodist Church into a renewed sense of presence and commitment to serve the great people of this area once again.
"I am so excited to see what possibilities will unfold for the Louisiana Conference as we return to this important part of our history," said Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey in an emotional statement. "The people of the 7th Ward are a resilient people who know what it means to persevere. We have much to learn from one another!"
The bishop is asking for the people called United Methodist in Louisiana to join in the return to the 7th Ward by praying daily for this important part of its ministry.
And as is true in many efforts such as this, it will require not only a faithful and prayerful response, but a commitment of financial resources as we steward new life into this historic part of New Orleans. If you and your church would like to be part of this important movement, A Return to the 7th Ward, you may make a one time, weekly or monthly contribution toward this vital work. Checks made out to your local church can be put in the offering plate—just mark the memo portion of the check to read “A Return to the 7th Ward.” Gifts may be sent directly to the Conference office, making the check out to “Louisiana Annual Conference” with “A Return to the 7th Ward” in the memo portion, and sending it to Louisiana UM Area Offices, 527 North Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70802.
An opportunity to give online will be available shortly, and will be announced through conference media.
I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. - Jeremiah 29:11, Common English Bible