717 Days of Faith: St. Charles United Methodist Church Returns to Sanctuary After Hurricane Ida Devastation

Todd Rossnagel
August 13, 2023

717 days. 

That's how long it had been since the congregation of St. Charles United Methodist Church in Destrehan worshiped in its sanctuary.

In the summer of 2021, Hurricane Ida devastated the community just west of Kenner, as the storm became the second-most damaging and intense hurricane to make landfall in Louisiana history.

The roof of St. Charles' sanctuary was completely torn away by the 150mph winds, and rainwater flooded the building, and since the storm, the congregation has been meeting in its fellowship hall on the south side of the church campus.

Sunday, church members second-lined from the fellowship hall to the newly renovated sanctuary. 


Despite the 100-degree temperature outside, the second-line march was invigorating for a church working non-stop to get back to regular services. 

"This church has been alive and doing ministry for 13,363 days," Rev. Michelle Harris said. "And for 717, we may not have been in this building, but that doesn't mean church stopped. It never stopped, and it never will."

Just before Hurricane Ida, St. Charles United Methodist Church had undergone a Church Transformation Process and was looking forward to utilizing its busy food pantry in creative new ways. While the church wasn't planning on a massive hurricane to batter the community, the transformation process and the food pantry helped the church respond in record time.

For months, the church parking lot became an active part of the relief efforts throughout the Destrehan area as cars would wind in and out for emergency supplies and, at times, fresh groceries such as milk, cheese, and canned goods.

Nearly two years later, while homes have been rebuilt and businesses are back, heartache and grief remain in the community.

And Rev. Harris points to St. Charles United Methodist Church's completely renovated sanctuary as hope. 

"When our roof blew away, and the rain poured in our house, you stood firm on your faith," Rev. Harris said to a packed church. "Our story is our power, y'all. This building stands here today as a sign of hope."

"I want to tell anyone in this room that if you are unsure if you can make it another day. Maybe life looks like a mess; life stinks, it's nasty, it's broken. This building! This building is here to say, 'It ain't over.'"

The move back into the sanctuary demanded patience as St. Charles had to navigate a cumbersome insurance process and unexpected delays. It also required an unwavering trust that God would provide. After enduring nearly two years of trials and challenges, stepping back into the familiar sanctuary brought relief and renewal.

"We have been in the pit," Rev. Harris said. "We have found ourselves wandering, confused, and frustrated by all these events that have come at us. But I can't help but believe that today, we stand where we stand because of what has happened to us. God is using our story for good. We are here not just to look back and appreciate our past but to recognize that God is calling us forward to save lives. To raise a generation of people who know the love of Jesus Christ, who has received his grace and can shine light in the darkness."

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