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Faith Survives the Storm
The Sun Herald ^ | 9/03/2005 | Kat Bergeron

Posted on 09/03/2005 5:09:44 PM PDT by sionnsar

The historic 1891 bell tower of Biloxi’s Episcopal Church of the Redeemer is silent. This Mississippi Coast symbol of survival rang defiantly as the winds of Hurricane Camille claimed its sanctuary.

In Katrina 36 years later, the red wooden tower fell.

The beachfront site was chosen as the appropriate sacred ground for the Hurricane Camille Memorial Wall, with its beautiful mosaic pool and granite etched list of 172 names of the dead and missing in the 1969 hurricane. That memorial is at least badly damaged.

Informs a sign on the Redeemer grounds: ''Mass 9 a.m. Sunday. Bring Lawn Chairs.''

Churches of all denominations are gone or dangerously damaged along the Coast, but such signs indicate faith can prevail.

In Gulfport, St. Mark’s and St. Peter’s by-the-Sea, among the six destroyed Coast Episcopal churches, will hold Sunday services on their slabs. (St. Marks is 9:30 a.m., and St. Peter’s’ is 8 a.m.)

And so the story of faith goes in the aftermath of Katrina.

''We’re alive. God has been good to us,'' Dr. Johnny Geotes said as he gassed up a generator at one of his veterinary clinics. He lost his home in Bay St. Louis, but knowing there are hurt animals as well as people, he opened his clinics in Gulfport and Biloxi for two hours.

''This hasn’t affected my faith. It’s always the same,'' Geotes said. ''I don’t go to church regularly, but I was raised Methodist and my faith continues to sustain me.''

Similar thoughts are scrawled in words across the Coast. In the Petit Bois subdivision, one family has propped a storm board on the front lawn with the barely legible words: ''God Bless. Trespassers will be shot.''

A handmade fan sticks out of a bus stop bench on Biloxi’s Pass Road. Transportation isn’t running, so only the weary on a trek to get ice or water will see the words on the fan.

''What the world need now is love. God’s love,'' reads the crude sign written with colored marker on a plastic plate stuck in the seat with a wooden stick.

Robert Stan Good, sweating from the heat in his search for a working bank, took a double-take at the crude sign.

''I’m not really a Christian, but you have to talk about God and that means love in your heart at a time like this,'' said Goodman, who described himself as a utility man.

For those who need the comfort of congregation — the Coast had more than 400 churches plus one Jewish, one Buddhist and one Islamic center — a number of services will go on, not as many and maybe in different places than usual. Congregations that can are scrambling to hold services somewhere and are inviting one and all, dropping otherwise strong denominational lines in this coastal edge of the Bible Belt.

Others in the mass of storm-ravaged people will attend in their hearts. Many are unwilling to let go of the one bit of light that can hold and sustain them as the scaffolding of their lives teeters.

''This experience has rattled all of us to the core,'' said the Rev. Ken Nuss, music minister at First Baptist of Gulfport, which has steel girders, no walls, and part of the steeple still rises on the roof.

''I’m sure that some are asking why, so their faith is shaken. But just as that cross is still standing in our gutted church, just as the steeple is still standing above the rubble of downtown Gulfport, God is still on his throne.

''People feel isolated and alone. We’re inviting the entire community to come to Sunday services for a word of encouragement.''

Those 9 a.m. services will be about six miles away on U.S. 49 at the small Cross Point Community Church. First Baptist has 700 members.

The Catholic Church, which ministers to about 70,000 in the Biloxi Diocese, was physically trounced, with at least 14 of 57 churches gone or devastated, likely beyond rebuilding. Several churches constructed after Camille to be ''hurricane proof,'' including a pyramid type design in Pass Christian and Long Beach, are gone or shells.

St. Michael’s, considered the fishermen’s church because it dates to the seafood beginnings of Biloxi’s Point Cadet, still stands, but about 10 feet of the lower stained glass is missing. One lasting story from Camille is of two priests clinging to statues as the water rose. This time, no priests stayed in the church, and this time, most of the statues are gone.

The bishop will be at Nativity BVM Cathedral 5 p.m. today for Mass; on Sunday the times are 7 a.m. at St. Rose De Lima in Bay St. Louis and 9 a.m. at Our Lady of Lourdes in Pineville in north Pass Christian.

The Biloxi Islamic Center near Point Cadet was inundated with water. Damage to Beth Israel Congregation, several blocks from the beach, is unknown. Chua Van Duc, the Buddhist temple within a stone’s throw of the now badly damaged Catholic Vietnamese church on Biloxi’s Point Cadet, had planned a giant celebration on Sunday to dedicate its attractive new temple and to welcome the first permanent monk.

One of the first stories out of hard-hit Point Cadet was of Huong Tran, who clung to a Live oak during the storm and prayed to a Buddhist goddess for help. After the water receded, she found a small statue of that goddess under the tree.

It will take weeks to compile the extent of damage to the Coast’s houses of worship.

Bishop Duncan Gray III of Mississippi Episcopal Diocese surveyed the damage Thursday and said in a statement: ''Thousands have lost their homes and the holy places of worship to which they have instinctively gone in times of crisis . . . It is a time of deep shock and grief and tears. And it is a time of hope.''

The last reference is to the hope that state and national centers from mainline denominations are kicking into gear with food and supply wagons. The newly formed Lutheran Episcopal Services of Mississippi is already in action, as are others.

The Salvation Army, a Christian denomination, has set up food canteens, which come from other Southeast communities, and is setting up shelter, according to Tree Davidson at the Army’s state headquarters in Jackson. She said the three Coast units in Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula are badly damaged.

Local churches of all denominations too, are doing what they can from Waveland to Pascagoula and the inland communities also affected by Katrina.

Anita McGee sought out such church in Biloxi with her three children and four friends in tow. She’s 32, disabled and on Thursday, she said her group had no food or water and that the hot meal was a godsend.

''This is what happens so we can keep the faith,'' said McGee. ''We have survive for our kids, and this is really teaching them to pray and be closer God.'' As she said that her 11-year-old daughter shook her head.

When asked about faith in the aftermath of Katrina, no one seems to pub licly deny it in these first days. As the Mississippi heat sears and lines lengthen for water and stomachs grum ble, that will be the test of faith and spirituality.

Bay Vista Baptist Church, about a half-mile north of the beach in Biloxi, advertised throughout the summer that ''Bay Vista loves our neighbors.''

''Now it’s time to put our words into action,'' said Natalie Atkins, 40, director of the church’s children’s programs.

Not long after the storm, people — strangers and congregants — started showing up with food from their freezers and the church people started cooking.

''This tests our faith, I know,'' Atkins said, ''but right now, it is all I have to hold on to.''

TOPICS: Current Events
KEYWORDS: biloxi; churches; katrina
Hat tip to titusonenine.
1 posted on 09/03/2005 5:09:45 PM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; Fractal Trader; Zero Sum; anselmcantuar; Agrarian; coffeecup; Paridel; keilimon; ...
Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams,
whose year's mind occurs this day (September 03).

Rest eternal grant to him O Lord.
And let light perpetual shine upon him.

FReepmail sionnsar if you want on or off this moderately high-volume ping list (typically 3-9 pings/day).
This list is pinged by sionnsar and newheart.

Resource for Traditional Anglicans:

2 posted on 09/03/2005 5:11:20 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† || (To Libs:) You are failing to celebrate MY diversity! || Iran Azadi)
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