From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ABCUSA: Baptist Denominations Join to Minister to Hurricane

From "SCHRAMM, Richard" <>
Date Wed, 5 Oct 2005 07:46:35 -0400


American Baptist News Service (Valley Forge, Pa. 10/04/05)--American
Baptist Churches USA General Secretary the Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley and
the Rev. Dr. Cheryl Dudley, National Ministries' associate executive
director for Church in Community Transformation, participated in a
two-day meeting of clergy and denominational leaders from the
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Progressive National Baptist
Convention in Baton Rouge, La., to determine ways Baptists can cooperate
in ministry to recent hurricane victims and address issues of poverty
uncovered by the storms' furies.

A first for the Baptist groups, the gathering-held Friday and Saturday,
Sept. 30 - Oct. 1-crossed racial and geographic boundaries. Each
denominational leader promised the event was only a first step in their
walk together to stand with those who have suffered such great personal
loss through the recent storms, and to address the poverty and race
issues that contributed to disparate treatment of individuals and
families during this complex disaster.

Local pastors whose churches were transformed into shelters by Hurricane
Katrina participated in the two-day event at New Light Missionary
Baptist Church. Friday's meeting, which drew more than 50 people, also
included local and state elected officials, along with representatives
from the Baton Rouge, New Orleans and national offices of Habitat for

Addressing Baton Rouge Mayor Melvin "Kip" Holden, who spoke about the
city's response to New Orleans evacuees, Medley outlined American
Baptists' relief efforts to meet the unprecedented needs caused by the
disaster, and asked how churches can continue to respond in a meaningful
way. "Katrina unearthed an ugly secret in our country," Medley added.
"How can we work toward an America that is more just and more fair? How
can we speak out for justice?"

Dudley told the mayor, "As Baptists, we need to be together; we want to
be together. We are here to pledge our continued presence for those who
are suffering."

Holden told the Baptist leaders, "The hearts are so big, the efforts are
great, and you will never be forgotten for your efforts." He asked those
gathered not to focus their efforts just in Baton Rouge: "There are
people who are suffering more than we are," he said.

In remarks to the gathering, Louisiana State Sen. Sharon Weston Broome
of District 15, which includes east Baton Rouge Parish, lifted up the
role of the church in response to the recent devastation. "Churches need
to be the focus of our rebuilding efforts and recovery," she said. "Let
me know what I can do to support that. I recognize the strength of the
church and the networks in the church community."

On Saturday, a prayer breakfast focused on identifying the needs of
local churches and pastors ministering to hurricane victims.

"We are here to listen and to learn from you about what we can do at
this time that will be of help," Medley said. "We are deeply concerned
about you and thankful for you and the work you have been doing. We
represent a lot of churches--some are big, some small--but they all want
to reach out and help. We are their eyes and their ears, so we can go
back and tell them how to help you. Know our hearts are with you."

Dudley pointed out that American Baptist Churches USA represents 5,800
churches across the United States. "We are trying to discern what it is
that is tangible that we can do to be repairers of the breach, restorers
of the street," she said. "We are pledging our support and our intention
to work with you throughout the healing process."

Dudley offered pastors two Judson Press books-Surviving Grief: 30
Questions and Answers for a Time of Loss and A Pastor in Every Pew:
Equipping Laity for Pastoral Care-as gifts from National Ministries to
support ministries to shelter residents and survivors of the storms.

Looking to the larger issues brought to light by Hurricane Katrina,
Medley said, "Poverty wears a particular color in this country. How do
we take this moment to determine the Christian responsibility so that
all people can help in harmony? This poverty points to the role of race
in our country. How do we deal with the issue in a way that brings
healing and grace? We do not want this poison to reach into future

On Saturday afternoon, the Baptist leaders toured sites in Baton Rouge
that are providing services to New Orleans evacuees, including River
Center, a downtown convention center still sheltering 900-plus
survivors. Just after the hurricane the center was home to more than
6,000 people who fled the storm's wave of destruction.

Local Baton Rouge officials have estimated that the city's population
grew by more than 200,000 virtually overnight after Hurricane Katrina
hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29. As of Saturday, Oct. 1, the mayor's
office said approximately 5,000 people were still in shelters, with 37
churches providing full services to victims in the same manner as
disaster relief organization such as the Red Cross or Salvation Army.

Other Baptist leaders participating in the Baton Rouge event included
the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, executive minister, District of Columbia
Baptist Convention, aligned with both American Baptist Churches USA and
the Progressive National Baptist Convention; the Rev. Dr. Tyrone Pitts,
general secretary, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Washington,
D.C., and the Rev. Dr. Daniel Vestal, national coordinator, Cooperative
Baptist Fellowship, Atlanta, Ga. Together these leaders represent nearly
5 million Baptists in the United States.

In a prayer that closed the two-day meetings, Medley said, "Loving God,
pour out your blessing. Open the doors of heaven that every need of
these people might be met."


American Baptist News Service: Office of Communication, American Baptist
Churches USA, P.O. Box 851, Valley Forge, PA 19482-0851; (800)ABC-3USA
x2077 / (610)768-2077; fax: (610)768-2320;;

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