After hurricanes Katrina and Rita
Fellowship Picnic (Reconciling Sunday, May 2006)
An important ministry of St. Mark’s for several years is dedicated to serving the homeless. Each Sunday following the worship service we provide a delicious meal prepared by various church members or Partners in Ministry . Although the primary purpose is to serve a good meal to the hungry, all present in worship are invited to “come to the table” together for food and fellowship. From June until August 21, 2005 the number of homeless participating in worship and the fellowship meal grew from approximately 15 to nearly 40. Thanks to a benefactor, St. Mark’s was also able to include as a part of this ministry shelter vouchers distributed each week to the homeless men and women who found their way to St. Mark’s. On August 28 when most churches were closed due to the mandatory evacuation order, St. Mark’s doors were opened at 9:00 a.m. to serve the twenty homeless persons who came seeking spiritual food as well as food for sustenance.
First Worship Post-Katrina, October 9, 2005
Volunteers from Ohio State
On September 28th, 2005 the Mayor extended a “look and leave” opportunity in a limited area of New Orleans for business owners and pastors to check on their property and determine the extent of damage. Imagine the relief and joy I felt as I unlocked the door and walked in to find that the extent of damage to St. Mark’s was minimal – four broken strained glass windows and scattered shards of glass throughout the sanctuary by the hurricane force winds; broken window panes in the fellowship room; minor ceiling sheetrock damage in the kitchen area; and dirt and grime that had blown through the broken windows. The refrigerator was also unsalvageable.
South Carolina’s Clemson and Converse Colleges and several churches brought 140 volunteers to New Orleans on a mission trip and five of them found their way to St. Mark’s on October 15th to help with the deep cleaning. One of the team members returned to her church telling them of our need for pew Bibles. Within weeks, 35 new pew Bibles arrived. In November, Paul Hodge of Peoria, IL volunteered to replace the broken stain glass windows. In December, the clergy of the Reconciling Ministries Network sent the first shipment of hymnals which arrived just in time for the Christmas Eve Worship service. St. Mark's was “adopted” by Brownsville Junction UMC in Maine and we received a generous donation from them to help with the homeless ministry and to provide curriculum from Cokesbury for Bible Study. The weeks and months after our return to this bruised and broken community, many people and churches from across the United States have reached out to pray for us and some have also provided much needed financial support.
Sunday morning sidewalk outreach
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita scattered the homeless community served by St. Mark’s. Although the homeless ministry was put on hold for eight months, on June 25th, 2006 we resumed serving a fellowship meal following worship each week. Since that time, we have seen the numbers of homeless served grow from a few dozen to sometimes as many as 150 by the end of the year, 2009.
St. Mark’s had 18 active members on its roll in June, 2005 when Anita was appointed its pastor. By the end of August, before the hurricanes, there were 25 members and attendance averaged between 35 and 50. The first Sunday in worship after the hurricanes, we welcomed 17 in attendance. Our average attendance is now between 80 and 100, and our membership has grown to 88. Some Sundays we even have people in the balcony! The homeless ministry is feeding 100+ every Sunday.
God continues to remind us that we are not alone and that God’s grace is abundant.