Church leaders of hurricane-affected areas express gratitude to ECW

July 13, 2009

Episcopal Church Women has "an unblemished record of doing the heavy lifting of mission and ministry of this church and continue to show every church the way forward," the Very Rev. David duPlantier, dean of Christ Church Cathedral, New Orleans, told the ECW plenary session July 12.

DuPlantier capped a program that was full of expressions of gratitude for the work done by ECW members in the nearly four years that have followed Hurricane Katrina. The plenary also provided a platform for two appreciative bishops. Robert Radtke, president of Episcopal Relief and Development, also was present to thank ECW "for standing with ERD" and the two dioceses.

"Thank you for your prayers, thank you for traveling to the Gulf Coast, and thank you for recruiting volunteers. Thank you," said Bishop Duncan Gray of the Diocese of Mississippi.

"The last time I spoke with you we were in dire straits and you responded," Gray added. "Then you went out to tell the story, and it snowballed and things started to happen in wonderful ways.

"We could have never done it without those who came, prayed and stayed. We relearned we are not self-sufficient, none of us is. We've relearned we need one another. We are on this journey together. God bless you for your prayers and your support. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Bishop Charles Jenkins of Louisiana noted that "New Orleans has not been as fortunate as Mississippi," which received a $25-million FEMA grant to be administered by Episcopal Relief and Development. But he has also learned that "when we give, we are changed."

In New Orleans the good news has come in the form of the Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative. "This is not a case of a rich church's dream for poor people in need. The people of Jericho Road tell us what they need," Jenkins said.

And what they need is the supervision and creative energy provided by the strong staff and board of the Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative, which is revitalizing a neighborhood in New Orleans' Central City, home to Christ Church Cathedral and offices of the Diocese of Louisiana.

DuPlantier said that under Brad Powers, Jericho Road's executive director since early 2006, "The dry bones of our dream began to take on flesh." They've acquired 56 lots and have built or are building 23 homes. They're also reclaiming a contaminated city block to develop a city park.

DuPlantier expressed the gratitude of the whole region. "Writing thank you notes was an obsession of my mother, who taught me you can't overdo saying thank you," he said. "Thank you for your constant and relentless focus ... and for gracing us with your partnership" in a campaign to build a house for Jericho Road.

In about four months -- thanks to Sunday's fund-raising concert featuring Elisabeth von Trapp, which raised nearly $15,000, and to a gift from St. Patrick's Episcopal Church in Incline Village, Nevada -- ECW members, churches and others have contributed more than $70,000 toward the board's $110,000 goal. "The work begun this week represents the second wave of this effort," said ECW's outgoing treasurer, Elizabeth Campbell.

DuPlantier put it this way: "Affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization have implications for the wider church. ECW has the tools for transforming the Episcopal Church."