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Episcopal congregation adopts church as partner in recovery

The Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi selected St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Coeur d’Alene as one of 17 “Adopting Congregations” to assist Trinity Episcopal Church in Pass Christian, Miss., with reconstruction.

In 1969, Trinity was completely destroyed by Hurricane Camille.  Today, some of the church is left, but the parish hall and Christian education building were destroyed.  

Gulf recovery-Episcopal group
Episcopal team helps rebuild home.

The main problem will be re-building the once 270-household congregation, now down to 75 members. That won’t happen until their homes are rebuilt, said Bob Peterson, who went with an initial team from St. Luke’s.

 That team also included the Rev. Pat Bell and Dave Baxter.  They went two weeks after the hurricane to build a storage building, meet church members, take photos and develop plans for other work teams to visit.

When Bob led a second trip Oct. 31 to Nov. 13, five from St. Luke’s were among 15 from around the country who went to evaluate needs, talents, materials and tools.  For example, his wife, Leah, and Joyce Lovey found that children going back to school needed clothes, so they bought $2,200 of clothing.

They enclosed the church, ran electricity to it and set up trailers as a community meeting space.

Gulf Recovery-drilling
Team rebuild home.

St. Luke’s has spent more than $12,000 to purchase the shed and for travel expenses for the trips.

The third trip, sponsored in part by St. Luke’s, was for Bob and Marty Gustafson to go to New Orleans, where they worked with the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, where a college student from St. Luke’s spent his fall semester as a volunteer.

Bob Peterson grew up Presbyterian in Coeur d’Alene and left church when he moved.  He worked as an electrical engineer in St. Louis, other areas of the United States and Puerto Rico. 

“The experience has solidified my recognition of the value of churches in coordinating activities within and among denominations to provide a structure and support for volunteers and people needing assistance so they could make “hands-on accomplishments.”

On retiring, he and his wife of nine years returned to Coeur d’Alene, where they have been involved in St. Luke’s.

Gulf recovery-walls
Church being rebuilt.

“Pass Christian fit my skills to the needs, so I helped restore electricity to homes,” he said.

Many asked him why people should go there to help when about 200,000 people have found jobs elsewhere and may not return to New Orleans.  

“We had impact on the lives of about 10 families—helping some find closure if they were not able to rebuild, helping others not physically able to begin the monumental task of rebuilding.

“The experience deepened my faith in people, working along side Unitarians from New England, Mexicans and people from all over the country,” he said

For information, call 208-777-0815.


Mary Stamp - The Fig Tree - © February 2007