Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Story of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church

As I mentioned earlier, while in New Orleans (I got home a couple days ago - more on that later), I stayed with the other interns at the parish house of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, uptown on Carrollton Avenue. The congregation was very hospitable, and I sang in the choir. Since the storm, the church has lost 25% of its pledging units. That's a small loss compared to many other local churches, but St. Andrew's was not wealthy to start with, so it was a big hit. Fortunately, their school (grades K-8, I think) is back up and running.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, parishioners were very relieved to see this picture:

This Rite Aid is next door to St. Andrew's Episcopal School, about a block away from the parish house. What parishioners saw when they looked at this picture was not an attack on their local neighborhood drugstore, but rather, A DRY SIDEWALK! This depressing picture of neighborhood chaos had a silver lining: it showed that Katrina had spared St. Andrew's! And indeed, the storm whipped away one school building roof and drenched the contents, but the rest of the property was safe. (As you may know, 80% of the city was underwater. The remaining 20% was a narrow strip along the Mississippi River, where the ground was a bit higher - like in the French Quarter, or the Carrollton neighborhood. This is why wealthy neighborhoods tended to get off easier - riverfront property costs a pretty penny anywhere. The safety was an added fringe benefit, NOT an evil plot by the government to ruin poor or black neighborhoods to save the rich or white ones.)

Mother Gaumer, the rector, told us interns about finding this photo. It circulated very quickly through the e-mail inboxes of St. Andrew's parishioners. Shortly thereafter, she and her husband (a Dartmouth alum) drove into the city to get the church silver and some vestments and save them from looting. The most direct route to St. Andrew's was blocked by big tanks, but they finally arrived via an indirect side street route (going the wrong way on one-ways, as there was no other way to get around). What should they find but several hundred very polite, kind, and professional members of the Oklahoma National Guard, camped out on the church property! That silver wasn't going anywhere!

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