Jazzfest last weekend was not rained out, but anything else would have been. In the downpour, people stood in puddles to their ankles to soak up Billy Joel and other musical offerings. Joel looked heavenward and said to the Lord, “Is that all you’ve got? Bring it on!”
Seems like we heard our president say something similar just before Iraq became its own kind of quagmire.
The people who run our convention center–the official name for which is the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center–have decided that does not communicate and they want to tweak it to become the New Orleans Morial Convention Center. Not any shorter, but clearer, they say. That sounded great to almost everyone except the Morial family. Ernest “Dutch” Morial was our city’s first African-American mayor and the father of our most recent mayor, Marc Morial, who wrote the letter for the family protesting the change.
Officials insist they’re not formally changing the name, but will refer to the convention center in this “new” way for marketing purposes. That’s not good enough for the family and their supporters. Some are threatening that they will encourage Essence and other festivals/conventions of African-Americans to go elsewhere if this is not reversed.
A name is just a symbol? Symbols can be mighty important to some folks and to all of us at one time or another, we should never forget.
These are good days for the New Orleans Hornets, our NBA franchise. For the first time ever, the New Orleans teams advances to the second round in the playoffs, after beating the Dallas Mavericks 4 games to 1 in a best-of-seven series. Next, we will face the San Antonio Spurs, as I get it. Fans are ecstatic, packing out the New Orleans Arena. Last night–Tuesday–coach Byron Scott was named the NBA Coach of the Year.
Some fan said it’s just like Mardi Gras all over again, all the enthusiasm.
We’re having a “New Orleans Summit” at the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Georgia, this Thursday and Friday, May 1 and 2. Last Monday night in our annual Spring meeting, our association voted to adopt a lengthy list of adjustments and changes being recommended by a strategy team which has been working for a year. Now, some of us will be sitting down with leadership of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and NAMB to work out a possible partnership for the next 10 years or more. Representing BAGNO will be pastors Fred Luter, David Crosby, John Faull, and Dennis Watson. Mike Flores and I will go along to carry their bags. David Hankins and Mike Canady from LBC will be at the table.
In asking for continuing help from LBC and NAMB, New Orleans is not unaware of our massive debt to Southern Baptists through these (and other) agencies. We have been the grateful recipient of many millions of dollars of the Lord’s money and untold thousands of man-hours from Baptists who have flowed our way to help rebuild the city and restore our churches. In the process, thousands of our residents have heard the message of God–after seeing it in action–and have prayed with their visitors and benefactors to receive Christ as Savior.
Every week, I hear of volunteer teams from our Southern Baptist churches who continue to arrive in the city to work on rebuilding homes, restoring churches, and reviving communities.
I venture to suggest that at any given time, just among Southern Baptists alone, you could locate a dozen visiting church teams working somewhere in the metro area. We hear of some of them, but make no attempt to chronicle all the comings and goings of these wonderful friends. Rincon, Georgia’s First Baptist Church had a team here this week. Last week, it was Cumming’s First Baptist Church from the Peach State. A group from Hawaii was holding a block party in the neighborhood adjoining the seminary Friday night and phoned to invite me over. I was not able to participate but am well aware of the continuing ministry of these good folks who have made the long trek to New Orleans many times in the 32 months since Katrina.
There is no Katrina fatigue, we can safely announce. God’s people across this land still have New Orleans on their hearts, in their budgets, and on their agendas. How grateful we are.
Our need for the next few years will not be limited to finances from NAMB and LBC, but will include the kind of assistance that can only be provided by someone driving or flying into town, donning their work clothes, and wading out into the city to build a house, revive a church, or rescue a family.
Chuck Kelley, president of our New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said to some of us two weeks ago, “New Orleans is on the verge of a tremendous movement of God’s Spirit. Since Katrina, more seed of God’s love and Christ’s message has been sown here than in all the previous years of our existence.”
I thought of all the times in the 1990s when I would quote Chuck in another vein at First Baptist Kenner while urging our people to pray for revival. “Dr. Chuck Kelley says there has never been a great revival in New Orleans. He says our churches have wanted to reap a harvest in a field which they have not sown.”
That has changed now, thank the Lord. Now, as we continue to labor, we pray for Heaven to open up and God to pour out His Spirit in life-transforming ways.
“Mercy drops round us are falling,” the old hymn went. “But for the showers we plead.”
Pray for reign, Christ’s reign. Bring it on, Lord.