The Last Sunday in November

Some of our historic New Orleans restaurants have relocated to the Northshore, around Covington or Slidell, and are drawing in the customers, according to a front page article in Sunday’s Times-Picayune. I expect there’s a lot of that happening in other cities, too, from Houston to Dallas to Memphis, as New Orleanians decide either not to return or to wait until the city boasts enough residents to support them.

The Steve Kelley editorial cartoon in Sunday’s paper shows the Grinch, labeled IRS, taking down the children’s stockings from the mantel (marked “Road Home”). The various stockings are labeled “G-R-A-N-T-S.”

Still no letters to the editor about the Joshua and Delores Thompson fiasco, although columnist Jarvis DeBerry gives it his attention. He has no new information, but repeats the Associated Press story of this couple bilking the Memphis church out of the new house then reselling it, but he clothes the account in a biblical story. The Matthew 25 account of the tenants investing the talent entrusted to them and the one servant burying his is seen as a parable for this saga. The scared servant, the one who feared his master’s wrath and buried his talent, is described by the master as wicked, lazy, and worthless. DeBerry says, “Similar adjectives might be used to describe Delores and Joshua Thompson….”

He continues, “There will always be those Delores Thompsons whose attitudes validate Mark Twain’s rather pithy distinction of the species: ‘If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you.’ Twain wrote, ‘This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.'”

DeBerry ends with a message to the Thompsons: “Verily I say unto them, God don’t like ugly. While burying one’s talents is lazy and wicked, even that’s better than selfishly taking those talents earmarked for the truly needy.”

My Mom on the Nauvoo, Alabama, farm read the same story in the Birmingham News, so apparently the sad tale of these shameful New Orleanians is everywhere.


Sunday morning, I preached at Lakeside Baptist Church in Metairie, filling in for Pastor Anthony Orzo. Lakeside is a small church–we had perhaps 40 in attendance–that took lots of hurricane damage to their educational building. The repairs are almost complete, but not quite, so the congregation is still without the use of this portion of their campus.

Donna Settoon plays the organ and piano for worship at Lakeside. A couple of years ago, I attended Lakeside when her husband Mike led the service, and was impressed that this little congregation had such a gifted worship leader. Alas, Mike died four days after Hurricane Katrina hit. Donna says, “I feel sure that Katrina killed him. He had had congestive heart failure and the stress of Katrina was just too much.” They evacuated to their Osyka, Mississippi, home and were watching the televised devastation of New Orleans and surrounding communities. “He was so worried,” Donna said. “Mike was a Type A personality and you were never in doubt what he felt about anything, but this time he was so quiet. He was internalizing it.”

The irony of this is that had Mike been able to hold out for three more days, he would have discovered their home in Metairie took no damage. The storm hit on Monday, he died on Friday, and the following Monday, Labor Day, people were allowed back in to check on their homes and he could have learned how well they had fared.

When the number of hurricane victims is announced, it will not include Mike Settoon. But it should. He was as much a victim as someone drowned in his attic.

“He loved to play the trumpet,” Donna said. He grew up in the old Mid-City Baptist Church in New Orleans when Larry Black was the minister of music. After Larry went to the First Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi, he often brought Mike up to play for special events. Donna was surprised to learn that Larry and I served at Jackson together in the early 1970s and still treasure each other’s friendship.

What to do this Christmas season? Here’s a great suggestion….

On Sunday afternoon, December 17, singers from Faith Baptist, Munholland Methodist, Trinity Episcopal, Edgewater Baptist, and Metairie Baptist churches will join in presenting a special Christmas concert called “The Many Moods of Christmas” at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1329 Jackson Avenue, New Orleans. Called “four suites of traditional carols arranged for choir and orchestra,” this ought to be inspiring. The church is located at the intersection of Jackson and Chestnut, between St. Charles Avenue and Magazine Street.

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