What to Do on the First Anniversary

The program for next Tuesday night’s “Katrina Anniversary Prayer Rally” at the First Baptist Church of New Orleans looks like this:

American Idol’s George Huff does pre-session music.

I lead the invocation.

Pastor David Crosby welcomes.

Praise and Worship: “In the Sanctuary”

Combine Choir Anthem: “We are United”

Recognition of Relief and Recovery Ministries: Frank Bailey, Victory Fellowship

Video Presentation

George Huff brings special music

Special prayer sessions led by

Dennis Watson, Celebration Church

Michael Green, Faith Church

Kathy Radke, God’s House Westbank Cathedral

Cornelius Tilton, Irish Channel Christian Fellowship

Praise and Worship: “Thank you, Lord”

Special Music: James Tealy

Inspirational Message: Fred Luter, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church

Combined Choir and Congregation: “Days of Elijah”

Benediction: J.D.Wiley, Life Center Cathedral

Post-service music: George Huff

Everything starts at 7 pm promptly. Karen Willoughly, managing editor of our Baptist Message, will be on hand to distribute 2,000 copies of the hot-off-the-press issue dedicated to this anniversary.

All the weeklies are featuring massive coverage of our part of the world on this anniversary. New Yorker magazine for August 21, 2006, devotes an amazing 18 pages to “Letter from New Orleans: The Lost Year: Behind the failure to rebuild” by Dan Baum. Anyone needing a recap on the local political snafus and roller-coasterisms over this last year would do well to turn to this article which focuses on the fate of the Lower Ninth Ward.

Pastor David Crosby gets a mention in the New Yorker article. “If ever a city needed a voice of brotherhood, it was New Orleans after Katrina. No one could find the right words, including the city’s powerful clergymen. When I visited the First Baptist Church on Canal Boulevard, which has about a thousand congregants, mostly white, its blue-eyed and flinty pastor, the Reverend David Crosby, told me, ‘There is nothing left in the Lower NInth Ward but dirt! A woman who has a house down there, what’s she got? A piece of dirt worth two or three thousand dollars.”

I suspect David gave writer Dan Baum an hour of his time for the interview, out of which he selects those three sentences. No wonder people shy away from reporters. Rather than his saying “No one could find the right words”–which assumes Baum consulted all the preachers and heard all their pronouncements–he would have done better to say, “I did not hear the right words.” As one acquainted with a hundred New Orleans pastors, I guarantee there are plenty with the appropriate words.

(My dictionary says “flinty” means “very hard” and “unmerciful.” However long Mr. Baum talked to Pastor David Crosby, it wasn’t long enough if that’s the impression he came away with. There is not a kinder soul anywhere than this man.)

In essence, what Baum did in his article was to trace the hopes and expectations following Katrina that some government power–someone!–would prohibit the rebuilding of the city in certain low-lying areas and make it stick. Those hopes were variously pinned on the mayor, the governor, the Bring New Orleans Back Commission, the Louisiana Recovery Authority, and finally, FEMA which produced its new Flood Plain maps. But everyone caved, and we’re back at the starting gate where every citizen is left to do his own thing.

Anyone searching for the primary cause of despair in local citizens should look no further than the failure of elected leadership.

Newsweek’s anniversary nod to Katrina is a photographic essay by Anthony Suau who visited this area 5 times in the last year and an article by Amanda Ripley on why Americans are reluctant to prepare for disasters.

The invitations constantly coming my way—to be interviewed on this radio hookup, write that article, speak in that church–stress that the audience will want to know what God is doing down here. “There is so much negative,” the inviter will say. “Tell us the positive.” I’m able to do that, I think. But the positive only works when you lay it alongside the negative.

One does not appreciate the goodness of God until he looks at it in the light of the inadequacies of man.

The image of Simon Peter walking on water has come to a lot of minds lately. So long as he kept his eyes fixed on the Lord, the apostle did fine. The moment he turned away and stared in panic at the enormous wave headed his way, he began sinking. That’s our predicament and our challenge: to focus on our Lord.

The good news these days is not coming from City Hall or the Governor’s Mansion or the White House. That’s why we will gather at the First Baptist Church of New Orleans Tuesday night, to thank a faithful God for His abiding goodness and His everlastingly good news.

You’re invited to join us.

2 thoughts on “What to Do on the First Anniversary

  1. you touch on the incompleteness of dan baum’s work briefly, but i would go further and say that much of baum’s article is tainted by inaccuracy and even lies, just to tell the story he wanted to write before he ever came down here. i outline 19 of his mistakes in my entry here. i hope your tuesday service goes well and is well-attended. your message is the right one. as we enter year two, let us be positive and thankful, yet resolved to uncover that which is wrong.

  2. Bro. Joe…I know that you know it but looking to

    politicians to come up with a plan is futile! Only God can direct. Until the political leadership recognizes this, it will be a continual

    circle. Those of you on the spiritual frontlines

    know what is needed but no one will ask you. Keep on doing what you are doing, always looking

    up, and remember…you are in a rescue boat…not a pleasure craft. Luvya

Comments are closed.