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Rising from the ashes: church and community resilience

Rising from the ashes: church and community resilience

In Houma, LA, Christmas is coming early for an Episcopal church destroyed by fire in 2010, now rising from the ashes. Building work running ahead of time has moved up the date for the reopening of St Matthew’s Episcopal Church from early next year to mid-December. Local media station WWLTV reports:

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The aftermath of the November, 2010 fire, via St Matthew’s Episcopal Church on Facebook

St. Matthews will host an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 12 for the community, said the Rev. Craig Dalferes. The following day, a traditional Christian Mass featuring the St. Matthews choir will be held at 10 a.m., followed by a gumbo lunch.

“Everybody’s been delighted,” Dalferes said. “It really evokes a sense of the old church. In that way, it’s very familiar. It’s a new space that’s a lot brighter and bigger, but it’s got the soul of the old church. It’s the best of the both worlds, really.”

Houma resident, Beulah Rodrigue, 96, has been a St. Matthews parishioner since 1947. She said the renovations surpassed her expectations….

“We’ve seen a pretty sharp increase in our church attendance,” Dalferes added. “There’s a lot of new faces and new excitement in the community to celebrate with us.”

The last step will be to outfit the remaining church windows with a handmade stained glass design of memorable biblical scenes by early next year. Ten such panels have already been installed, and Dalferes’ hope is to install a nativity scene by Christmas.

Rodrigue said the new church wouldn’t have been possible without the community’s support.

“Without the love of the people in this parish, we wouldn’t have what we have on Barrow Street right now,” she said. “Houma is God’s green acre.”

In Buffalo, NY, the local community churches is rallying around another neighbor, Michigan Street Baptist Church, which suffered vandalism to its historic markers over the weekend. A GoFundMe page reports:

Two signs commemorating the church’s role as a stop on the Underground Railroad were torn from the ground and damaged.

“It’s a shock because we consider this holy ground,” said Bishop Clarence Montgomery.

The Michigan Street Baptist Church is one of Buffalo’s oldest houses of worship and served as a safe house for enslaved people of African descent who were attempting to escape to Canada and freedom throughout the mid-19th century.

This initiative is being undertaken by the staff at Visit Buffalo Niagara and Buffalo’s hospitality community.

Featured photo: the newly restored St Matthew’s Episcopal Church via Facebook

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