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February 15, 2024

Dear Friends in Christ,

As my time begins to wind down here in NOLA, I thought it would be a good opportunity to update you on how my extended leave has been going.

Yesterday I gathered with the good people at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church for Ash Wednesday. St. Luke’s is located in the historic Treme neighbourhood here in New Orleans. It’s the oldest free African American neighbourhood in the USA. St. Luke’s is predominantly at African American congregation led by Mother Jane Allison. The stained glass, stations of the cross, and the other liturgical symbols throughout the church reflect the rich tradition of African American faith expressions within the Anglican tradition. 

Mother Jane Allison was saying that in 2005 after hurricane Katrina many people in the neighbouring left and never returned. The community faces the pressure and challenge of gentrification to keep the precious traditions and history of the area intact.

My volunteering at the Harry Thompson Centre continues to be life giving and inspire joy. Listening to the stories of folks (most of whom are sleeping on the streets or staying in shelters) is definitely heartbreaking but I’ve been blown away by the warmth and welcome that has been extended to me to be a temporary part of the life of the community. I continue to play chess, checkers and dominoes with the guests. As I mentioned in my last communication, this has been a good ministry tool to open doors in the building of relationships and trust with folk, and has given many opportunities to listen and pray for people. Some of the guests have been coming to church with me on Sunday’s. I’ve grown attached to the community at the center and am getting emotional thinking about leaving next week. 

My time away from the Center sees me taking in the city. Carnival and Mardi Gras was “off the hook” in terms of experiencing the energy and unique culture of New Orleans. In my little corner in the 9th ward I’ve been enjoying frequenting the many cafes, reading books and people watching.

As the time runs down here, my heart is sincerely filled with gratitude for the support that I’ve received from “y’all” at St. John’s to spend this formative time. I can’t help but think of the following words of St. Francis who once said, “The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today.” It’s the seeds of that spirit which I feel have been planted and nourished in me here; and as we head into our annual meeting in a couple weeks I’m excited about the ways we can embody and live out this teaching with our ministry at St. John.

Looking forward to seeing you all soon!

Lenten blessings,