November 2005
Making the Tough Choices

On Patience & Planning

Dear Vestry Papers Readers,

I write to you from our temporary offices in Baton Rouge where we are the guests of St. James’ Episcopal Church. We are sharing offices, phone lines, and everything else we don’t normally consider precious with the good folks of St. James’. The Rev. Mark Holland and indeed all the people of Baton Rouge have been most gracious. The city has grown by perhaps as many as 350,000 people and the infrastructure here is strained to the point of something collapsing daily.

The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion have been extraordinarily generous to us. I cannot say enough about Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD), the pastoral care of the Presiding Bishop and his staff, and the professional disaster relief folks brought to us by ERD. 

I need to ask something more of the church. I ask your patience with us. We are not functioning so well as some want of us. Every member of my staff is a displaced person and some of us are homeless. There is no moderately priced housing to be rented in Baton Rouge. Some of us are driving four hours a day to and from fishing camps with no electricity or potable water but by God’s grace, we are showing up. One of my canons with his son and expectant wife are sleeping on the floor of a church nursery. We are the lucky ones; there are tens of thousands just down the street sleeping on cots in a convention center. Our families are separated from us for reasons of education, housing and economics.

So please, be patient. Realize communications systems often do not work. We will, by God’s grace and with your help, grow into better functioning. What we have here are dedicated, hard-working staff who are themselves displaced and homeless trying to help those less fortunate. Please understand that we cannot house or care for volunteers at this time. There is not a room to be had between Baton Rouge and Memphis. I know some of you feel God is calling you to come here and in time we will be able to assist you in helping us. Now is not that time.*

Many of our churches are damaged; some are probably lost. We cannot get into Orleans Parish to see the most flooded areas. Consider this, if you will...what would you do if suddenly your congregation had no income? What if all the ministries you take for granted were suddenly stopped? So plan well.

Finally, I know that ERD will be with us for years and I hope after the shock of this tragedy has passed, you too will be with us. We are working hard in your name to be the hands and heart of Christ in the midst of this huge displacement of people and the destruction of much of our society. 

Pray for us. Be generous unto us and be patient with us. 

In Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Charles E. Jenkins

*Refers to when Vestry Papers went to print. Bishop Jenkins believes that the diocese might well be ready for volunteers in late fall. Please check first with the diocese (225) 387-5141 or Episcopal Relief and Development at (800) 334-7626.

This article is part of the November 2005 Vestry Papers issue on Making the Tough Choices