Archive of Supplemental Resources

Additional in-depth articles and resources are available at St. John Partners Resources.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

St. Andrews UCC Builds Community Garden

St. Andrews UCC Builds Community Garden

“Seeds of Hope” is the way Rev. Don Boutté described the community garden that members of the St. Andrews UCC church 0f Perkasie, PA constructed in July beside the St. John Baptist church in New Orleans. St. Andrews is a Churches Supporting Churches (CSC) partner with St. John Baptist, along with CBC and four other churches in the Philadelphia area.

In a letter to Rev. Scott Hutchinson, pastor of St. Andrews, Boutté said the seeds are already beginning to develop fruit. “Your work has sparked the interest of many of the residents and some have asked how they could be helpful in maintaining the garden,” he said.

The project was organized by Chuck Hill, a member of St. Andrews who has attended most of the Churches Supporting Churches (CSC) task force meetings at CBC. Hill planned several fund-raising events to finance the trip, including the Chili Cook-Off attended by several CBC members. (CBC also contributed $1,000 from a communion offering.)

Hill recruited 13 participants at St. Andrews and made two trips to New Orleans to survey the site and to purchase building supplies that were placed in a storage facility until the project began.

The work group built a number of raised beds surrounding a meditation plot with a large cross in the center. “This is only phase one,” Hill said. Phases two and three include planting fruit trees, installing benches and a tool shed, and possibly providing an on-site water source. The garden was built on an unused parking lot adjacent to the church that already had a chain-link fence on three sides. The group installed a picket fence on the front of the property.

Hutchinson said the trip was more than a work project; it was a spiritual high point for the participants. In a sense, we didn’t want to face the pain in New Orleans, he said, and there was a lot of introspection once the group arrived, Feelings came to a head when the group visited the recently rebuilt home of Rev. Charles DuPlessis (a CSC pastor who ministers in the Lower Ninth Ward). “We moved beyond being ‘missionary tourists’ and discovered why we were there,” Hutchinson said.

“On the way to the airport,” Hutchinson continued, “Chuck pulled off the highway and said, ‘We can’t go into the airport without stopping to pray.’ And everyone prayed.”

Boutté told St. Andrews that the rewards from the community garden will go beyond the vegetables and fruits that are harvested. “We have been able to begin the discussion of healthy lifestyle choices within the community,” he said. “Thank you for sharing in our vision of holistic ministry.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Healing Retreat for New Orleans Pastors

A four-year-old dream became a reality for Rev. Don Boutté, executive director of Churches Supporting Churches (CSC) in late June, 2009 when 29 New Orleans pastors gathered in Alexandria, LA for a mental and spiritual health retreat.

On his very first visit to CBC, Boutté told CBCs task force that mental health was one of his top three concerns. He was dealing with suicide, homelessness, gang violence, divorce, and school truancy on a weekly basis and didn’t know where to turn for professional help that was no longer available from New Orleans’ boarded up clinics and medical offices. He was not alone in his struggle. Other CSC pastors faced similar problems, while simultaneously dealing with a personal loss of family, home, job and congregation.

The CBC task force tried to find solutions. James Craig went on-line and discovered that the University of Missouri was training Gulf Coast peer counselors through its International Center for Psychosocial Trauma. CBC paid for Rev. Clifford Jones, associate pastor of St John Baptist, to attend their week-long course. At the same time, Sandy Bauer contacted some of her social work colleagues in New Orleans to see if they could find professionals to whom CSC pastors could make referrals. Later, Bauer used a week of her sabbatical to visit New Orleans with her colleague, Linda Ralph-Kearn, to survey both needs and resources.

Following their trip, Bauer and Ralph-Kearn met with the co-chairs of CBCs task force to discuss ways to respond. Bill Stayton and Marcus Pomeroy also attended the meeting. The conversation moved to a discussion of Boutté’s wish, shared at the Baptist Peace Fellowship Summer Conference, that the CSC pastors be given training similar to the clinical pastoral education courses provided in most seminaries. Stayton offered to take this idea to Morehouse School of Medicine where he had just accepted a position. He proposed a series of four three-day retreats covering not only the ways pastors could respond to their constituents but also the ways they could find healing for themselves.

Stayton was successful in communicating this need at Morehouse and he received offers of help from other professors as well as funding from a special Katrina fund at the School of Medicine.

The first retreat enabled the pastors to share, sometimes for the first time, the pain they were experiencing, according to Bauer who served as an evaluator for the funding source. In a recent report to the CSC Task Force, she identified several themes that emerged: tension between needing to care for others and needing to care for themselves; dealing with loss; coping with trauma; a sense of injustice; and questioning--as well as drawing strength from—their faith.

These themes were addressed in the three components of the retreat: Spiritual and Theological Renewal (in which Pomeroy was a resource leader); Mental and Emotional Health Renewal (led by Dr. Ruth Shim of the Morehouse School of Medicine); and Personal and Relational Renewal (in which Stayton was a resource leader). Each session began and ended with “Consciously Resting Meditation” led by Dr. Kofi Kondwani of the Morehouse School of Medicine. Dr. Walter Fluker, chair of Leadership Studies at Morehouse closed the retreat with an inspirational talk. It is noteworthy that all of the Morehouse participants donated their time, an $8,400 contribution according to Stayton.

Boutté described the retreat as a “phenomenal success.” In a letter to Bauer, he said: “The pastors engaged in a way that I could not have imagined would have happened. The self-disclosure that occurred during the sessions was inspiring and healing. The pastors left the retreat feeling invigorated and empowered.” Pomeroy added that many pastors hoped this sense of empowerment would enable them to change the face of New Orleans.

Stayton is already seeking funding for three more retreats. Meanwhile, for Boutté as well as the CBC task force, the first retreat has proven to be a hopeful response to a dream born in the agony and frustration of ministering to a people who have been marginalized and dispossessed since Hurricane Katrina.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Partners To Welcome Delegation

A “bang-up party” on October 18 will allow St. John Baptist’s Pennsylvania Churches Supporting Churches partners to meet and mingle with 15 youth and adults visiting from New Orleans. The party will be a combination potluck dinner and fundraiser for the St. John Baptist after-school music program for at-risk youth, with entertainment provided by several area musical groups as well as by youth musicians from St. John Baptist led by their music director, Hezekiah Brinson.

College Visits and Service Projects

The delegation arrives in Philadelphia late on Wednesday, October 15. On Thursday, the youth will visit Eastern University and Temple University. The adults will meet with the CBC Senior Support and Service Corps in the morning and explore community gardens in West Philadelphia in the afternoon with Rev. David Braneky, pastor of CSC partner, Lansdowne Baptist. Members of CBC’s Churches Supporting Churches Task Force will join them that evening for a potluck dinner at the Prima’s.

On Friday morning the youth will be taken to Lincoln University by members of CSC partner, Saints Memorial Baptist Church, while the adults visit Urban Promise in Camden where they will discuss this organization’s after-school music program and youth leadership program. Youth and adults will come together for lunch at the Reading Terminal Market to get a flavor of Pennsylvania cuisine followed by a classic tour of the Liberty Bell. A National Park Ranger will lead them on the "Quest for Freedom: Slavery and the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia" tour to be followed by a visit to Mother Bethel and the Richard Allen Museum. The adults will eat out for dinner while the youth will go to a Phantoms hockey game with Chuck Hill and youth from CSC partner, St. Andrews United Church of Christ. That evening Marcus and Nancy Pomeroy have invited the pastors of the CSC partner churches to join Laurie Sweigard and themselves in an evening with Don and Joyce Boutté.

Policy Link Workshop

Saturday morning provides an opportunity for adults from all the CSC partner churches to join adults from St. John Baptist in an advocacy training workshop led by Annie Clark, the associate director of Policy Link. Rev. Boutté is a staff member of Policy Link and the workshop has been scheduled to meet one of the priorities he lifted up for our work with Churches Supporting Churches. Policy Link has been particularly helpful in bringing to the attention of state and national legislators the need for equitable development in reconstruction from Katrina’s devastation, particularly as this relates to affordable housing.. Call Kathy Cleveland at the CBC church office (610-688-0664) to indicate you are planning to attend. The workshop runs from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon.

The Welcome Party

The Welcome Party on Saturday evening is scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. No reservations are necessary. Just bring something to share at the potluck. Beverages will be provided.

In addition to the potluck, some “awesome cooks” (Rev. Boutté’s description) from the St. John delegation will be whipping up New Orleans dishes for a New Orleans Tasting Table, with small portions offered for $1.00.

Entertainment will be provided by the Soulé Haitian-American Gospel Ensemble, Zion Baptist Church Mass Choir, Arcadia University Exalted Movement and the Annointed 4, the CBC Jazz Band, and youth musicians from St. John Baptist.

Fundraising activities, in addition to the New Orleans Tasting Table, include a Silent Auction and a Line-Dancing Competition.

Child care will be available for the entire evening.

The delegation’s visit promises to be a unique opportunity to offer hospitality and friendship to a people whose faith has been tested beyond what most of us have imagined possible. We need to give them a respite from their daily struggle with healing and survival and we need to open ourselves to learning how to develop what our recent sermon series has described as a “faith for hard times.”

Sunday, August 31, 2008


CBC Pastor Marcus Pomeroy spoke with Rev. Don Boutte this afternoon, Sunday, August 31. He and his family are safe in Baton Rouge. Members of his congregation have all evacuated and they have a database of phone numbers this time so that they can keep in touch. Rev. Boutte and his family may go to Nashville if things get bad in Baton Rouge. He appreciates our prayers in worship this morning and asks for continued prayer.
Read the article on Churches Supporting Churches by Jane Lampman in the Christian Science Monitor, published on the third anniversary of Katrina.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Long Way Home, August 2008

Policy Link has just released its analysis of the progress of housing rebuilding and repair in Louisiana since Katrina three years ago. The report, A Long Way Home: The State of Housing Recovery in Louisiana 2008, focuses on the three federal programs: the Road Home for homeowners, the large rental program, and the small rental program.

Key findings posted Aug. 21 on Equity Blog by report author, Annie Clark:

• In New Orleans, 4 of every 5 Road Home recipients rebuilding their homes did not get enough money to cover their repairs. Statewide, more than 2 of every 3 face the same predicament.
• Statewide, the average Road Home applicant fell more than $35,000 short of the money they need to rebuild their home. The shortfall hit highly flooded, historically African-American communities particularly hard.
• Nearly 40,000 low-income homeowners received an average of about $27,000 each from an additional Road Home grant program designed to help vulnerable residents.
• Renters still face huge hurdles—only 2 in 5 damaged affordable rental units statewide will be repaired or replaced with recovery assistance. In the New Orleans metro region, it’s an even more dismal rate of 1 in 3.
• The national credit crunch and personal financial vulnerability keeps many mom-and-pop landlords from being able to rebuild through the small rental repair program. Meant to restore more than 10,000 rental homes, the program has completed only 82.
• Nearly 28,000 families nationwide still rely on disaster rental assistance, with 14,000 in the greater New Orleans metro region alone. There will not be nearly enough affordable rental units on the market by the time the assistance runs out in March 2009.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Public Policy and Justice: The Case Study of New Orleans

People from around the country, from Seattle to Rochester, from Missouri to North Carolina, participated in the workshop on "Public Policy and Justice" at the Baptist Peace Fellowship Summer Conference in Montréal. Rev. Donald P. Boutté, executive director of Churches Supporting Churches (CSC), shared stories of his work with CSC, Policy Link, and the Equity and Inclusion Campaign on equitable redevelopment of the Gulf Coast.

Affordable housing remains a profound need for those with limited and low incomes. The current plans are shockingly inadequate: funds have been allocated to restore only 1 out of 3 deeply affordable housing units in New Orleans. Recent legislation offered by Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, The Gulf Coast Multifamily and Assisted Housing Recovery Act, supports affordable housing for the elderly and disabled.

Jobs and infrastructure rebuilding are two great needs for the restoration of a livable community. California Representative Zoe Lofgren offered legislation, The Gulf Coast Civic Works Act, that supports the creation of 100,000 new jobs and supports job training in infrastructure rebuilding. Although for the most part funding for youth has been left out of Gulf Coast rebuilding efforts, this bill provides for a youth Conservation Corps with job training in wetlands restoration.

For information on The Gulf Coast Multifamily and Assisted Housing Recovery Act, see the Equity and Inclusion Campaign's summary of S. 2975.

For information on The Gulf Coast Civic Works Act, see the Equity and Inclusion Campaign’s summary of H.R. 4048.

For general information about Gulf Coast advocacy, see the workshop handout. Write your Congresspersons asking them to co-sponsor this legislation and write to Congressional committee members asking them to move the legislation forward.