New Orleans UUs Mark Katrina Anniversary with Remembrance and Resolve

The following is a report from UUA Moderator Gini Courter on the Katrina anniversary worship service celebrated by New Orleans Unitarian Universalists.

(New Orleans, August 28, 2006) There was a full house yesterday morning for the joint worship service of Community Church UU and First UU Church of New Orleans. Extra chairs were being added even after the start of the 10:30 service as members and visitors streamed into the church. The officiant for the service was the Reverend Marta I. Valentin, minister of First UU Church.

The service was both a celebration and a remembrance—remembrance of what was lost, and remembrance of those who had died in the past year. During the meditation, congregants called out the names of the deceased. Towards the end, the strong voice of a woman near the front acknowledged, "those people whose names we do not know."

Marta's homily, entitled "Bearers of Light," was a call to celebration. "We are here to celebrate, celebrate that these two communities, worshipping as one, have had the great good fortune to survive...we are still here to tell the stories and create the stories of the future."

Marta urged congregants to help realize the role of Unitarian Universalism in the community: "If New Orleans is to emerge as a city bigger and better, then we must commit to being bearers of the light, to bring the others out of the darkness of no return." She called upon congregants to use intention, openness and love as they reached out to the community. Through the continuing uncertainty and challenges she urged the congregation to nurture of relationships, to honor diversity and to focus on possibility. "There will be other challenges for New Orleans," she said, "but we have been left to survive for reasons we have yet to discover. We have been blessed with much. Now it is time to give back."

UUA Moderator Gini Courter, the Reverend Wendy von Zirpolo of the UU Church of Marblehead, and Thomas Jefferson District Executive Annette Marquis are in Southern Louisiana this week to be present with the New Orleans area congregations on the first Anniversary of Katrina.

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