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As members of Community Church of New Orleans prepare to begin the new church
year, they do so without their own church, without half of their membership, and
without a formal religious education program. What is abundantly clear, however,
is that they do so with vision, hope and care. Despite losing most of the
congregation's young families, when the doors of their temporary church open on
September 10th at the Chapel of the Holy Comforter, their youngest congregants,
an eight year-old girl and a two year-old boy, will be greeted by committed
volunteers and a minister who believes that every member of the congregation,
regardless of age, deserves the best Sunday experience possible. "We need
religious education, even if it's for a very small group," said Rev. Jim
VanderWeele, who is hopeful that the RE program will grow along with the
rebuilding of the Lakeview community.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Community Church lost half of its members,
mostly young families who relocated and have yet to return. In a strategizing
session with UUA Moderator Gini Courter and Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo, members of
the church board and RE volunteers envisioned a program that would address the
current needs of the church's young people and also prepare the church for
growth. "What we really need is a one-room school house approach that can meet a
wide range of needs," said Suzy Mague. Plans were formulated to provide
Community Church with such a program using components of UUA Curricula, activity
boxes focused on Unitarian Universalist identity, and materials designed to help
create sacred space in their temporary home.
Whether or not new young families find their way to Community Church,
VanderWeele is quick to point out that the need for a worshipful and meaningful
experience for the congregation's youngest members cannot wait. "They are as
important as any other member." VanderWeele is hopeful, however, that growth
will come, particularly as the congregation rebuilds their church building,
increases their outreach and develops relationships with the vibrant New Orleans
The Reverend Wendy von Zirpolo New Orleans, Louisiana
August 28, 2006
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Last updated on Thursday, August 2, 2012.
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