Churches asked to practice what they preach and help

30 area pastors hope to raise $100,000 in 10 days for hurricane victims

Katrina's Wake

September 02, 2005|By Matthew Hay Brown | Matthew Hay Brown,SUN STAFF

With many of their sister congregations down South now dispersed throughout the country, ministers in the area's black churches are planning to preach generosity this Sunday.

The pastors of some 30 churches in and around Baltimore have set a fundraising goal of $100,000 over the next 10 days - the initial step, they say, of a campaign to address the physical and spiritual needs of those displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

"We want it known that the church community is very much concerned with what is happening to our brothers and sisters in the Gulf Coast," Bishop Walter Thomas, pastor of New Psalmist Baptist Church, said to shouts of "Amen" from the church leaders who gathered Thursday to discuss the effort.

"If we don't rise to this occasion, we will be missing one of the greatest works that God calls us to do."

The churches join a broad range of religious organizations here mobilizing to assist the victims of Katrina. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, and the evangelical aid organization World Relief all have announced efforts aimed at easing the suffering in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

President Bush has remarked on the work of faith-based organizations in Katrina relief efforts, thanking the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and "all other members of the armies of compassion" for their work.

"I think the folks in affected areas are going to be overwhelmed when they realize how many Americans want to help them," he said.

The Baltimore pastors were planning to collect donations during Sunday services, with proceeds to be forwarded to the American Red Cross or a similarly established organization. They spoke of a two-pronged effort, with a call now for immediate assistance, and an appeal at Christmas for money to help churches recover.

"We have an obligation to all who are in need," Bishop Douglas I. Miles of Koinonia Baptist Church. "But we also have the responsibility of meeting the needs of those of the community of faith."

Thomas described a telephone call this week with his friend Bishop Darryl Brister of Beacon Light International Baptist in New Orleans. Brister's church was under water and he had to flee to to Houston. His congregation was now divided among Houston, Dallas and Atlanta.

Among other faith-based efforts, Stacye Zeisler, a spokeswoman for the Associated, said the organization had raised $180,000 in less than two days for the United Jewish Communities Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief Fund.

World Relief, the Baltimore-based humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, was collecting funds to support churches delivering food, water and other supplies to hurricane victims.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Baltimore was directing donations to Catholic Charities USA in Alexandria, Va.

The Rev. Frank M. Reid III, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, said a sustained effort would be needed to help the Gulf Coast recover from Katrina.

"The main thing is to stay on message," Reid said. "The message is that there is hope for the hopeless. There is healing for the hurting."

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