Congregations establish partnerships to help Unitarian Universalist communities affected by hurricanes.
An anonymous $100,000 gift helped push donations to the UUA-UUSC Gulf Coast Relief Fund past the $1.5 million mark last week. In another measure of Unitarian Universalist generosity in response to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, all New Orleans-area Unitarian Universalist congregations now have church partners to help coordinate relief and recovery efforts for them.
The Gulf Coast Relief Fund was launched jointly by the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee shortly after Katrina struck. As of Friday, contributions totaled $1.69 million, from 7,715 donors—individuals, religious education classes, and congregations. Last week’s $100,000 check was the second the fund has received; both were anonymous.
The First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans is paired with the First Parish in Cambridge, Mass. First Church was heavily damaged by flooding. Its minister, the Rev. Marta Valentin, was a ministerial intern for two years at the Cambridge church and was ordained there in 2003.
Rita Butterfield is helping coordinate the partnership for Cambridge. “We’d been thinking for a few weeks about how to help with the hurricane relief effort,” she said. “Then when we heard from Marta about the devastation to her church we decided this is where we want to put our focus.” She added that it’s too early to know exactly what kind of support will be needed.
Cambridge, as the “managing partner,” will be coordinating support from a number of other UU congregations that will be assisting. They are:
The managing partner for Community Church Unitarian Universalist in New Orleans is Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Appleton, Wisc. Community Church was destroyed by flooding. Other partners who will work with Fox Valley are:
The managing partner for North Shore UU Society in Lacombe, La., is the Unitarian Universalist Society of Wellesley Hills, Mass. Supporting partner churches are the Olympia, Wash., Unitarian Universalist Congregation and Second Unitarian Church in Chicago.
In addition, churches that are close to New Orleans that have provided primary support for evacuees are developing partner relationships with other congregations:
One UU congregation, the Spindletop Unitarian Church in Beaumont, Texas, was slightly damaged in the second Gulf hurricane of the season, Hurricane Rita. The Rev. Anne Heller, interim district executive for the Southwestern Unitarian Universalist Conference, said it also will be partnered with other congregations. Spindletop suffered some water damage and falling trees struck a corner of the building and a maintenance shed.
The range of support for each congregation is still being determined and will be extended over a period of months and years. The Wellesley congregation, for example, has committed to paying the mortgage on the North Shore church, which lost its roof in the hurricane, for a year.
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Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.