Mississippi City UMC Members March Back Home

When they found a surviving building for their school and church in a few short weeks after Hurricane Katrina, the hard hit members of Mississippi City United Methodist Church considered it a blessing.

"It has provided refuge and comfort for God's people," said Pastor Rod Dickson Rishel in his prayer. "It has served our holy faith."

And on this day they experienced another blessing, and one unusual request.

"As we sing the hymn, I'm going to need someone to take this pulpit and this communion table and put them on that trailer out there," Rishel said.

And with those words, Pastor Rishel led his congregation out the door.

"Be sure to bring a hymnal," he said, walking out. "Strike up the band."

And he led them all the way down the road, back to their old home.

"It seemed like it would never actually happen, so we're glad it's become a reality," said one member.

"It's like the exodus," said another.

Their 889 days in the wilderness ended Sunday. It took a long time because, from the beginning, they agreed rebuilding for people would come first.

"Almost half of this congregation was homeless, including myself, after the storm," Rishel said. "So we really felt like the congregation could have an temporary home and our families needed permanent homes."

But with the help of leaders from the United Methodist Church and volunteers from across the country, the church is back home on the beach.

"We wanted to bring our things - which is our pulpit, and our table, and our bible, and our candles - physically bring them here, in kind of a reclamation, as well as a leaving of that place. It's so much more than a building. It's about who we are and our presence in the community, and our place were we can reach out and live out our faith together."