When Beverly Connelly D’03 first stepped into New Orleans’ Phillips United Methodist Church in early December, she thought flames, rather than flood, had ravaged it.
Soot-like black mold covered the sanctuary walls, pews, hymnals, choir robes, Bibles, even her husband’s preaching robes.
“The doors got so wet that they had burst—just split wide open,” says Connelly. Waterlogged pews lay upside down or on end, as if thrown like sticks from above.
It was, says Connelly, a “very sad sight.”
The Connelly family—Beverly, her husband, Joe, who pastored Phillips and another New Orleans church, and their daughter—had evacuated well ahead of Katrina. Following a morning meeting with Louisiana Bishop William W. Hutchinson on Saturday, Aug. 27, in Baton Rouge, the Connellys returned to their rental home in Kenner, 10 miles from downtown New Orleans and home of the city’s international airport. They and a group of church members and friends had decided to caravan to Wylie, Texas, where Beverly has family.
Beverly’s sister quickly secured as many hotel rooms as she could find for her brother-in-law’s parishioners. With their group safe in Wylie, the Connellys hosted a barbeque on Sunday evening. Katrina seemed very far away.
But on Monday, as the media reported Katrina’s trail of devastation and death, “We were all in shock,” says Beverly. The following day, a relative of one of their parishioners had a fatal heart attack. “There was a sense of panic,” says Beverly. “We had nowhere to send his body. Finally, one of his children living in another state had his body flown there.”
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