Religious leaders come together to meet and strategize long-term support for houses of worship

LOS ANGELES, CA – February 15, 2007 – Bishop Charles Blake and Reverend Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray were joined by civil rights icon, global leader and HOPE Global Spokesman, Ambassador Andrew Young, and a host of top ranking spiritual leaders to create a long-term revitalization plan that would support Katrina effected houses of worship in New Orleans. The meeting, hosted by Bishop Blake at the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, included an update on the post hurricane recovery by Cynthia Willard Lewis, Councilwoman, New Orleans District E, Joe Givens, Regional Council of Churches representative and Carl Williams, Faith-Based Coordinator for the Louisiana Recovery Authority.

“Ambassador Young has challenged us to invite churches across the country to answer a “Macedonian Call” to help our brothers and sisters in New Orleans keep rebuilding,” said Dr. Murray, “This is about rebuilding and continued support of the congregations of New Orleans as centers of neighborhood regeneration.”

The initiative, which springboards from the National and Regional Council of Churches, hopes to encompass representation from all faiths and will encompass 36 local churches working in partnership with 360 churches nationwide to unify efforts for the next 2-3 years. The effort hopes to create an institutionalized buddy-system for rebuilding centers of worship in New Orleans. “We have all tried to help individually in the weeks and months following the Hurricane Katrina tragedy, but by necessity most of our efforts have been “short term” in nature.  This effort is inspired by Ambassador Andrew Young, a concerned native son of New Orleans and ordained minister, we believe we have a vision for the revitalization of local churches and houses of worship in New Orleans,” asserted Bishop Blake.

Operation HOPE has committed to provide staff on the ground in New Orleans to work with the 36 identified churches and their members managed through Operation HOPE’s disaster preparedness division, HOPE Coalition America. “It is clear that congregations in gulf area are still struggling to get back on their feet, this coordinated effort will help provide them with the support they still desperately need to restore their places of worship,” said Fred D. Smith, managing director, HOPE Coalition America.

Operation HOPE, a non-profit dedicated to financial literacy, has committed to assisting parishioners with personal finance and economic counseling. HOPE will target qualifying individuals for Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and work with spiritual leaders on an overall economic rebuilding plan for centers of worship.

The February 9th meeting host committee members included: Keith Atkinson, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; Reverend Kathy Cooper-Ledesma, California Council of Churches; Reverend Norman Copeland Ward, A.M.E. Church; Reverend William Epps, Second Baptist Church; Dr. Kurt Frederickson, Fuller Theological Seminary; Rabbi Robert Gan, Temple Isaiah; Reverend Joe Hardwick, Praises of Zion Church; Reverend Timothy Henning, American Clergy Leadership Conference; Ms. Hyepin Im, Korean Churches for Community Development; Rabbi Steven Jacobs, Temple Kol Tikvah; Sister Sherell Johnson, Council on American Islamic Relations; Reverend Peter Laarman, Progressive Christians Uniting; Dr. Lewis Logan, II Bethel A.M.E. Church; Pastor Henry Masters, Holman United Methodist Church; Reverend Clyde Oden, Bryant Temple A.M.E.; Reverend Joyce Randall, Los Angeles Council of Churches; Reverend David Wheeler, Fuller Seminary; Bishop Henry Williamson Christian, Methodist Episcopal Church; and Reverend Leonard Jackson, Office of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

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