- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2006

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. — The Rev. Edward Murphy wakes each day at 5 a.m., has Bible study and within an hour is on the reconstruction site of the hurricane-battered Shoreline Park Baptist Church.

The stocky, 61-year-old minister leaves footprints in the sawdust on the sanctuary floor as he makes his daily inspection of the two-story, brick building. When he reaches the outside rear of the church, he abruptly stops, smiles and turns to his wife, Karen.

“They have the meter in,” he says.

“Praise the Lord,” Mrs. Murphy replies.

The significance of the meter is more than restored electricity. It means the church is that much closer to recovery and to becoming a symbol of hope to a community still scarred eight months after Hurricane Katrina nearly wiped it off the map.

“Virtually everybody who comes into Bay Saint Louis comes by this church,” Mr. Murphy says. “I want it to be a shining light,”

Like the thousands of families washed from their homes and businesses along Mississippi’s coast, church leaders from Waveland to Pascagoula face tough decisions about the future.

Some are rebuilding with the help of the faithful across the nation, while others have nothing left to rebuild and are relocating inland. A common thread for all is the challenge to provide healing for struggling churchgoers.

“We need to get these houses of worship in order as soon as possible before more people drift away,” says William Perkins, editor of the Baptist Record, the Mississippi Baptist Convention’s weekly news journal.

About 400 Southern Baptist churches were damaged by the hurricane. Of those, about 100 were destroyed, Mr. Perkins says.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Biloxi had its parishes, schools, deaf center and senior citizens apartments insured for $35 million on one policy, but Katrina did $70 million in damage. Ten churches were destroyed or gutted and another 10 were severely damaged, said Shirley M. Henderson, communication coordinator for the diocese. The diocese combined some churches rather than rebuild, basing the decision on the degree of damage and whether there was a congregation base left in a parish.

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