Host City: New Orleans, LA
In August of 2016, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly is in for “lagniappe” (LAN-yap) – a little something extra – as voting members experience the culturally rich city of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Founded in 1718 by a Frenchman named Sieur de Bienville, the city has a diverse history which brought cultures and influences from all over the world, including Spanish, German, Irish, and Sicilian to name a few. By the mid-1800’s, the city was the fourth largest in the United States.
Since then, New Orleans has influenced all aspects of culture from such a diverse heritage. The unique cuisine, including the popular gumbo, jambalaya, and po-boy sandwiches; the music, from the birth of rock and roll and the everlasting jazz that influenced it; and the dynamic church history which influenced some of the most extravagant celebrations like Mardi Gras.
The architecture in New Orleans is a piece of history itself. With almost 11,000 buildings, 82 percent of them were built before 1935. Traveling around the city is easy with the city’s streetcar system, with the original cars, manufactured between 1922 and 1924, still in use. Other features surrounding the city are the cemeteries, or, “cities of the dead.” Because of the city’s high water table and below sea-level elevation, most of the deceased are interred above ground.
Ten years ago, the powerful storm named Hurricane Katrina ripped through the area, causing massive amounts of damage to the city and the surrounding area. Parts that were not completely under water were affected by powerful winds and debris. Since then, the ELCA and other organizations have committed to assist with the immediate needs following the storm, but also sustaining the city in the rebuilding that followed. Now, after a decade of recovery and rebuilding, New Orleans is not only back on its feet, but ever-growing, ready to celebrate its 300th birthday. For more information on the growth since Katrina, visit http://katrina10.org
One of the biggest lessons learned from that disaster was the ability to work together in the darkest of times. We as church together, and we as Lutherans, will gather together again in this powerful city to experience how we are able to make a difference in various parts of the world, including our own cities and congregations. Coinciding with the 2016 Churchwide Assembly, the Grace Gathering will allow non-voting members to experience pieces of the assembly in worship and study, which will allow participants to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be church together. Attendees of both events will be encouraged to show “God’s Grace in Action” by participating in one of a variety of experiential learning activities on Thursday afternoon, August 11, themed under past and present conditions in New Orleans.