Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bp. Jenkins post Katrina

They are an unlikely pair, chatting up people on porch stoops in the poorer neighborhoods of New Orleans: Bishop Charles Jenkins, 57, the son of white, rural north Louisiana and pastor to 18,000 south Louisiana Episcopalians, and Jerome Smith, 69, black and rumpled, son of Treme, a former Freedom Rider from the civil rights movement.

Before Hurricane Katrina, in the days when Jenkins says he was focused more on the well-being of his predominantly white church than his predominantly black city, they might never have crossed paths.

But since Katrina, they have forged a relationship in which Jenkins, now deep into a profound personal and spiritual transformation, said he has come to love and rely on Smith. Smith, a sometimes fiery activist in whom Jenkins sees a gentle soul, has become one of the bishop's principal guides into New Orleans' poor African-American culture, a landscape Jenkins said he previously glimpsed but did not understand.

"He's my mentor, you know," Jenkins said recently. "It is a good day whenever Jerome Smith comes by."

But Smith is only one symbol of the journey of Charles Jenkins, and by extension Jenkins' diocese, since Katrina.

Bishop Jenkins was the speaker at our last diocesan convention. He is a true man of God. Read this article all the way through, it's worth the time.

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