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(New Orleans, Louisiana)
(Singing in church) “I’m so glad Jesus lifted me. I’m so glad Jesus lifted me…”
There’s joy in the air at First Grace United Methodist Church. It’s “one of the most diverse congregations in the city of New Orleans,” says member Margaret Washington.
Margaret Washington, First Grace United Methodist Church: “There is no white section or black section. We are truly a United Methodist Church. I am enriched each time I come to church.”
For 184 years, First United Methodist housed a white congregation. Just down the street, Grace United Methodist served an African-American fellowship. Hurricane Katrina brought them together. Mertes Troullier is a longtime member of Grace.
Mertes Troullier, First Grace United Methodist: “On Katrina Sunday, we were about to celebrate our 155th anniversary that very day.”
The storm damaged both buildings. Faced with the hard decision of what churches to save, the Reverend Shawn Moses Anglim came up with a proposal -- merge.
The Rev. Shawn Moses Anglim, First Grace United Methodist: “Basically, the question I asked was, ‘Do you think we can do more for our city as one body of Christ than we will ever do as two bodies one mile apart?’”
Mertes Troullier: “It’s not force mixed. It’s mixed because it wants to be mixed.”
Marylin Osborn, First Grace United Methodist: “There’s a genuine caring, there is a genuine love between the people.”
As word spread, the blended church quadrupled attendance. Stephanie Martin was riding the streetcar with her teenage son when the congregation caught his eye.
Stephanie Martin, New Member, First Grace United Methodist: “What he saw was a mixed group of people. I, of course, was like, ‘That’s an all white church and we can’t go there ’cause I’m not going to expose you to that.’ He’s the one who said, ‘Come on mom. Let’s go, let's try it and see what happens.’”
Now, Martin greets every person on Sunday with excitement about what her new church has to offer.
Stephanie Martin: “It’s the coming together. It’s black, it’s white, it’s Latino … and it’s love. I guarantee you if you come, you’re gonna feel the love!”
English and Spanish Sunday worship services are offered.
You can contact First Grace United Methodist Church at 504-488-0856.
Posted: August 31, 2010