Thursday, November 26, 2009

St. Anna's

St. Anna's Episcopal Church is the coolest church. Located on Esplanade Avenue, north of the French Quarter, it was built for English-speaking church-goers in 1849.

First named St. Peter's, later renamed St. Anna's, it has always had a mission of social justice as an expression of spirituality. St. Anna's was New Orleans' first "free church" (not charging pew fees) with open seating for all, including seamen.

The current church retains the original pews of the 1846 church along many of the memorial plaques of earlier churches. She boasts fine stained glass windows and other original works of sacred art such as the Christus Rex by acclaimed artist Gene Seidenburg. The life of the congregation is now growing and attempts are underway to obtain preservation grants for the restoration of the old parish house which was built in 1888. This is "The Neighborhood Church."

The Rev. Terry has a long, white ponytail and attended Tulane University at the same time I did, I keep trying to place him, but he didn't appear for the yearbook photos. He has organized many amazing programs. For at least three years, there was a Wednesday night service followed by dinner and musician jam session, featuring great local musicians like clarinetist Evan Christopher and pianist Tom McDermott. This was free for those who could not afford to pay. Volunteers from Episcopal churches across the country often attend the service and dinner after working all day, helping to rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina. I've heard some amazing music at those gatherings.

The Reverend has also kept a running list of the mostly young victims of crime, much of which occurs in the nearby Treme neighborhood. The names are posted on the front of the church.

St. Anna's has a medical mission and a mobile unit that brings health care to people in the neighborhoods. New Orleans is still suffering from the lack of affordable health care with the closure of Charity Hospital and other area hospitals still unopened.

Now, the church is starting an after-school program for kids that includes art instruction. Here we see some of the youngest Mardi Gras Indians in training in a spontaneous drum circle.

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