*Five minutes past 9:30 a.m. on a Sunday this month, which is to say five minutes past the time the worship service was supposed to start, Shantell Henley pushed open the front door of her pastor’s house in the Lower Ninth Ward. She entered the living room to find a gospel song playing on the stereo, two ceiling fans stirring the sticky air and 25 folding chairs for the congregants waiting empty.
“Am I late?” she asked the pastor, the Rev. Charles W. Duplessis.
“No,” he replied, smiling. “We’re Baptists.”
His joke, though, could not dispel the truth. The problem at Mount Nebo Bible Baptist Church had nothing to do with any Baptist indifference to punctuality and everything to do with Hurricane Katrina, even as its fifth anniversary on Aug. 29 approached.
Having lost his house and his church to the broken levees in the Lower Ninth, Mr. Duplessis had managed by grit and will and fathomless faith to reopen in early 2009, using his rebuilt home to replace the sanctuary he couldn’t afford to replace, the sanctuary that had stood in some grim coincidence on Flood Street.
He installed an electric piano and a computer with a projector. He collected several dozen copies of the Baptist Hymnal. He put out weekly editions of the church bulletin; he put up a lawn sign declaring, “Our Church Is Back!”
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