Repository logo

United for the city: First Grace United Methodist church in post-hurricane Katrina New Orleans




Bayou, Aziza Victoria, author
Browne, Katherine E., 1953-, advisor
Peek, Lori A., committee member
Sibold, Jason S., committee member

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Almost six years after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc in New Orleans, the city is still `open for impact': rebuilding its infrastructure and communities. While Katrina traumatized New Orleans, it also provided an opportunity for change, for residents to rebuild their lives in alignment with their values. First Grace United Methodist church (First Grace) is an example of this kind of paradigm shift. First Grace was founded post-Katrina in 2007 via a merger between two Mid-City Methodist churches, one predominately black and one predominately white. First Grace is now a growing, flourishing multiethnic church that has attracted the attention of local media and the international United Methodist Church organization. This thesis explores how First Grace's ethnically diverse community is united by common values and the shared goal of rebuilding their beloved city through service. These beliefs enable First Grace's congregation to engage in ethnic transcendence (Marti 2009), a process by which one's ethnic identity becomes less important than other shared identities in a diverse group. Invented traditions allow First Grace's congregants to participate in rituals that emphasize their shared present, rather than separate pasts. Like other paradoxes present in New Orleans, both in spite of and because of the mass and personal tragedies of Hurricane Katrina, First Grace has formed as a church for and of the city and all of its peoples, a silver lining to Katrina's dark cloud.


Rights Access


ethnic transcendence
Hurricane Katrina
multi-ethnic congregation
New Orleans


Associated Publications