Thousands Volunteer to Rebuild Burned Churches"

Many new houses of worship will rise from the ashes of hatred this spring and summer, as the National Council of Churches' Burned Churches Project continues to deploy donated funds, lumber and other materials - and thousands of volunteers.

Some 15,000 people from across the United States have volunteered to help rebuild burned churches through the NCC-sponsored Church Rebuilding Project and its partners, and 7,800 of them already have been placed on a rebuilding site. Others are being called into service as more churches get ready to break ground.

The NCC Burned Churches Project is working with 124 "Phase One" congregations, most of them African American churches across the U.S. Southeast. Project staff carefully have assessed the circumstances of each fire, each congregation's profile and plans, and other resources available for rebuilding, including fire insurance payouts and other donations.

Seventy eight of the churches have been voted cash grants, totaling $4,654,323, from the Burned Churches Fund, initiated by the NCC and supported by a broad ecumenical and interfaith community. The fund's purpose is to help rebuild houses of worship burned for reasons of hate, and to address the racism that underlies many attacks.

Forty-four of the 124 churches have used or will be using volunteer support through the Church Rebuilding Project, and several others are considering using volunteers. Thirty-two of the 44 churches have been matched with a Church Rebuilding Partner. (These partners include denominational, nondenominational, ecumenical and interfaith volunteer ministries, work camps and other groups.) Four more went up during the special "Spring Rebuild!" and another eight are receiving volunteers directly from the Church Rebuilding Project office in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The estimated monetary value of volunteer labor to date is $780,000 (calculated at $5 an hour times an average of 20 hours per volunteer), and will top $1 million by the end of summer. Other in-kind contributions to the NCC Burned Churches Project have included $2 million in wood products donated by the International Paper Company, modular units valued at $350,000 from G.E. Capital, and Bibles, hymnals, pews, robes, office equipment and other articles valued at about $250,000. Posted Week of June 9, 1997

Copyright ©1997 American News Service

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