Coronavirus New Orleans: Pastor updates from the Big Easy

Pastor Dennis Watson of Celebration Church New Orleans shares some of his thoughts about the on-going coronavirus situation in his city. He is the founding and Lead Pastor of Celebration Church of New Orleans, Louisiana. Celebration Church is a multi-cultural, purpose-driven, multi-site church that began in 1989.

Here is a quick link to the church’s COVID-19 response.

Our interview is lightly edited for flow.

First, how are you, Vicki and your family, and how is Celebration Church?

We’re doing as well as can be expected. Our Church has a number of people who are struggling with Covid-19 or who have family members struggling with Covid-19, and so that is a struggle for us. 

You and I first met during Katrina, and now New Orleans is back on the national map with coronavirus. What are the similarities and what are the differences in those two tragedies?

This situation is similar to what we experienced following Hurricane Katrina, but it’s very different to what we experienced as well. Katrina was one of the most traumatizing experiences anyone could ever go through. 108,000 square miles of devastation was caused by the winds and waters of Katrina, resulting in $125 billion worth of damage, 250,000+ flooded homes and businesses in Orleans and St. Bernard Parish, and over 1700 people losing their lives. And many people in surrounding parishes also experienced significant losses because of the storm. The devastation was everywhere following Katrina and we still see signs of it around our city today.

But after Katrina, there was work for everyone to do, and help and hope were brought to us by people and churches from around our nation and world. As soon as the storm was over and the floodwaters receded, people were busy cleaning up their homes and businesses, and beginning the process of rebuilding their lives physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually. And the Christian church in our nation rose up as never before to provide help in all kinds of ways to hurting people in our region. For example, at Celebration we hosted 22,000 volunteers over a period of several years who came to help people in our city, and we received several million dollars of financial assistance to help us begin the rebuilding of our campuses and congregation. New Orleans had been devastated, and the “Christian Cavalry” came charging in to be the hands and feet of Jesus and to provide financial support to people. We even received financial assistance during that time from Churches in El Salvador and South Africa.

This is a different battle though. What are you seeing?

Yes this Covid-19 disaster is different. Now, rather than going out to help one another we have to stay in our homes, isolated from other people. Now, rather than hugging one another and crying or laughing together, we have to keep a “safe distance” from one another. And now, there is no “Christian Calvary” coming to our rescue because almost everyone in our region, nation and world is experiencing the same crisis we’re going through. And those who are not yet experiencing this Coronavirus crisis are preparing for it to come to their region. This is a time of disaster similar to Katrina. But it’s a different kind of disaster, and it affects us in similar and different ways than Katrina did. 

Katrina brought property, financial and emotional devastation to people’s lives, along with and some relational separational and physical deaths. And the Coronavirus situation is affecting us in similar ways. Our biggest challenge this time, however, besides the loss of jobs or income, is learning how to stay connected with others even when we can’t physically be in their presence. Because the truth is, we all need community and relationships in our lives. We all need to know that others love us and care for us, and that they consider us to be significant to them in their lives.

Is there a common thread? How can we prepare for those coming changes?

Here is the bottom line. In some ways, the Katrina crisis and the Covid-19 crisis are similar. In some ways they are different. BUT WE HAVE THE SAME GOD HERE TO HELP US JUST LIKE WE DID FOLLOWING KATRINA. And the God who miraculously brought us back as a people, Church and region following Katrina will do so again – as long as we continue to be focused on loving Him, living for Him, and loving others.

Things are changing daily, but we’ll come through this. Once we are on the other side, though, our world will be different. What do you see as the biggest change ahead for the Church, for Christians and for America in general?

Check out the Carey Nieuwhof article.

Given the stay-at-home order for Louisiana and the social distancing guidelines, how is Celebration Church able to help the community, especially those who are in dire need?

  • We’ve texted and called all of our people, particularly the elderly and those with else issues
  • We’re keeping our people apprised to what opportunies there are for food, jobs, assistance of any kind
  • We’re bringing groceries to people who need them
  • We’re preparing to assist those who will need financial help

What are some scriptures that continually come to your mind since this crisis began? 

There are three actually (click on the scripture links to read at Bible Gateway).

Please let us know how people can follow you and Celebration Church.

  • FACEBOOK. (daily prayer gatherings at 7:14 am, daily Bible studies at 12 noon, weekend services on Saturday’s (5:30 pm CST) and Sundays (9 & 10:45 am)
  • Celebration Church Metairie on YouTube weekend services on Saturday’s (5:30 pm CST) and Sundays (9 & 10:45 am) 
  • INSTAGRAM. weekend services on Saturday’s (5:30 pm CST) and Sundays (9 & 10:45 am)
  • CELEBRATION LIVE STREAM. Weekend services on Saturday’s (5:30 pm CST) and Sundays (9 & 10:45 am)

What else would you like for people across the country to know about New Orleans, coronavirus and Celebration Church?

This Sunday (April 5) we’re helping to lead a 7:14 pm Regional Prayer Event that will include our Governor, the Mayor of New Orleans, Parish Presidents and key pastors.

Prayer points…

  1. God to heal our region of COVID-19.
  2. Wisdom and insight for our government, medical, and spiritual leaders as they lead people through this crisis.
  3. Protection, healing and provision for the people in our region and state.
  4. 4. Comfort for those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19; and,
  5. People’s hearts turning to God and embracing His will for their lives.


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