After viewing the New Orleans section of the PBS series “American Experience”, I was pleasantly surprised to hear about a city drenched in a very rich history. One particular chapter that I found interesting was on the history of Mardi Gras. I found this chapter most interesting because of its deep roots in church history.
Throughout the film, Catholicism is seen running throughout the development of the city and it seems that it has played a huge part in the cities celebrations as well as its difficulties. I found myself wondering throughout all the talk of diversity and segregation, music and the arts, poverty and crime, what was the church’s view on these issues, and how did they approach them accordingly?
Another aspect of the previous chapter that relates to the church is the progression New Orleans went through being primarily French inhabited, to the melding in of the Americans and their protestant background. How was Christianity affected by the synthesis that was occurring and how did the New Orleans natives develop from it?
Another aspect of the church that I was interested in was the current celebration of Mardi Gras. How is it similar or different from how it was originally celebrated? Does it hold the same significance as it did for Catholics when it began? Also, I wonder how the church views the celebrations of Mardi Gras take place each year in the city.
My interest in church history has definitely been peaked by watching this film, and I realized that I knew next to nothing about the city that I will be going to photograph this fall. After watching this chapter, I would like to do some more in depth research into Catholic history in New Orleans. How is the church dealing with the devastation of Katrina? Are churches closing down through lack of funding or loss of parish members?
Also, how is the church seeking to meet the needs of its members who have experienced great loss? Do they have the funding and resources necessary to meet their needs and if they do, what are those needs and are they doing their best to address them?
I think I will definitely consider this for one of my subjects on the trip. I am also very curious as to how the members of the New Orleans communities view the churches in light of Katrina and the current situations of destruction, poverty, and homelessness that they find themselves facing. What do they feel their greatest needs are? Do they feel they are getting the cooperation from the churches that they need to rebuild their lives?
Also, what is the current state of segregation in New Orleans after the hurricane? Has Katrina broken down barriers between class and race or have they only been strengthened by loss? I am interested in how the churches deal with this issue, if it is something that is still very apparent in the communities.
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