All Saints Episcopal Church, Hilton Head Island, SC
October 30, 2005
Mr. Wilson may look like the man in a raging storm in a boat without a paddle, a man whose gifts and talents did not match well with the circumstances. But this is a guy who belongs to a family with values and adheres to simple words that translate into the here and now - the rubber hitting the road or, in this case, water up to your waist.
These are the company's watchwords every day, and they proved monumental for 12 extraordinary days before and following Katrina. Mississippi Power is a small utility, and the company's worst-case scenarios had considered that every customer could lose power, which happened. But the company did not think it possible to manage an outside repair force of more than 5,000 people; 4,000 personnel had been used only once before. Money wasn't a problem, but stewardship of the company's resources proved the key. to reaching its goal: power restored to all customers by September 11, 2005. They returned power to all customers who could receive power - 195,000 - by the evening of September 10, 2005. . .
Mississippi Power's damage from Katrina:
Repair costs: $245-295 million.
Customers without power: 100%.
Power lines: 1,000 miles down.
Poles: 8,900 down.
Transmission towers: 300 damaged.
Corporate headquarters: unusable for months.
Employees: more than half suffered substantial damage to their homes;75 lost homes completely.
In corporate culture the language is somewhat different than that of the church. Yet Mississippi Power's extraordinary success amounted to a corporation acting and behaving like a healthy family. They practiced what they preached; the body acted as if the left hand and the right hand and the arms and the legs were of one body, not for personal gratification but for the greater good. Everyone in the family had a job to do, and they even pulled workers from other states and Canada into their value system. They would say they managed people and material effectively; theologically, Mississippi Power relied on straightforward stewardship, and their success held in the balance of honoring the individual as a seamless part of the whole.
What can we learn from a utility company? Stewardship. Stewardship. Stewardship. The guys pitching tents or the trucks delivering port-a-potties or cables had significant contributions to make, as did those hooking up lines or managing the process. They expected and received extraordinary contributions from everyone. An advertising executive managed disaster response on a large and complex scale and did so with the help of over five thousand people.
Our belief is in Jesus Christ, who claims that we can do infinitely more than we can ever imagine, and that we are to go into the world in the name of Christ, with the power of the Spirit to make a difference for Christ. In this small comer of the world, not unlike Mississippi Power, our faith and values are meant to transform the world. Yes, this family is given authority to be the visible presence of Christ in the world. Christian stewardship says that what we contribute to the whole and to the goal is absolutely critical and essential.
You are absolutely essential to the life and goals of this parish.
I pray for the stewardship of this parish: Almighty God, you have blessed us with memory, reason, and skill; you make provisions for us each day; you are our God, and we are your people. May your Holy Spirit touch our human spirit in ways in which we may respond to you out of our poverty and out of our wealth, out of our sinfulness and out of our goodness. Transform our gifts at your high altar to be acceptable to you. May we give out of our thankfulness. AMEN.
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