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Campus police chief leads worship for crews at seminary

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Decked out in his police uniform with a pistol at his hip, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s police chief, Barry Busby, does not look like a pastor. But he is.

On Oct. 9, Busby gathered about 15 relief workers together in the seminary’s Martin Chapel for worship and Bible study. They called it the “Church in the Quad.” The next Sunday, attendance swelled to nearly two dozen in the original chapel at the seminary.

Although spared from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, the chapel was without air conditioning, so the doors had to be propped open.

The fledgling Church in the Quad is “a visual reminder that ‘the church’ is not a building,” Busby said. “That’s what I preached on … that I am not building a building. I’m building people. I’m building disciples for the glory of God, and the door is wide open to anybody and everybody.”

In his sermon, Busby drew attention to the brightly lit steeple of nearby Leavell Chapel that every night glows like a beacon from the seminary to the dark post-Katrina New Orleans skyline. He said the steeple should remind believers to be the light of the world just as Christ had taught His disciples.

Busby also reminded the workers that light, when it shines into darkness, will reveal sin. But people need to see their sin before they can find the Savior, he said.

Busby compared his dual roles as a police chief and church pastor to a metaphor in Psalm 23.

“The 23rd Psalm talks about the rod and staff that comfort me, and what it’s talking about is discipline and protection,” Busby said, referring to both the holstered gun he wears each day and the Bible he uses to teach his congregation.

Busby was committed to the relief effort at New Orleans Seminary even before floodwaters covered most of the campus. With less than two hours of sleep, Busby hurried back to New Orleans from Bay St. Louis, Miss., the Saturday before the storm struck the southern coast of Louisiana. He had been at a meeting of “Out of Range,” a group of men who had fasted and prayed for each other throughout the summer.

Busby waited out the storm on the New Orleans Seminary campus. Katrina passed, leaving the seminary with relatively little structural damage. But then the levees failed, and Busby woke to find 18 inches of floodwater covering the first floor of his home in the seminary’s new Staff Village housing complex, where he and his family had moved only two weeks before the storm.

With 10 years’ military experience, Busby said that, as a seminary leader, it was his “military duty to be the last one to leave campus.”

Busby returned to the seminary two weeks later to assess the effects of the flood. A crew of workers and contractors was assembled over the next few days. Since then, Busby has overseen security at the seminary and provided spiritual guidance for the workers who reside at the campus.

Long hours and tough days are the norm. It is a challenge balancing restoration, personal business and preaching. But, despite the long hours, Busby feels like God has called him to the seminary for “such a time as this.”

“Now that we’re in the recovery phase, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m still supposed to be here -– providing leadership, providing the guidance and, now, being able to pastor the contractors and workers in the community. Just an awesome opportunity,” Busby said.

Those who attend the Church in the Quad are in New Orleans from as far away as West Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois and Colorado. They have a variety of spiritual backgrounds. One of the workers hadn’t been to church in eight years, Busby said.

“It’s been a fantastic response.” Busby said. The men who had attended the service were trying to make disciples, he said, and they were trying to be more respectful toward others.

“I’ve got guys as rough as the day is long, and they’re coming back and telling me, ‘Hey man, I’ve been doing what you told me to do. I’ve been telling everybody about the church and trying to be a lighthouse in the city.’”

Busby prays that the Church in the Quad will grow and reach out to the community around the seminary.

“Unfortunately, there’s nothing [for people] to come back to,” Busby said. “It’s unfortunate … I would love to open it up to some of our neighbors … but … not yet.’”

As for Busby, he will remain at New Orleans Seminary until the work is finished. He hopes his family will be able to join him soon. His wife and children are living in Ackerman, Miss., in a house provided by the same church where the Busbys were married.

For now, Busby is enthusiastic, trying to “run with perseverance the race that’s set before” him.

“It’s frustrating. It’s stressful. But I know Who is there,” Busby said. “‘What man intends for evil, God intends for good.’ I just keep hanging around to see what happens next … Each and every day I wake up with excited anticipation about what’s going to happen….”

    About the Author

  • Benjamin Hawkins