Cornerstone United Methodist Church
5276 Bullard Ave., New Orleans, LA 70128
(504) 248-7998 cornerstone-nola.org
Cornerstone United Methodist Church began as the New Orleans East United Methodist Church in 1985; in 1986, it merged with St. Andrew’s Church and adopted the Cornerstone name.
The church received nearly eight feet of water when the levees failed during Hurricane Katrina, but the congregation began rebuilding right away. The church reopened within a year of flooding — on Palm Sunday of 2006, to be exact.
Reverend Karli Pidgeon, the church’s lead pastor, is originally from Baton Rouge, but was sent to Cornerstone by a bishop of the United Methodist Church a little more than three years ago, and she now serves as the church’s first female senior pastor.
What’s interesting about Cornerstone’s community is that its needs are not as “immediate” as other communities she’s worked within, Pidgeon said.
“They’re a little more hidden, whereas if you are in places where there’s great poverty, it’s apparent as to what the needs are,” she explained. “But in this community, which tends to have some affluence, it’s interesting to figure out the ways in which the church can still meet the needs, and to figure out what those needs are.”
Pidgeon’s mission is simple yet significant: She wants to create “disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
To accomplish her goal, in addition to hosting Sunday services, she has created outreach programs that enable the congregation to help the community.
“We feed the homeless, quarterly, in partnership with St. Mark’s (United Methodist Church) on Rampart Street, and we also provide Christmas and back-to-school supplies for Fannie C. Williams (Charter School) students,” said Pidgeon.
The church offers computer classes to senior citizens, and it also hosts Alcoholics Anonymous meetings on Monday evenings.
Pidgeon plans to expand Cornerstone’s fellowship hall — an open space where Bible studies and other gatherings happen.
“Right now, it can hold about 80 to 90 people, so we hope to double that and then provide other opportunities from our outreach, to our community,” she said.
She is also planning to launch a food pantry, grow the church’s children’s ministry, and even start a prison re-entry program for former inmates moving back into society.
“Our hope is to provide basic life skills — as far as applying for a job, dressing for a job, writing checks, paying bills, that type of stuff,” she explained.
Cornerstone was the first church to host a Trunk-or-Treat Halloween activity in New Orleans East, she said. During Trunk-or-Treat, church members decorate the trunks of their cars and congregate within Cornerstone’s parking lot. Kids trick-or-treat by visiting the cars, rather than walking through the neighborhood and knocking on doors.
“We provide hot dogs and nachos and drinks and things, as a way to just reach out into our community,” said Pidgeon. “I think last year we had over 500 children come through the parking lot.”