Members of Boynton United Methodist Church recently hosted a program of community interest at the church. Special guest was District 1 Councilman Rudy Smith who addressed the status of Economic Development in Gretna, as well as community project partnership opportunities for Boynton members.

Councilman Rudy Smith & Pastor Aaron DeGruy

Rev. Aaron DeGruy welcomed everyone and said he was celebrating one year of being the pastor at Boynton! He spoke of the growth he had seen in Gretna in just that short period of time, hence the huge bakery being built across the street.   

“Growth is the most important need in our church,” Pastor DeGruy said. “We must engage with the community to increase our quality of life. Listening, Caring, Leading is our mission.”

Mayor Belinda C. Constant was also invited to speak at the event, but unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute due to serious illness in her family. As planned, Lay Leader Lynette Berry read the Mayor’s bio.

Staphenae Camp Carey introduced the councilman to the members and guests.

Councilman Rudy Smith

An active member of the Gretna community, Rudy Smith was appointed to the council when longtime councilman, Milton Crosby retired in 2020. In 2021, Smith was officially elected to the seat. He was president of the Gretna Civic Association from 2014 until recently. Smith considers serving on the city council as “the pinnacle of my life’s experience.” He said, “I do not view the position as a political duty, but a personal commitment to improving the quality of life in District 1.”   

Rudy Smith is a retired Westwego postmaster who started as a postman. He loves to travel and is an avid senior athlete who has excelled in marathons and athletic endurance events all over the world. He was raised in McDonoghville until his family moved to California when he was a youngster. After graduating high school in Fresno, he served in the U.S. Air force. He returned home and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Commerce from Loyola University.

The Boynton group asked questions of the councilman as to the future plans for the area and also other day-to-day issues in the city like the railroad, potholes and a closed park. The Boynton members let it be known that they are ready to become a partner in community projects that will enhance the lives of residents of the city.

Staphenae Carey said, “Though I live in Harvey, I grew up in Gretna until high school graduation. My church, Boynton United Methodist is in Gretna. Therefore, Gretna will always be “special” to me, because what happens in the Gretna community is of interest to me.                                                               

“Recently my church hosted a meeting to speak with Mayor Constant and Councilman Smith about our church’s vision as it pertains to community outreach and the well-being of the citizens of Gretna. We discussed Boynton’s interest in forming a community partnership with the city to host programs that might further enrich the lives of its adults and their children. Several persons from the community expressed their desire to have more input and information about plans and decisions which ultimately affect their neighborhoods.                                  

Staphenae C. Carey

“Since that meeting, Boynton has accepted an invitation by Councilman Smith to assist in coordinating the city’s upcoming Easter Egg Hunt. We look forward to participation in this activity as well as other community outreach activities sponsored by the City of Gretna,” Carey said.

The Easter Egg Hunt that Smith is planning will be at J.B. Spencer Park, 700 Governor Hall, with the date and time to be announced.  

The councilman was very pleased that the Boynton members graciously accepted to participate in the upcoming Easter event. There will be a planning meeting at the Gretna Community Center, 1700 Monroe Street on Monday, March 14 at 6:00 p.m.

Boynton is looking at the City of Gretna as its “New Mission Field.”  They want to expand care and spiritual needs from their immediate church family to new people in the community.

Boynton’s Chairperson of Mission and Outreach Janet Rousell Jackson said, “Boynton is reestablishing our vision for future ministry and mission for our great church and our great community. As a vital part of the Gretna community for more than 150 years, we were very interested in the current economic development, growth and future plans of our area and how it might impact our church’s mission and vitality.  We were also interested in partnering with the city in upcoming community projects.

“Councilman Rudy Smith presented us with city updates, answered questions and committed to engage with us to achieve some common goals.   

Our congregation wants to grow in caring by shifting our focus from “What’s in it for us?” to “What’s in it for others?” and then to “How do we please God?”                                                

Janet R. Jackson

“We Listen, Care and Lead” as we are called to move out of our comfort zones as new missionaries of the Gospel. This calls for partnering with city leadership for our ministry, mission and growth in our community. We are excited about new possibilities from this meeting and look forward to a continued partnership with our city leaders,” Jackson said.  

The Boynton Church was established in 1880 in a building known as Caspars Hall. In the 1880s, $500 was raised to purchase two lots on the corner of 5th and Lafayette Streets in Old Gretna, the present site of the church.  

The original frame building built in 1888 was destroyed by fire in 1894. It was rebuilt in September of that year, but destroyed by a 1915 hurricane. The church was rebuilt circa 1918 and renovated in 1954. The present church was built and completed in December 1981.

The public is invited to attend Councilman Rudy Smith’s meeting at the Gretna Community Center on Monday, March 14 at 6:00 p.m. to plan the Easter Egg Hunt at J.B. Spencer Park.