The 28th Annual Gretna Prayer Dinner, “Be Led by the Spirit” was just that as Guest Speaker Rev. Orin D. Grant Sr. spoke. Rev. Grant is one those boisterous personalities that sucks the air out of the room and fills it with his powerful voice and a wonderful medley of Grant witticisms.

He serves as the Director of Registration for the National Baptist Convention, USA, the largest African American religious organization in the U. S. On the day of the Gretna Prayer Dinner, he was in Jackson, Mississippi for a convention.

Rev. Grant loves Gretna so much that he drove in from Jackson to Gretna to speak at the prayer dinner. He said the same way Ray Charles felt about Georgia, he feels about Gretna. “I got Gretna on my mind.”

Traveling from Jackson, he saw a police pull out with flashing lights. He thought the cop was going to pull him over and jokingly said to himself, “If this officer stops me, I’m going to tell him I know Chief Arthur S. Lawson Jr. It works!”

Rev. Grant said, “I went to the worship leader and told her I wanted to sing a solo. She responded, “You’re the pastor, you can sing what you want, and when you want.” He asked what he should sing. She answered, “On a hill far away.”

Rev. Grant said, “A man had a dog that was his best friend. The dog died, the man was heartbroken. The man went to his pastor, who was Baptist, and asked him to officiate a funeral for the dog.

“The pastor responded that he doesn’t officiate funerals for dogs. The man said he was disappointed and that he was going to go to the Catholic priest across the street. And, Pastor, by the way I was going to pay you $5,000.” The Pastor hurriedly stopped the man and said, “You didn’t tell me it was a Baptist dog!”

“I am 53 years old and grew up in a part of Gretna called McDonoghville on the street of my nativity, Ocean Avenue, about 5 blocks long. Growing up in Gretna was a blessing because back then raising a child was a community effort. My dear mother and three aunts were all pivotal to my upbringing.

He talked about how he remembers Gretna with a trip down memory lane. “Remember Fast Way, owned by Mr. Leon Wolfe, Ocean Ave., First St., Fifth St., Franklin St., Huey P. Long., parades, Jonestown Pool, Stumpf Drug Store, Woolworth, Casey Jones and Westside Shopping Center, the Boys Club, kids playing in the streets, on the sidewalks, flying kites, and riding bikes, walking the train tracks, playing on the levee.

He shared the story of St. Paul, his home church located at 1509 Monroe Street in Gretna where he is pastor. “St. Paul’s is 132 years old and has been in one location for all of its existence. St. Paul was the center and hub of the community before the Gretna Community Center was built. It’s an old red brick two-story building that continues to serve, giving out food boxes on Monday and Friday.

“St. Paul is a perfect church for imperfect people and her goal is to reach the world with good news and good works. It is a local church with a global ministry. I’ve been privileged to serve as pastor for 22 years. I am known across the nation as the McDonoghville Minister. My goal is to love, lift, and lead people to Christ.”

“Gretna is the capital of Jefferson Parish, the Queen City of Jefferson Parish and best municipality in the United States. Gretna has a BIG heart.” He praised Mayor Belinda C. Constant and the City Council for the good job they are doing. He said he has Gretna on his mind and it’s a great place to live and raise a family. 

“The future of Gretna depends on the people of Gretna, the pride of Gretna, and protection of Gretna. People are migrating to Gretna because it’s the “Mulberry of the South.”

He gave kudos to his worship team, organist Bro. Frederick J. East and worship leader Joren Bates who entertained, and said, “Whenever I hear good singing it makes me want to sing. I sing because I’m happy, I can sing because I’m free, His eyes are on the sparrow, and I know He watches over me.”

He closed by saying, “If I can help somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, then my living won’t be in vain. I am the McDonoghville Minister!”

Gretna Community Association President Val Coles did a splendid job as chairperson for the event. Councilman Rudy Smith served as Master of Ceremonies. Gretna Police Presented Colors, Deputy Chief of Police Jason DiMarco led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Sophia Parigi with Louisiana Kids sang a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, Fr. Gary Copping, Pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church said the Invocation and Rev. Warren Johnson, Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church said the Benediction.

Scriptures were read by Rory Cadres, KC 1905; Joyce Brown, Event Committee Member; and Deanna Smith. Prayers were read by Richelle Conway, Rotary Club Westbank; Rene Ferrara, GEDA; and Mayor Belinda Constant.    

Everyone enjoyed the delicious meal prepared by the St. Cletus Knights of Columbus consisting of hamburger steaks, mashed potatoes and corn, with yummy cake for dessert. How wonderful that three hundred Christians of different faiths from different churches broke bread and prayed together!