In Fort Washington, members of Ebenezer AME Church pledged to pay college tuition for students displaced by Hurricane Katrina. In Glenarden, First Baptist Church officials took names of people with missing friends or relatives to enable a team heading to Houston to look into their whereabouts.
Members of Forestville's Soul Factory took money, food and other supplies to Houston -- a giant care package in a tractor-trailer assembled by various congregations.
All over Prince George's County, the religious community is rallying around hurricane victims and their relatives, through fundraising, clothing and food drives, and other events.
Some people criticized the federal government for acting slowly after last week's storm in the South. But several ministers urged congregants to look forward, not backward.
"I don't think anybody knew how bad this would be," said the Rev. John K. Jenkins Sr., senior pastor at First Baptist. "It's a difficult thing to see. It's easy for people to Monday morning quarterback. The focus should not be on what has not been done. The focus should be on gathering our resources to do what we can to help these people. While we are arguing over who is doing what and who isn't doing what, people are dying. I want to talk about what we all are doing."
To coordinate relief efforts, ministers also are working with County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D). On Tuesday at the Sanctuary at Kingdom Square in Capitol Heights, Johnson announced a major relief effort involving religious organizations, businesses and other groups. Johnson last week urged county residents and employees to make donations to the American Red Cross, which can be reached at 301-559-8500.
Pastor Deron Cloud's Soul Factory is seeking to identify Washington area residents stranded by the storm. The church plans to send buses this week to help them get home.
"I see that we as a people are bouncing back, but I see the devastation in people's eyes. Lives have been totally uprooted," Cloud said this week in Houston. "People are going through some very traumatic experiences, and they have to adapt."
Cloud visited New Orleans evacuees at the Astrodome on Monday. He said church members were "going to come through and help as many families as we possibly can." Cloud also was looking for displaced people who were seeking to get to the East Coast. His church, working with congregations in the Washington and Atlanta areas, planned to help transport them to relatives.
On Sunday in Prince George's, many sermons dwelled on the storm. At Ebenezer, the Rev. Grainger Browning Jr. called for storm victims and their relatives to step forward for a special prayer. More than 100 people gathered around the altar, including relatives of Joseph Lee of Fort Washington, who took in seven who lost homes.
At First Baptist, Jenkins announced that anyone with friends or family in the storm zone should put their names and contact information on a list in the church foyer.
"When we get to Houston, we are going to see if we can find your relatives," he said. "Amen!" the congregation replied.
Several churches took donations for victims. At Ebenezer, for example, members gave $50,000. First Baptist took up Katrina collections after each of the church's five weekly services. Jenkins said images of the devastation moved his church to plunge into the relief effort.
First Baptist members plan to assist in several phases -- collecting cash first, then gathering truckloads of food, clothing and sundries to be taken to the disaster area after church officials learn where help is needed.
Later, Jenkins said, members will help rebuild communities. He also encouraged the church members to "open your homes" to people left homeless.
"We need to pray for these families and the people who are helping them," Jenkins told the congregation. "This is a very devastating thing for the families -- to lose everything. They are going to have to rebuild their homes, their lives."
At Ebenezer, the entire service was dedicated to hurricane victims. The choir sang the hymn "Peace Be Still" to prepare for Browning's sermon. He titled it "A Desperate SOS" -- a reference to a call for help from the New Orleans mayor, C. Ray Nagin.
Browning said his church is tied to the storm because many AME congregations were ravaged in the New Orleans area. An AME church network is raising money to help rebuild them, he said. "This is a very tough time," he said.
Joseph Lee spent several frantic days trying to reach his family, until he was able to connect with his brother, who had fled to Dallas, and his aunt Violet, who, along with her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, finally arrived at his Fort Washington home Friday.
Browning saluted the relief efforts and urged members to keep their faith.
"The Bible says when storms come, God will be with you," Browning said. "The Bible does not give us the answer about why things happen, but it does say God is the answer. . . . Someone needs to let the mayor of New Orleans, the governor of Louisiana and the people know, they have sent out a desperate SOS, but God is with you."
Williams reported from Houston.