Dear Members of the Body of Christ in the Florida-Bahamas Synod,
As we continue to watch the track of Hurricane Irma, we are being surrounded by prayers and support from throughout the ELCA. The synod office has received numerous calls and messages from synod staff, pastors, and bishops throughout the church who are holding us and our companion churches in prayer in these days. Many congregations are ready to respond and support those affected by Hurricane Irma however they can.
Specifically, the Southeast Synod will be providing us a list of congregations in the areas around Atlanta, GA, Birmingham, AL and Nashville, TN who are willing to host those who may need to evacuate. That list will be shared on the home page of the Florida-Bahamas synod web site and on our Facebook page as it becomes available. We give thanks for our community in Christ who are surrounding us with prayer and support.
Assistant to the Bishop Michele Hilton has been on conference calls with the Florida VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters)– all state, federal, inter-faith and non-profit agencies are as deployed and prepared as they can be. She has also been in good communication with Lutheran Disaster Response in Chicago. They are ready to support us however we need it, and we are already coordinating a joint prayer service between the chapel in the Synod House and the chapel in the ELCA Churchwide office in Chicago for the days ahead. We will share information about that as it becomes available.
It looks like Hurricane Irma will most directly impact Florida on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The Synod House will be CLOSED on Monday. Synod staff will remain available throughout the weekend. Michele Hilton can be contacted directly at 941.373.5596.
As per our disaster response plan, pastors will be sharing specific information about the impact of the storm in their area with Conference Deans, who will then share that information with the synod staff. Conference Deans will be actively connecting with pastors throughout the weekend.
A donation link has been set up on the home page of the synod web site. Donations made to the synod-wide disaster response fund are used 100% for needs caused by disasters. This is also the fund through which we can support our companion churches who may be impacted. Designated donations to “Hurricane Irma disaster response” can be mailed to the synod office (3838 W. Cypress St, Tampa, FL 33607). More information about donations is available on the web site.
Please stay attentive to information from local agencies regarding conditions and plans for your area.
Many congregations are cancelling worship and other events this weekend. Pay close attention to information coming from your congregational leadership. A Liturgy in the Time of Storm service has been created for those who may want to gather with family and friends during this storm.
As the body of Christ, we stand together in times of joy and in times of struggle. This weekend, know that you are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who are praying for and supporting you. As Saint Paul writes, “Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)