Dear Members of the Body of Christ in the Florida-Bahamas Synod,
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus who promises to be with us always, even to the close of the age (Matthew 28:20).
As I write this letter, Governor Scott has closed all schools in Florida for this Thursday and Friday and initiated orderly evacuation of Monroe County, with other counties to follow. Florida and the Caribbean are facing the strongest storm on record in Hurricane Irma. Please follow the instructions of local and state officials about the storm in your area. If your facilities are a possible shelter, thank you for working with your leadership to make necessary preparations.
Weather forecasters continue to update their warnings concerning the strength and potential impact of Hurricane Irma on Florida. Hurricane Harvey provides a sufficient illustration of the need to be attentive to these warnings. I would plead with all those who are a part of this synod to take the necessary steps now to maximize the probability of your safety and that of those who are close to you (see the state website http://flgetaplan.com). As you do so, be attentive to those who are particularly vulnerable for one reason or another and who might need a helping hand. In such moments of stress and anxiety, we pray that the Holy Spirit will enable us to see Christ in the face of others and that others may see Christ in us as we respond to this time of stress and potential danger.
I am grateful for the leadership of Assistant to the Bishop for Administration Michele Hilton who is coordinating the Synod Disaster Response. She, in collaboration with Sister Michelle Collins, will continue their good work of gathering information and providing guidance related to personnel and congregations in this synod through Facebook, emails and the synod web site. You can find the full synod-wide disaster response plan here. Pastors, please communicate with your Conference Deans with respect to what is transpiring within your own context. The ELCA Lutheran Disaster Response Team already has been in conversation with our Disaster Response Team. As the next days unfold, let us know where we can be helpful.
Know that many throughout this church are praying for you, for residents of Florida and the Bahamas, and particularly for those who are a part of this synod. We invite your prayers for the Caribbean Synod and its Bishop Felipe Lozada, as that area is even now being impacted by the hurricane. I have received communication from a number of bishops who have assured us of their prayers and those of their synod. It is good to be church together in these times.
Gracious Lord Jesus who in the midst of the storm cried out, “Peace, be still!”, we pray for the calming of Hurricane Irma and for the protection of all who are in danger. We pray for those who will place their own lives at risk for the sake of others who are in need. We pray for all in leadership positions in our communities, cities, states and nation that they may demonstrate courage and compassion as they seek to fulfill their responsibilities of providing care for those who seek guidance and relief. And, O Lord, in the midst of our own fears, by your Holy Spirit, grant us the gifts of faith, hope, and love and enfold us in your peace. Amen.
May the peace of Christ, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and minds this week.
Together with you in Christ,
Bishop Marcus C. Lohrmann