Greetings from my home, north of Tampa! It has been a few weeks since my last synod update. The truth is that not much has changed since then.
We are still asked by the local authorities to stay home for our own safety. This has been a very busy time for pastors and deacons, as they have to use technology for ministry. For some, it has been very difficult because it is a new ability that they have to learn. For others, even those who are more familiar with the digital world, this technology still it has many components that have required loads of patience.
Not everyone responds the same way to being home all the time. For some, they keep busy and are able to be very productive; others have to deal with the anxieties of a new way of doing things.
Please, let us pray for those victims of abusive relationships, the most vulnerable like children, the elderly, and women.
That leads me to the question: when can we get back to worship in our church buildings? Although I cannot give you a definitive answer, I would like to point you in a direction.
First, let us pay attention to our local authorities, particularly our health departments. They are continually issuing updates. The Bahamas have not experienced that many cases, and they are taking the necessary precautions, including staying home. The State of Florida, however, is a much more diverse area. The Florida Department of Health has daily announcements, and I would add that we must pay close attention to our local, county and city health authorities. Having said that, the answer to when we can worship again in our church buildings is not clear.
Secondly, I highly recommend we refrain from gatherings of more than 10 people until further notice. That includes drive-by services of any kind. Please notice that our clergy are in a situation of risk. We simply don’t know who is a carrier of the Covid-19, and we are learning of the many ways it spreads.
Please make time to care for yourselves. Balance your lives better than ever. Take time to meditate and pray; to work and be productive; to connect with those you care for and even reach out to someone new, if you can; find time to play and do things you enjoy. There is even time to lament, and be concerned, but don’t let that be the main thing that gets your time.
Congregations, please file your federal grant requests. If you need help in doing so, ask the conference Dean or contact your Director for Evangelical Mission to guide you to someone that can help. We soon will let you know of our Synod’s own initiatives to create and distribute funds.
Stories of kindness, and faith in action are happening all around. Please, contact our new Communication Specialist Marina Ernst by emailing her, firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to share those stories with everyone!
Soon our synod council will make a decision about the Synod Assembly, so I have no news there yet.
Lastly, please now that as your Synod staff, we are working diligently to find ways to lead our future. There will be a new normal and we would like to be as ready as we can be to continue being the church of Christ and doing God’s mission. Our prayer is that we will come out of this invigorated, with new visions, and stronger in faith and vitality for what is to come.
Let us pray: Gracious and Beloved God, thank you for accompanying us during this difficult time. Be with those directly affected by Covid-19, and others suffering for different reasons, as this time of lockdown makes it harder for them. Help us be the church as we connect in many ways. May we share your love. Give us wisdom to make good choices. All this we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God now and forever. Amen.
Until next time, may God bless you all!
+ Bp. Pedro
The Rev. Pedro M. Suarez, Bishop
Florida-Bahamas Synod, ELCA