Greetings and welcome to this Florida-Bahamas Synod Update for the third week of May 2020.
As many of you know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Now, more than ever, it is important for our church leaders to care for their own mental health and take important steps to remain mentally strong. Our Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton recently reminded us that we are all under tremendous stress, and that depression and anxiety are real. If you are struggling, please talk to someone and seek the necessary resources. Mental Health issues are not a sign of sin, nor are they a sign of moral failure or weakness. Remember that your synod leadership is here to support you and direct you in the right direction if help is needed.
Speaking of Mental Health, we’re hearing more and more about a condition called ‘Zoom Fatigue’, which is stress and exhaustion caused by attending multiple video meetings during the workday. If you think you are experiencing this fatigue, it is important to take a break and step away from your computer for a while, to rest your body and your mind. Your health and wellness are extremely important to the health and wellness of your congregation as well.
I know our church leaders have many questions about reopening for in-person worship. The ELCA and the state of Florida have provided many pieces of information in the past week, including a report for phased reopening and the ELCA’s Considerations for Returning to In-Person Worship. They are posted on our website alongside the one I prepared a few weeks ago, and I encourage you to study them and share them with your leadership. These conversations are important to make educated decisions regarding reopening. These are not easy decisions; please know I am praying for you.
As always, you should be paying close attention to the recommendations of the state government and health department, as well as your township authorities. We must pay attention to details. Neglect on this can be very dangerous.
Also, on our COVID-19 Resources page, we have linked an article explaining some theological issues surrounding online communion. The article is written by Dr. Maxwell Johnson, an ELCA pastor and liturgical theologian, and addresses the issue of “Spiritual Communion” from a Lutheran perspective. Please take a moment to read that article, as well.
In an effort to give our pastors a much-deserved break, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton will be releasing a sermon video for Sunday, June 7th, that you may use in your own service. That video will become available on the ELCA’s YouTube page on May 31st. Our DEMs will email that link to our pastors, and a link will also be available in E-Spirit on June 2nd.
Now for an update on our United as One Special Appeal! As of today, we have raised $9,800 for our COVID-19 relief and we have already granted $46,90 for our congregations. As you can see, we need your help. I encourage all of you to get involved, donate if you can, and encourage your congregation members to give, so that our Synod can continue to support vulnerable congregations, those needing a little push, and many mercy ministries in our synod.
Because of COVID-19, our graduating students are unable to enjoy their graduation ceremonies. If you’d like to honor the students in your congregation, the ELCA has released a list of fun and memorable ideas. You can find that list on our website under COVID-19 Resources and on our Synod Facebook page. Congratulations graduates!
In closing, we want to say that we are very proud of our Pastors, Deacons and Lay leaders for their contributions so we may continue to grow in Christ’s love and service in spite of this COVID-19 pandemic.
May God bless you all!
+ Bp. Pedro
The Rev. Pedro M. Suarez, Bishop
Florida-Bahamas Synod, ELCA