|Greetings to you, and peace, Florida Conference.
We’ve all been impacted by Irma. Some have felt the wrath of that storm more intensely than others, but not a one of us escaped the effects of that massive storm. Through it, and after it, I have remembered the words of Jesus when he promised his disciples, “I will not leave you desolate.” It’s a promise from which we can take heart as we move into the recovery phase of this event. I recall an announcer on news radio remarking that “the hurricane was the scary part; now we get into the tough part.”
The church house at 9300 did not sustain any major damage but remains without power as of this writing. We have no access to lights, phones, internet or e-mail systems, and the best way for you to let us know of needs is to phone your regional minister or me directly if you have those numbers. In any event, we are trying mightily to survey the damage to our church communities across the state so we can advocate for a powerful rebuilding response as time passes.
The Executive Committee of the Board of Directors has approved a $1,000 immediate gift to our partners in the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to assist them in their response to those in need there.
I have already received outreach from the Pension Boards of the United Church of Christ who have offered help to clergy who might find themselves in financial crisis because of this storm. Perhaps you missed a paycheck or encountered an unmet need due to the hurricane. Please reach out to me; we have ways of helping in such times. Additionally, I’ve received outreach from the office of disaster ministries in the national setting of the United Church of Christ. I can speak boldly for them and for us in the conference leadership when I say we are committed to a long-term response to this disaster and will do everything in our power to assist our churches and communities in their recovery efforts.
Jesus said, “I will not leave you desolate.” Today I ask you to live with the mind of Christ and see to it that not one person in your sphere of influence feels they have been left alone in this crisis. To that request I add the promise of the wider United Church of Christ that we are with you in this time as together we make way for a new day and a new dawn to the glory of the One who calls us.
Now more than ever, be at peace and be in touch, won’t you.
The Rev. John Vertigan
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