To the Clergy and Laity of the Florida Annual Conference:
Each of you has been in my prayers as we have journeyed through Hurricane Irma. Traveling around our state, I have seen with my own eyes the courage of our pastors and the vulnerability of many of our impoverished communities who were hit hard by this storm. Thank you for what you have already done and for your willingness to continue to be a part of the short-term relief and long-term recovery efforts. God will use these efforts to further extend our witness into our communities.
We encourage churches to continue to give to UMCOR. 100% of donations go to relief work. We do know there will be needs beyond those for which UMCOR can care. To that end, the Cabinet has established the Hurricane Irma Fund, which will help to repair local churches in the Florida Conference and rebuild the communities that surround them in the spirit of Isaiah 65. The funds will be distributed by the Bishop and Cabinet with accountability to the Council on Finance and Administration. We would like to ask you to prayerfully consider taking up a special offering next Sunday (September 24) for this fund, or you and your churches can donate now through this link.
Additionally, we will take up a special offering for Hurricane Irma relief at our fall regional gatherings on September 24-26. We announced these gatherings at our Annual Conference meeting in June. Click here for the dates, times and a place to register, as well as ask questions. You are welcome to join me at the gathering closest to you or any gathering that fits your schedule. Each gathering will begin at 6:30 p.m. and conclude with light refreshments.
You might wonder: Why should I attend one of these gatherings?
First, this is a chance for us to gather in fellowship. After a storm, we need to see each other and offer the visible peace of Christ to one another.
This is also my opportunity to continue to connect with you, to hear your concerns, to understand your context and to grow our connection together. Two-thirds of our time together will be spent answering your questions. You can submit your questions via the registration link on the conference website (click here) or write your questions on a card when you arrive at the gathering.
Second, we are at a unique moment in our connection, not only because of Hurricane Irma but also in the continued work of the Commission on a Way Forward. This will not be the focus of these events, but it is the context in which we gather. I remain very hopeful about our future and the unity that is possible.
The theme for these events is Growing in our Trust of God. We do this best in community. Together, we will explore the trust we place in Jesus and the trust we seek to build in developing a strong connection between the local church, district, annual conference and general church.
For all of these reasons, I hope you will join me and other Conference leaders for this conversation. It will be a safe and open space. I am coming with expectations to learn from your questions, further understand your context and work together on our future.
If you have Disaster Recovery needs or would like to help volunteer, call 855-CAT-FUMC. The call center will remain open this week, and we will continue to pray for you and lift up our Florida Conference clergy and laity.
Hope to see you soon!
The Peace of the Lord,
Bishop Ken Carter
Florida Episcopal Area
Note: If you have any questions about the Regional Fall Gathering events, you may reach out to Rev. Alex Shanks in the Episcopal office at email@example.com.