Jan. 28, 2020
The team from Florida
Worship with the leaders in Cuba included a procession and an opportunity to bless people's homes.
Reflections on the Cuba Accompaniment Trip
Contributed by Rev. Kathryn Carroll, who participated in this trip in December, 2019.

Perhaps it was the warm and welcoming hospitality; perhaps it was the joyful worship; perhaps it was the arrestingly beautiful scenery; perhaps it was because the spirit of God was so vivid throughout the experience. For these reasons and more, participants in the Cuba Accompaniment Trip were drawn to the people of Cuba and how God is doing a new thing among us. In early December 2019, I joined twelve others from the Florida-Bahamas Synod on a visit to the Iglesia Evangélica Unida (IEU), Sínodo Luterano, in Santiago de Cuba. We visited six congregations, became familiar with the city and its environs and made friends wherever we went. I could offer a travelogue and information about the sites we saw, yet that is not what remains with me the most. When I reflect back on the experience, I think about the people. They were warm, peace loving, and anxious to build bridges. The government officials we met underscored that Cuba welcomes religious activity and celebrates the work of churches. The faith communities we visited were passionate in their witness of the living Lord; despite the profound challenges the United States embargo and various travel restrictions perpetuate, the people live in hope.

Since 1998, the ELCA has had an official stand against the embargo in Cuba. At the time the resolution was passed, the embargo had existed for 37 years; more than twenty additional years have transpired yet the United States continues to maintain the policy. The embargo has not resulted in dialogue and reconciliation; rather, it has hurt the people of Cuba by severely restricting access to basic goods and services. Our group saw with its own eyes the resilience of every day citizens despite the hardships the embargo perpetuates; we were inspired by the manner in which people overcome economic obstacles and find joy and pride in their homes and livelihood. 

There is opportunity to grow in our relationship and partnership with the IEU. Not only do we have gifts to share, we also have much to learn from our brothers and sisters in Cuba and their zeal to witness to the gospel. May we be agents of healing and hope, growing in faith as we break down barriers and advocate for change in public policy.

Special thanks goes to Rev. Keith Spencer for the beautiful photographs of this trip.
An Osprey Experience--an invitation for highschool juniors and seniors

High school juniors and seniors are invited to join Jacksonville Campus Ministry at the overnight retreat, Feb. 28-29, 2020: An Osprey Experience. We will connect students with the campus ministry at the college or university of their choice, chat about what makes campus ministry an important part of faith formation in college, and have fun on the high and low ropes courses at University of North Florida. For the full itinerary, please see this document: https://tinyurl.com/y6zseacy

Total cost for students is $10, in order to reserve their spot. If students or parents have trouble paying this cost, there are scholarships available. Please contact Pastor Sarah at jaxcampusmin@gmail.com with questions.

Chrism Mass and Bishop's Visits--a 2020 Experiment

For this year, we will be hosting ONE CHRISM MASS worship service at St. John Lutheran Church, Winter Park, on April 7 from 11-2 pm . This is the Tuesday of Holy Week, which is the traditional day for the Chrism Mass. This event will include a time of learning over lunch, followed by a Chrism Mass service. The worship service will be livestreamed for those not able to be present. Oil for pastoral care visits will be consecrated and distributed at this service, and will be available at Assembly and other events throughout the year for those not able to be present. Rostered ministers will be invited to re-affirm their ordination promises.

Separate from the Chrism Mass , Bishop Suarez will host 5 Bishop's Visits throughout the synod. Some of these visits will be during Lent, but not all of them. These visits will include a time of learning and dialogue with Bishop Suarez and a worship service. The Bishop's visits events will run from 9:00 to 12:30. The dates/locations for these visits are:

Saturday, Feb. 15: Living Lord, Lakewood Ranch
Saturday, April 25: location TBD (Tampa/Palm Harbor area)
Saturday, May 9: University, Gainesville
Saturday, September 26: Lord of Life, Miami
Saturday, Oct. 10: location TBD (Space Coast area)

More information about the Chrism Mass and the Bishop's Visits will be coming soon. Mark your calendars to join Bishop Suarez and synod staff at these events this year.
Mark your Calendar
Click on the calendar to go to the synod calendar to learn more about these events
For Your Information
ELCA Benefit Plan Updates from Your Portico Regional Representative: January 2020
New in 2020 for the ELCA-Primary Health Plan
If you have ELCA-Primary health benefits, a suite of new online offerings provides convenient access to care at your fingertips, whether on the go, in your office, or and in the privacy of your own home. Find support to strengthen your emotional resilience, learn new skills, and save on costs:
  • Being is a holistic, faith-based, educational platform offering expert-led videos on a wide range of well-being skills — such as longevity, purpose, resiliency, and more.
  • Learn to Live is a self-directed online mental health support program designed to help participants manage stress, depression, social anxiety, insomnia, and substance use.
  • Text-Based Primary Care is available through a convenient app. 98point6 connects you 24/7 with U.S.-based, board-certified doctors. Receive on-demand consultation, diagnosis, and a treatment plan for $5 or less. Doctors can also prescribe medication (except controlled substances) and order lab tests.
Earning Wellness Dollars in 2020:
Members with ELCA-Primary health benefits can earn up to $200 wellness dollars to help pay for eligible out-of-pocket expenses. Earn $100 wellness dollars each when you complete a physical health assessment or biometric screening, and when you have a conversation with a Portico Financial Planner. If your spouse is covered by ELCA-Primary benefits they can earn $200 as well. Sign in to myPortico to learn more .

Videos for Treasurers and Church/Financial Administrators:
Looking to learn about Portico Benefit Services and the practicalities of managing the benefits for pastors and church employees? Your congregation must have at least one registered EmployerLink user to pay your bill and manage sponsored employees’ benefits. Note: it’s important for the people who play a part in managing your employees’ benefits to be registered on EmployerLink, and for those no longer involved to have their accounts deactivated.
Invite your treasurer or financial administrator to view these educational videos:
Managing Benefits 101 (may be seen without signing in to EmployerLink)
Mission Support Covenant Forms Available
The 2020 Mission Support forms are available on the synod web site. These forms help the synod office plan well for ministry priorities and programming for the next year.

>>> Click HERE to submit the form online<<<
>>> Click HERE to access the forms to download and print<<<
Parochial Reports Available on ELCA Web Site
 Forms A and C that make up the required, annual parochial report, ARE NOW available to fill out and complete, on the ELCA website . Each congregation needs to have its own church ID and password. The passwords for 2019 were recently sent to each congregation. The passwords are also available from the synod office.
Annual Report Covers
The 2019 Annual Report Covers from the ELCA are available on the synod web site (on the Forms page) and also on the ELCA web site (on the Stewardship page). These covers include a brief litany to open congregational meetings and a brief message from Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton.
Insurance Premiums Increasing
Congregations that have insurance with the "synod pool" through Brown & Brown need to be aware of the increase in premiums. Congregations with different property insurance can likely anticipate similar increases. If you have questions about your insurance policy, please contact Michele Hilton (micheleh@fbsynod.org).

From Brown&Brown: I want to advise that we are seeing an increase in property rates on all renewals.
The Property market pricing is based on the “re-insurance” market, (i.e., insurance companies buy insurance for their own overall/global catastrophic losses) and the re-insurance market is driving up the pricing due to catastrophic losses in the industry year over year.
From a budgeting standpoint, we are seeing on average of 15-20% increase on this line of business.
We will continue to market the account and work to drive down pricing as we do on every renewal to provide the most competitive pricing for the synod. That being said, any building updates, electrical, roofs, plumbing or improvements helps drive these costs down.

Please let Michele Hilton know if you have any questions.
Bishop's Calendar
  • Synod Office
  • Holy Land Trip w/ELCA new Bishops
  • Houston
  • Holy Trinity, Ft. Walton Beach (installation of Pr. Tim Johnston)
  • St. Paul, Niceville
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