April 14, 2020
Easter Greetings from Bishop Suarez
Dear beloved in Christ,

In the hope of the Resurrection, we stand and balance our lives for the sake of the One who died and was raised from death, Jesus Christ, our Lord!

What a different Holy Week! I am so proud of the many of you who ventured into new ways of being church and served God’s people to the best of your abilities. Some of you are trying to rest and slowly get back into the “new normal” of meeting by video conferences and so on.

We don’t know how long this “stay home” situation will last; however, we continue to learn how to manage our lives from our homes. My prayers are that we may have the physical health and emotional strength to go through this. 

We will be sharing relevant information as decisions are made regarding our near future activities, such as Bishop’s visits, Synod Assembly and more. As you now know, we are welcoming Marina Ernst among us as the Communication Specialist for the synod and this will help in sharing what we need to know.

We appreciate when you share with the Bishop’s staff any news from your congregation, anybody affected, or ways you are ministering during this crisis. Keep up the good work!

Peace and Health,

+ Bp. Pedro

Rev. Pedro Suarez, Bishop
Florida-Bahamas Synod, ELCA

This year, Bishop Suarez gave his Easter address remotely alongside the pastors of Hope Lutheran in The Villages.

The Synod is very thankful for Hope Lutheran's help in filming and broadcasting this Easter message!
Bishop Suarez and his wife Aura also filmed a special rendition of the song "Blessed and Divine Land", illustrated with photos from the Bishop's visit to Palestine and Israel earlier this year.

What's New?
Atonement Lutheran's Palm Sunday Plan Draws Attention from Press

When it comes to meeting the needs of our community during COVID-19, creativity is key!

One creative church, Atonement Lutheran in Tampa Bay, hosted a drive-thru Palm Sunday service, offering sanitized palm fronds to worshippers through their car windows. Atonement, like many other churches, also offered their Palm Sunday services online via a live-streaming platform.

The Palm Sunday event earned the church media attention. The Tampa Bay Times published a story about Atonement's service in the April 6 th edition of their paper. The above photo was snapped by Tampa Bay Times photographer Luis Santana.
Reformation Lutheran Shares Bibles Through
Free Little Library
Two years ago, Reformation Lutheran in Orlando installed a Free Little Library on the front of their property. The tiny structure sits along a busy road with plenty of cars, along with walkers, bikers, and other foot traffic.

The Free Little Library included 3 shelves, one for religious books and Bibles, the others for adult and children’s books.

Since Orange County enforced their stay-at-home order on March 20 th, Reformation’s Free Little Library has seen an increase in visitors, as more people walk passed the property and search for good books to pass the time. Reformation Lutheran had been placing Bibles (in both English and Spanish), as well as devotionals, information about their church, and other religious information in their library for new visitors.

Reformation says they are so happy to see more Bibles and church flyers being taken than ever before! They say they will continue to offer more Bibles through their library, as long as the need is there! It is truly a blessing to see members of the community sharing the joy of reading and reaching for Bibles during these days.
ATTENTION All Pastors and Leaders:

Your Synod is in the process of requesting a grant from FEMA to support our Food Pantries and requires vital information.

If you have not already done so, please provide the following information on Food Pantries hosted by FBS congregations:

Church/Location/Point of Contact/Number of Families Served Monthly/Current Operational Status

Please send this information to Jim Habermehl at JimH@fbsynod.org.
COVID-19 Resources
Stay in the Know!

Our Synod regularly updates our website with current COVID-19 resources for leaders. Right now, you can find information on the Paycheck Protection Program, Pandemic Precautions, Tips for Kids, and more by visiting our website.
Encouragement for Clergy Virtual Group
3 Week Virtual Group Begins April 15 th at 1:00pm

“We’ve never been here before.” We’ve all thought this in past weeks. To support those who lead our churches and may be wondering if this is a new normal or a “wilderness wandering,”
Rev. Dr. Rick Armstrong will offer a 3 week virtual group to explore issues you are facing.

A ministry of Lutheran Counseling Services of Winter Park. Please visit their website,  lcsfl.com , for more COVID-19 resources.
ELCA is a Census 2020 Partner
Funding for over 100 federal programs, many of which combat poverty and hunger and support people in need, are distributed based on population. ELCA is a Census 2020 partner, encouraging an accurate count that impacts more just resource distribution and representation in the political process, as census data determines electoral maps. For your neighbor and yourself – encourage your community to be counted! Start Here
Mark your Calendar
Click on the calendar to go to the synod calendar to learn more about these events
For Your Information
Send Us Your Feel-Good Stories

During these difficult times, we're looking for uplifting stories from your congregation to encourage others throughout our Synod.

Has your church expanded a mission to serve your community from a distance? Have you found a way to continue serving your neighbors through your food pantry or outreach ministry? Are you connecting with your congregation in new and exciting ways? We want to hear from you!

Share your stories with our Synod by emailing them to marinae@fbsynod.org.
April Update from Portico Benefit Services

People of God, these are interesting times to be in ministry. As you master many new skills and carry concerns about your people, your church’s finances, and your own family, please know that Portico is here to walk with you. Portico plan members, sign in to myPortico for these timely resources:
A new  hub on myPortico details financial and health resources specifically related to COVID-19, including:
·       updates on how the CARES Act can provide financial relief for congregations
·       telemedicine and emotional health support options for ELCA-Primary and ELCA Medicare-Primary plan members
·       answers about managing or adjusting flexible spending accounts
·       financial resources from the ELCA Retirement Plan Recordkeeping Services Provider, Fidelity

This   16-minute video(filmed March 26) offers:
·       perspective on the investment markets and how we navigate volatility
·       ways to remain emotionally grounded as retirement account balances fluctuate
·       resources Portico offers to help you through these uncertain times
*Communicator note: if you prefer to print out web links, please use these:

Meet Our New Communications Specialist
Blessings to you, friends throughout the Florida-Bahamas Synod and the ELCA. My name is Marina Ernst, and I am the new Communications Specialist here in our Synod. I want to sincerely thank everyone who has reached out to welcome me in the last week, and I'm greatly looking forward to serving our Synod in this way.

In conversation with Bishop Suarez and Sister Michelle Collins, we've discussed the communication needs of our Synod at this time and in the future. We agree that, especially during the time of COVID-19 and digital worship, having a strong plan for communication is essential. We also agree that now is an ideal time to share support, resources, and encouragement within our community. Thankfully, in this digital age, sharing with each other from a distance has never been easier!

I want to encourage all of you to connect with your Synod online as much as possible. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and check our website regularly for updates.

A little about me: I was born and raised in Vineland, NJ before moving to Florida in 2017. I earned my master's degree in English and began my career in Church Communications in 2018 at our Synod congregation, Hope Lutheran in The Villages. As Communications Specialist for the Florida-Bahamas Synod, my job will include informing our congregations of important updates, maintaining our Synod website and social media accounts, publishing our E-Spirit newsletter, creating video content with our Bishop and other key leaders, designing print and digital resources for our Synod, and (my personal favorite) writing and sharing Stories of Faith in Action within our community.

Remember, I'm here for you! If you have a resource or story to share, or if your congregation needs advice in any facet of communications, please don't hesitate to reach out! Send me an email at marinae@fbsynod.org and I'll be glad to help.

I anxiously await the day when I can visit our congregations and leaders in person. Until then, stay well!
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