All posts by Melissa Lewis

Bishop’s Appeal Sept 7th

All funds collected will go directly to the Bishop of the Bahamas, allowing him to direct critical help to individuals and families in the Abacos and Grand Bahama. 

The Bishop and his colleagues can reach people at this point in ways that no one or no other agency can, and our response will enable him to reach out with practical and life-saving help!

The Commemoration of Ellie Naud
7 September 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Amazingly, Hurricane Dorian continues to threaten communities as it moves northwards. Today Massachusetts and parts of maritime Canada will feel its effects, some of them potentially serious. The storm is not predicted to be safely out to sea in the North Atlantic and away from land until later tomorrow. Hurricane Dorian began life on 24 August, developing quickly and dangerously, and striking the Virgin Islands before moving on to the Bahamas. So we have been focused on this system for a full two weeks.

Yesterday I went to Nassau to deliver a satellite phone for Green Turtle Cay as well as some funds to begin to help the Bishop in his relief work. We had about an hour together as he told me what he saw during his fly-over of the Abacos a couple of days before. It is not possible to describe the worst devastation that the Bahamas has known in recorded history. Almost 70,000 people are homeless in both the Abacos and Grand Bahama, and we have no idea of the number of the dead and missing – but that count rises by the hour. A hurricane disaster is quickly becoming a humanitarian crisis of major proportions.

We are doing everything we can to be of significant help. The Bishop’s Appeal is going strong. I have had messages from many of our congregations and even some of our schools to say that they are collecting funds, and we are still hoping for 100% participation from all our congregations in this Appeal. Remember that it is not the size of the gift that is important; but the fact that we shall be able to say to our sisters and brothers in the Bahamas that every community in our diocese participated. Such solidarity sends its own powerful message.

As we continue to pray for all those affected by the storm in our church services tomorrow, please also issue a call to your community to contribute to the Bishop’s Appeal.

I am deeply moved that the Diocese of Florida to the north of us is also having an appeal, and is directing its funds to come to us so that we may be partners in an even more effective effort to raise money. I have written to Bishop Howard and the clergy and people of the Diocese of Florida to express our gratitude. I have also received the news that an independent foundation in Pennsylvania is contributing to our Appeal. We are becoming a centre of focus for help, and we are so much stronger because of these partnerships. I am continuing to work on a number of other relationships, both in the Church and among other organisations, to expand these partnerships as widely as possible.

As I have said already, we want to help with immediate relief, and we are committed to this work for the long haul. Even now we are looking at the longer-term work of re-building, which will take considerable funds and take years. So our generosity now will have benefits for months, even years, to come.

We know in this region how long it can take to recover from a serious hurricane. Even now parts of the Keys are not restored after Hurricane Irma two years ago. And there is a sense in which we still feel the effects of Hurricane Andrew in some of our communities almost 30 years on. Such storms change history and the existence of entire communities as much as they injure individuals and families. All of this is on our minds as we see the reports coming out of the Abacos and Grand Bahama.

I have said to the Bishop of the Bahamas that I am ready to go with him when he can finally get into the affected regions of his diocese, so that I can be of a support to him and a witness to be able to help more effectively with organising help. This morning many areas remain dangerous and closed by the government, and access is severely limited. This causes tensions of its own, as understandably people want desperately to get to the Abacos and Grand Bahama to bring aid and help.

For now let us channel our energy into raising money. That is the best thing that most of us can do. Encourage those of your friends and colleagues who do not belong to the Church, but who are looking for a direct and effective way to help, to contribute to the Bishop’s Appeal. Direct them to our Facebook Page, and forward to them the Appeal letter or show them how to contribute online. While this may seem like only an oblique way of helping, it is the best way to help at this stage.

Thank you for all that you are doing to care for our sisters and brothers in the Bahamas at this terrible time.

With love and prayers,


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Bishop’s Appeal Sept 6th

All funds collected will go directly to the Bishop of the Bahamas, allowing him to direct critical help to individuals and families in the Abacos and Grand Bahama. 

The Bishop and his colleagues can reach people at this point in ways that no one or no other agency can, and our response will enable him to reach out with practical and life-saving help!

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,


The Rector and Vestry of one of our parishes informed me yesterday that they will give a matching gift of $50,000 to match the $50,000 for which I have appealed this week. Therefore if you are planning an appeal in church this Sunday, or if you are considering a parish gift from funds at your disposal, please know that every dollar that is given up to $50,000 in this appeal will be matched.

This is a wonderful and grace-filled act of commitment and love, and I am so grateful to this congregation for this genuinely sacrificial generosity. May this gift focus us all on the truth that each one of us can make a life-changing difference in this situation of desperate need. Now more than ever, in the face of the devastation of Hurricane Dorian, we must live and proclaim the Gospel of love.


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As you read this this morning I am on my way to Nassau to deliver a satellite phone and a first cheque to the Bishop from funds we have already received from the Bishop’s Appeal during this week.  

The phone is to go to Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos so that we can set up reliable communication from there, and Bishop Boyd is arranging for government forces to take it there. The cheque will enable the Bishop to begin to help in many practical ways all those in the Abacos and Grand Bahama who need his immediate help. 

Thank you to all who have contributed to the Bishop’s Appeal so far. Your response has been as extraordinary as it has been heart-warming, and I am so grateful for the readiness of everyone to help us make God’s love real for our sisters and brothers who need our help so badly right now.

Many communities will be having a public appeal for funds at your services on Sunday, and next week we shall be able to report how we have done in this initial stage of the appeal.

If people who are not members of our diocese ask you what they can do to help, please encourage them to contribute to this appeal. You can forward the Appeal letter or you can simply forward this or any daily message, which have a direct link for donations.

Our sisters and brothers to the north of us in the Carolinas have been suffering considerable damage.  We are not yet done with this storm, and please keep them in your prayers.

With love and prayers,


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Bishop’s Appeal Sept 5th

The Commemoration of Gregorio Aglipay
5 September 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Hurricane Dorian continues to move northwards and affect our neighbors along the Eastern seaboard. This remains a frightful storm. We are concerned about flooding, tornados, and power loss in the Carolinas and Virginia, and flooding especially is always a terrible danger. Every morning I am on a zoom call with Episcopal Relief & Development and leaders from dioceses in the path of the storm so that we can be of help and support to each other. While the storm has left us, please continue to keep those in its path in your prayers.

Of course here in Southeast Florida our eyes are fixed on the Bahamas, where our attention will be for a long time. Our family members, friends, and colleagues are still cut off, and we have no news of many who are of concern to us.

This is personal to Kate and me, and to many of us in our diocese. Kate and I spent our 10th wedding anniversary on Green Turtle Cay in 2015, and I said Mass in the church there – before we even knew that we might be living in this diocese. Like so many of you who cannot reach those whom you love, we have not been able to be in touch with our friends who live on Green Turtle Cay, and we have no news of how they are. One of my closest friends among the bishops has immediate family in Abaco and the adjacent islands, and there are fears that some may be lost. One of our priests in this diocese has family in Grand Bahama whose homes have been significantly damaged. We have many stories. And we continue to wait for news. As we wait, we plan. Our plans are for the long term.

We are beginning to see the usual challenges. There is always an initial flurry of help with various things, and it is often known as the “disaster after the disaster” – the rush of people and supplies to a disaster zone that then cannot be deployed. We are seeing this already in Nassau, where relief workers are running out of space to store all the supplies that are being sent there. It is natural to want to help, and we want to send supplies. There is huge need, but often this rush creates its own problems.

We know that this morning and for some time, no one but government officials can get into affected areas. We do not know how many have been lost and have died. The Bahamian National Emergency Management Agency and the Royal Bahamian Defense Force are doing the initial rescue work that has to be done before the Abacos and Grand Bahama can be opened up to relief work.

The Church is in this for the long haul, just as we have been in it for the long haul elsewhere. In the Keys, our work has continued in the two years since Irma to ensure the ongoing well-being of the community. Soon Saint Columba’s affordable housing project in Marathon will be dedicated and opened. This is the kind of long-term recovery that the Church does, and it takes single-mindedness, commitment, and ongoing support.

As a diocese, we are focused already on the longer term of helping to rebuild in the Abacos and Grand Bahama. We shall need major funds for building supplies to repair and rebuild churches, rectories, homes, schools, and places of small business. This is the least glamorous, but the most important work for the sustainability of these communities after a hurricane of this magnitude. I am currently in conversation with a number of prospective partners in the Church and in the secular sphere who are keen to create an effective team to raise the substantial funds that will make a serious impact when the time comes for rebuilding. There will be more news of this as it is established. I am very moved by those who want to be in this with the Church for the long haul.

It will be some days before we know the full extent of what has happened. This time of waiting is dreadful, and takes its toll. We continue to keep everyone affected by this storm in our prayers, as well as those who are organizing help of various kinds.

For now, I am asking you to consider how you may be able to continue to be a part of the long-term support that we shall need so that we can be a significant partner to our companion diocese. The Church is rooted in specific communities, and our life finds its meaning in our local communities of faith. We are in communities, doing the work of the Gospel, before disasters strike; we remain in those same communities after disasters, and after everyone else moves on. This is the Church’s strength and commitment, and this makes us essential partners in the rebuilding of communities.

With love and prayers,


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Bishop’s Appeal Sept 4th

The Commemoration of Paul Jones
4 September 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Today was to be the day when most of us in this diocese were to feel the effects of Hurricane Dorian, and for us in Miami the morning has dawned clear and calm. For us, this is a huge relief, but it is a relief tempered by ongoing concern and grief for our sisters and brothers in the Bahamas and those who may still be in the unpredictable path of this terrible storm.

At last Hurricane Dorian has moved away from Grand Bahama, and it is making its way north. We have had no reported damage to our churches and schools in Palm Beach and Martin Counties as the storm has moved up the coast. Our sisters and brothers in the states along the eastern seaboard now wait to see what this storm will do, and I am in touch with my fellow bishops in these dioceses.

We shall soon have a much clearer understanding of the destruction in the Abacos and Grand Bahama, but the first reliable pictures confirm that this is the worst destruction from a hurricane that the Bahamas have ever seen. Marsh Harbour is almost completely obliterated, and it is hard to see how anyone can live there even as the community looks to recovery. So we may be looking at the relocation of entire populations, which is itself a humanitarian crisis in the making.

All this makes the Bishop’s Appeal all the more urgent. Thank you to all who have already told me of your commitment to the appeal. Your quick response has been extraordinary and moving.

I am asking all our communities to be a part of this appeal as you are able, no matter how modest the gift. It will be so important to our sisters and brothers in the Bahamas to know that every community in our diocese has contributed. I am also asking that at our worship this Sunday, whether you have a special collection at your services or not, all of us offer special prayers for the dead, the injured, those still stranded and awaiting rescue, the displaced, Bishop Boyd and the local leaders of the Church who are on the ground offering pastoral and practical help, and the authorities who are organising relief and rescue efforts.

Every morning I am on a Zoom call with the leadership of Episcopal Relief & Development and the leaders of our neighbouring dioceses we track the storm, help each other in our preparations and recovery, and share best practices in the face of events like these. So far, none of our neighbouring dioceses have suffered much damage from the storm. Rhonda Clinton and others of our diocesan leadership are also a part of this group. We always learn a great deal on these calls, and we are able to be a real support to each other.

I am also in regular touch with Bishop Boyd in the Bahamas, who was on the first flight with other officials over Marsh Harbour yesterday to begin to assess the damage and the need. The parish church of Saint John the Baptist has sustained heavy damage, and the rectory is uninhabitable. I have told him that I am ready to join him when he can get into the Abacos and Grand Bahama on the ground so that I can support him and show our solidarity in person.

The Bishop’s Office has re-opened, and we are setting things back up after our hurricane take-down, which will take a day or so. But please do not hesitate to be in touch with us if you need anything.

Over these days at Morning Prayer we have been reading the account of Jesus’ passion as Saint Mark tells it in his gospel, and it is hard not to make the obvious connexion with the suffering of God’s children so very near to us. We commend all who suffer to the mercy of our suffering God, who walks with us in the valley of the shadow of death.

As we begin to return to our normal routine, let us be resolved to be agents of real help and active consolation to those in desperate need.

With love and prayers,


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Bishop’s Appeal Sept 3rd

The Commemoration of Prudence Crandall
3 September 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Save me, O God, *
      for the waters have risen up to my neck.
I am sinking in deep mire, *
      and there is no firm ground for my feet.
I have come into deep waters, *
      and the torrent washes over me.
I have grown weary with my crying; my throat is inflamed; *
      my eyes have failed from looking for my God.

These verses from Psalm 69 have been at the heart of my prayers for the Bahamas for several days. Hurricane Dorian was still pounding Grand Bahama this morning – stalled there for an incredible second day. It is impossible to imagine the terror and exhaustion of those who are living through this, and impossible to imagine the helplessness of those who are waiting for the storm to pass so that help can be brought to the island. I have news of people who are in places of danger and are waiting to be rescued, and we still do not know the full extent of the damage.

I have launched the Bishop’s Hurricane Appeal. I have been so moved by the immediate response of so many congregations, even prior to the launch of the appeal. Already so many are expressing our solidarity and support for our sisters and brothers in the Bahamas, and we are living the words of the prayer that says “may your love for us unite us and support us, and enable us to support those for whom danger breaches their hope.” I am hoping that each community will contribute to this phase of the appeal, so that we can send a clear message of solidarity to our companion Diocese of the Bahamas where we have so many family members, friends, and colleagues.

Today, I have sent the assurance of our prayers and solidarity to the bishops of those dioceses in the projected track of Hurricane Dorian. Even as we seek to bring immediate need to the Bahamas, let us not forget our sisters and brothers further north.

Our communities in the northern part of our own diocese are not yet out of some danger from wind and flooding. We are watching this situation closely, and they are taking appropriate precautions. We are of course ready to bring immediate assistance to our own communities should they need it.

I am working in close collaboration with Rhonda Clinton of Episcopal Charities on plans for the organization of relief and recovery efforts. There will be more news about the ongoing appeal as soon as we can determine more clearly what is needed.

For now, we continue to watch and pray, and give all the encouragement to those among us who are waiting for news of loved ones in the Abacos and Grand Bahama.

With love and prayers,


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