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,+Peter