Dear beloved United Methodist people,
In the fullness of this ancient greeting, I extend the grace and peace of Christ to you all today as the fury of Hurricane Florence threatens our beautiful state and our neighbors in South Carolina.
We pray without ceasing for one another, giving thanks for the bonds of love we share and for the amazing generosity displayed in this time of uncertainty.
Psalm 27 is a great gift to us, a prayer of praise and an affirmation of faith offered to God throughout the ages. Let us meditate on these verses:
The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?
One thing I have asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in God’s temple.
For God will shelter me in the day of trouble;
God will conceal me under the cover of protection,
God will set me high upon a rock.
I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord: be strong, and let your heart take courage,
wait for the Lord!
We have wisdom gleaned from experience, disaster recovery staff in place, good neighbors and abundant love for one another. In times like this, we are at our best even as we experience the worst.
The Cabinet, Assistants to the District Superintendents, and I are all back after a spiritual pilgrimage, and we are focused on this emergency. I am in continual contact with Bishop Holston in South Carolina and Bishop Leeland in Western North Carolina. Steve Taylor, Jaye White, Cliff Harvell, the district disaster response leaders, and the staff in place since Hurricane Matthew are organized and ready to organize recovery efforts.
Our Conference Treasurer Christine Dodson and I have requested funds from GCFA and UMCOR for start up relief funds for our response to Hurricane Florence. Gifts can be made online, and offerings can be directed to the Conference Treasurer and marked Hurricane Response through regular remittance procedures.
Neighbors near Garber United Methodist Church in New Bern gathered outside for prayer this morning, crossing boundaries of denomination and perspective. A picture came to me by text from a United Methodist Church in Salisbury praying with lit candles for our safety in the storm. We are not alone. We are surrounded by love and care and the boundless arms of God. On Sunday, let us all pray and invite offerings to relieve the suffering the hurricane will leave behind.
Loving God, the source of strength and restoration and healing,
we pray together for all who suffer in our communities today.
In the wake of wind and waves, destruction and flooding, make your presence known through our generosity to our neighbors, near and far.
Give us the vision and patience to live and labor faithfully
through this season of response and recovery.
As we clean up and rebuild, give us your joy and peace.
Give us above all the love for one another that is your best gift always.
In the name of the Triune God, we pray. Amen.
With gratitude to God for each of you and our life together,
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward