A Message from Bishop Mark W. Holmerud

A Message from Bishop Mark W. Holmerud

It stretches the imagination. We are witnessing fires and weather events on a scale so devastating it’s hard to comprehend. Some are still in the process of unfolding. As if that weren’t enough, there are reports that a meteor will pass very close to the Earth in early November! I’ve heard some people say, jokingly, “What’s next – Frogs and Locusts?” While I don’t believe these fires and weather events are “plagues” sent by God, I do believe (except for the meteor) these weather events and fires are likely events of humanity’s making. Climate Change and Global Warming are the direct result of our irresponsible use of the world’s resources and such changes in weather and fire behavior have been linked to this.

Case in point: recently, three “unusual” weather events in this country have caused/are causing great damage and destruction —

  1. Two weeks ago, a Derecho, a storm with very powerful winds, blew through the State of Iowa, killing at least four people and destroying crops, houses, barns over a wide area. The damage is still being tallied.
  2. Ten days ago, dry lightning storms moved through central and northern CA with thousands of lightning strikes sparking fires which are currently burning out of control and threatening communities over a wide area. It’s as if all of the fires with which we have had to deal in the past few years are happening at the same time. It’s possible the remnants of a rare west coast hurricane/tropical storm could still spark more lightning strikes in the days to come.
  3. This week, two hurricanes are converging on the gulf coast and will make landfall in the same area within a few days of each other, causing torrential rains, flooding, tornadoes and wind damage.

What do these weather/disaster events have in common? Each has been described as a meteorological event that only occurs once every few decades. In fact, I had never heard the term “derecho” before the storm in Iowa. I have been in touch with my colleague bishops in Iowa and the gulf coast to see how their congregations and ministries are faring, and there is much that they don’t yet know about the damage that has been done. It is the same with the many fires which are burning in our synod’s territory right now.

What else do these weather/disaster events have in common?  Lutheran Disaster Response will be providing relief and aid to those who have been and will be affected. There are links below that will help you to respond as you feel called to offer support through Lutheran Disaster Response or our synod’s ministry.

In the meantime, here are some updates about how the fires are affecting our Sierra Pacific Synod congregations and ministries:

+  The church buildings of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran in Vacaville, St. Mark’s Lutheran in Fairfield, Napa Valley Lutheran in Napa, Mountain Lutheran in Groveland, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd and El Buen Pastor in Salinas, St. Philip Lutheran in Carmel Valley, Advent Lutheran in Morgan Hill, Good Shepherd Lutheran in Gilroy, Grace Lutheran in King City, St. Stephen’s Lutheran in Santa Cruz and Our Saviour’s Lutheran in Quincy are all undamaged, though some of these churches are in areas that could be evacuated, especially with the winds and dry lightning that is predicted in the next few days. A few of these churches are serving/ready to serve as evacuation shelters for their community. If you know of additional congregations that are being affected by fires, please email info@spselca.org.

+ There are many members of these congregations who have already been evacuated; some for more than a few days. Others are in “Evacuation Watch or Warning” areas, and could be evacuated if conditions change. We know of at least one home of a member of one of these congregations that has been lost. We don’t know about any other losses, nor do we know how soon evacuations will be lifted. We will provide updates as we have more information.

+ Mt. Cross Ministries in Felton has been evacuated and is close to the eastern edge of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire. This fire has been difficult to fight because of terrain and smoke issues. Please check their Facebook page for updates. We will also provide updates as they are available.

+ The fire burning near Loyalton on the California-Nevada border is 90% contained and is not currently a threat to any of our congregations, though it is sending a great deal of smoke into the Reno/Tahoe area.

Prayer is important in moments like these, and I encourage you and your congregation to hold in prayer the pastors and staff and members of all of our ministries that are facing great challenges. Prayers are also needed for all of the first responders who are fighting the fires and providing rescue for those who need to flee, and for those who are providing shelter for the evacuated. I invite you to offer the prayer below, or one of your choosing:

O God, who in Jesus stills the storm and soothes the troubled heart, bring hope and courage to all who are affected by fires and storms as we wait in uncertainty. Bring assurance that you will be with us in whatever lies ahead. Thank you for your presence in the first responders who bring safety, comfort and hope. Keep them safe as they work to save lives and property. Give us courage to endure all that we now face, for you are our refuge and strength. You are God, and we need you. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen
(adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship: Pastoral Care, page 174)

Please use these links to offer financial support through Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR):

Lutheran Disaster Response — US Wildfires

Lutheran Disaster Response — US Severe Storms

Donating through our synod’s ministry:

We know from past experience that donations made to LDR for “US Wildfires” will be used throughout the country where fires have caused damage. If you wish to donate funds that will be used specifically for congregations and communities in our synod’s territory, then please feel free to donate to our Sierra Pacific Synod. Funds will be received in a “2020 Fires” special fund and will be distributed with the help of Lutheran Social Services of Northern California and Congregational Leaders to people and places most in need. You can donate by a check (please write “2020 Fires”) on the memo line and mail it to:

Sierra Pacific Synod, ELCA
9985 Folsom Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95827

You may also give through our website at: “2020 Fires” 

Thank you for your prayers and for your generosity.

Bp. Mark