March 7, 2016/Volume 15, No. 5

Conference News

A Word from Bishop Leeland: Appointment Making Week

Bishop Paul Leeland took a moment to step out of the appointment making session this morning to share a word with clergy, lay leaders and SPR/PPR committees. Click on the image above or here for today's message

Bishop's Day Apart Draws Clergy from Around Conference

Bishop Paul L. Leeland, resident bishop of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, invited all clergy to the annual Bishop’s Day Apart on Monday, February 22, 2016. Dr. Tom Long, Bandy Professor Emeritus of Preaching and Director of the Early Career Pastoral Leadership Program at Candler School of Theology led morning and afternoon sessions. Full story here. Click here to download audio files from the sessions

AWF Disaster Response Update

(Amelia Fletcher) - Currently our conference is responding to four disaster events: Christmas 2015 flooding in Coffee County, AL; February 2016 tornadoes in Century, FL and Pensacola, FL; and the Pensacola flooding of 2014. The work of recovery in the Pensacola Flood Recovery operations will close March 31, 2016. We have been blessed to be represented in that 18-month recovery work by a dedicated team led by Lynn Dobry. Our partnership with the Escambia County, FL, community will continue as we respond to the February tornadoes. The local communities and organizations did an amazing job in early response for their family and neighbors. Thank you to Cokesbury UMC for opening up as a shelter and responding to their neighbors. Click here for full update

Around the Conference

Side by Side Singers Engage Alzheimer's Community Through Music

The Side by Side Singers, under the direction of Jack Horner, performed a concert on Tuesday, February 23, 2016, at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. The choir is comprised of caregivers and people living with memory loss due to Alzheimer's. Horner served as Director of Music at Montgomery First UMC for twenty years. In his retirement, he launched this powerful music ministry. Daphne Johnston, Director of Respite Care at the church, commented that, “Music is a powerful tool that allows people with memory loss to reconnect with their past. We have found that even though a person might have severe dementia, music can stimulate the brain and that sometimes the traditional hymns a person might have learned in their teenage years, has never left them. It is a powerful sight to see this group engage with one another through music.” The choir is 40 members strong and meets every Tuesday at 1:00pm at Montgomery FUMC. Click here for more coverage from The Montgomery Advertiser. Click here to see photo gallery by Luke Lucas

AWF Launches Webinar Training

We are undertaking a new step in training and communication for our local churches and their leaders. The Alabama-West Florida Conference will soon begin offering webinars on many subjects that we hope will be useful to you and your congregation. You will be able to watch the webinars live and ask questions, or watch them later at your own convenience. Each webinar will last approximately 30 minutes, including time allowed for questions and answers. The first topic will be about Connectional Ministries. You will hear a broad overview about our exciting conference ministries and how your church is connected to them. The first webinar will be Tuesday, March 8 at 6:30pm. All you need to participate is a computer, tablet, or smart phone connected to the internet. Click here to register for this webinar. After you register, you will receive a confirmation email with a link and instructions to participate. For questions, and to suggest future topics, contact Susan Hunt at or 334-356-8014.

Graham Biographer Speaks at Huntingdon on Billy Graham and American Politics

(Huntingdon College) - As Americans prepare to elect our nation's 45th president, Huntingdon College presents a Stallworth Lecture Series speaker who will explore the intersections between religion and politics in America. Dr. Grant Wacker, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Christian History at Duke University Divinity School, will speak on "Billy Graham and American Politics," Monday, March 7, at 7:30 p.m. in the College's Ligon Chapel, Flowers Hall. More information here

Mulder UMC Shows Radical Hospitality on Super Tuesday

Members of Mulder UMC in Elmore County, AL, served voters on Super Tuesday, March 1, 2016. The church had the opportunity to show their servant hearts by opening up Cafe Mulder. The volunteers, or servants as they are lovingly called, are at the polls all day offering complimentary refreshments. The coordinator, Mr. Bob Hendrick, usually arrives at 5am and leaves at 9pm, making sure every detail is in order. Rev. Matt Mobley, pastor, said, "This tradition has been going on for years at Mulder. Voters really appreciate it. We receive thank-you letters and words of appreciation after every election. Usually several people visit the church on Sundays after experiencing Cafe Mulder on Election Day." Thanks be to God for showing the love of Christ on Super Tuesday.

2016 AC Award Committees Accepting Nominations

Do you know someone in the Alabama-West Florida Conference who has exemplified outstanding leadership? Please prayerfully consider nominating them for the Alice Lee Award, Francis Asbury Award, Harry Denman Evangelism Award, Jane Walker Scholarship, and Local Church Award. More information and nomination packets can be found here. Pictured above is Mrs. Helen Edwards before she accepts the 2015 Alice Lee Award. 

Learn More About Your United Methodist Development Fund

(UM Foundation) - As the body of Christ, it is our mission to build His kingdom. Ephesians 4:16 shares that we are fitted and held together with each individual part working together; causing the growth of the body for the building up of the church in love. In the Alabama-West Florida Conference, our churches, agencies, and missions are building God's kingdom in a variety of ways. In an effort to work with you in ministry, the United Methodist Development Fund wants to offer you a helping hand in building God's kingdom. The Development Fund has fueled the growth, expansion, and renovation needs of the AWF Conference for over 28 years, loaning more than $18 million to churches and agencies. Because of the generosity of other United Methodists who invest in our Development Fund, our conference can continue to grow and serve our communities. More here

Connectional News

Harper Lee Letters in SMU Collection 

(Dallas Morning News) - Southern Methodist University’s ownership of letters by Harper Lee has prompted news coverage since her Feb. 19 death. Lee’s letters to Horton Foote, screenwriter for the film of Lee’s novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” are among Foote’s papers at SMU’s library. A Lee letter to Oprah Winfrey also is in the collection. More here

Praying for GC2016: What Will Happen?

(UMNS) — When the 864 delegates arrive for the 2016 United Methodist General Conference, each one comes blanketed in prayer. The Rev. Tom Albin, director of the church’s Upper Room, invites all United Methodists to blanket the entire proceeding with intentional prayer. Kathy Gilbert reports.

Higher Ed and Ministry Board Re-elects Top Exec

(UMNS) — The directors of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry have re-elected the Rev. Kim Cape as the agency’s top executive, approved matching funds for a new scholarship and affirmed an internal publishing office. Read story.

Next Generation Leaders

(Lewis Center) - At an event I was approached by a well-dressed older woman who said, “We are willing to do whatever it takes to get the next generation of leaders involved. We will invest our time to train them, equip them, and guide them as they learn how to run this congregation. It’s their turn to step up, just like we did when we were their age.” It seemed like a noble gesture on her part, her willingness to invest in the next generation. But there was an unstated assumption beneath her offer. They will have to learn how to run the organization our way, before we yield leadership to them. She didn’t consider that the next generation of leaders might reshape the organization in significant ways, before they accept the leadership reins. What will it take to turn the leadership of the church over to the next generation? How will the church negotiate the transition? Full commentary here


Clergy Health & Wellness Initiative Requirements

Beginning January 1, 2016, the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference Board of Pension & Health Benefits launched the Health and Wellness Initiative Program. The goal of the program is to encourage our pastors and their dependents to live healthier lifestyles by providing them with personal health information, screening and coaching, thus helping the Conference to reduce and control the cost of health insurance claims. Clergy members on the conference active health insurance plan are required to complete the HealthQuotient and Biometric Screening by August 31, 2016. Dependents, retired clergy and their dependents and employees who are on the annual conference health plan are not required to complete the HQ and Biometric Screening but are welcome and encouraged to participate. Complete information here

2015 AWF Journal Available Through

The 2015 Journal is now available online for purchase through Copies are $25 and will ship directly to your preferred location. Click here to order the Journal

Free Online Course Helps Engage More People with General Conference

"Exploring General Conference," a free online course from United Methodist Communications, is designed to help participants learn more about the official decision-making body of The United Methodist Church and to explore many of the aspects of General Conference in anticipation of the 2016 session. More here


Wesley Heirs Spring Meeting, March 8-10

Lay Servant Training Academy, March 11-12

River Region Great Day of Service, March 12

ERT Training, Elba, March 12

BSC Concert Choir Performance, March 16

UMW Spiritual Enrichment Retreat, March 18-20

Lead Up! Youth Mission Leadership Practicum, April 1-3

United Methodist Men's Annual Advance, April 1-2

Inspirit 2016, April 7-9

Blue Lake Christian Writers Retreat, April 20-23

ARM's Cycle of Service, April 22-24

AWF Youth Workers Roundtable, April 28


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