September 9, 2019/Volume 18, No. 9

Conference News

A Word from Bishop Graves

We invite you to watch a video message update from Bishop David Graves. Click here to viewClick here to read transcriptYou may also listen to this message as an audio-only podcast by clicking here, by searching for "AWFUMC Podcasts" on iTunes or in your preferred podcast player. We invite you to subscribe to these podcasts.

Alabama-West Florida Conference Task Force Reviews Initial Denominational Plans

The Alabama-West Florida Conference Discernment Task Force met on Tuesday, August 27, 2019, at Greenville FUMC. This group had its inaugural meeting on July 16, 2019. Since the first gathering in July, several denominational structure plans have come forth from various sources. The three working plans, thus far, are as follows. 
The Indianapolis Plan
UMCNext Proposal
Bard-Jones Strategy
The task force was divided into three teams to review the working plans. Each team was assigned a specific plan to review and was asked to comment on several questions. Full story here

Alabama-West Florida Conference to Remember Hurricane Michael

October 10, 2018, changed the lives of thousands as well as the landscape of the beautiful states of Florida and Georgia. The Alabama-West Florida Conference is home to numerous churches that received significant damage in addition to many clergy and church member residences that were devastated. The conference is inviting all churches in Alabama and West Florida to participate in this time of remembrance. “We will never forget the fear of watching a category five hurricane descend on our conference,” said Bishop David Graves. “The residents of Panama City, Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach, Marianna and many surrounding inland communities suffered significant property loss and experienced trauma that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. Sadly, these communities continue to lose neighbors when the trauma becomes too much for some to handle. As a conference, it is imperative we all recognize and remember this catastrophic event. This conference continues to walk alongside residents of the gulf coast through the Hurricane Michael Recovery program. I am so grateful for a talented team that is dedicated to helping those impacted by the storm rebuild their homes and lives. Despite all of our denominational heartache, our disaster response program, with the help of UMCOR, exhibits what is best in our connection.” Full release here.  

Around the Conference

Oldest Conference Clergy Member Turns 100

Kari Barlow for AWFUMC) - On a summer evening in Grove Hill, Alabama, in the early 1930s, a 12-year-old Ray Whatley answered the call to pastoral ministry and never looked back. He and his younger brother, Billy, had walked seven miles from their home to a revival being conducted at Grove Hill Methodist Episcopal Church. “Both of us went to the altar,” Billy recalled. “He committed himself to the pastoral ministry and me to accept Christ as my savior. As far as I know, Ray never had second thoughts about his decision.” In the years that followed, Ray went on to lead a fiercely principled life, taking stands on civil rights issues that would ultimately derail his career as a church pastor but place in him in a position to help transform the United Methodist Church’s pension program. Along the way, he married Katherine Green of Conway, Arkansas, and they adopted a son, David. After Ray retired from the UMC in 1981, he and Katherine settled in the Lake Junaluska community near Asheville, North Carolina. More here

Preaching Event Equips Clergy for Upcoming Advent Season

Under the leadership of Dr. Sam Parkes and Rev. Jeremy Steele, clergy from around the Alabama-West Florida Conference gathered on Thursday, September 5, 2019, at Montgomery FUMC to collectively explore sermon preparation around the Advent season. Parkes, senior pastor at Mary Esther UMC, and Steele, teaching pastor at Christ UMC in Mobile, co-led the group through multiple exercises that would encourage reading scripture in various ways. As the leaders read scripture in the morning session, the attendees were asked to reflect on out-of-the-box imagery connected to scripture and collaborate with their table to accept other imagery discovered. A unique method of doing this was through art; whereby the participants drew images with oil pastels on canvas without editing, keeping the crayon active on the page the entire time. More here

UMCH Breaks Ground on New Home for Teen Moms and Babies

(UMCH) - The United Methodist Children’s Home broke ground on a 9600 sq. ft. residential facility on Thursday, August 22 with nearly 40+ supporters in attendance. UMCH is doing more to accommodate a steady demand of teen moms in foster care, residing in the ministry’s Babies First Home. “It’s a special place where adverse circumstances meet God’s grace,” says Dr. Blake Horne, UMCH President and CEO. “While we extend this grace on a daily basis and residents are well cared for, the current home’s aging amenities just aren’t meeting a higher standard of care we strive to provide,” he adds. The new facility will be capable of housing up to ten moms and their babies. Each room will provide adequate living space, including a bathroom, and will house a mom and up to two children. More here.  

AWF Conference Invited to Support Clergy and Family

Many of you are aware that Rev. Christina and Jonathan Shaver’s infant son, George, was born with a unique heart condition. He recently had his second open heart surgery in Boston, MA. The recovery from the surgery has involved a much longer hospital stay than expected. The Shavers have been traveling to and from Boston to be with George while also caring for his brother at home. The Shavers express their gratitude to so many of our churches and clergy who have already supported them with prayers and resources during this time. We would like to offer a way for you to continue to show your support if you wish. The Alabama-West Florida Conference has traditionally set up an Agape Fund to help pastors in times of need. If you would like to give to support the travel, lodging, and medical expenses of this family, please send your check to the conference office with Shaver Agape Fund in the memo line. All funds received will be sent directly to Rev. Shaver and her family. 

The mailing address is:
AWFUMC, Fiscal Office
4719 Woodmere Boulevard
Montgomery, AL 36106

Please continue to keep the Shaver family in your prayers. 

Connectional News

UMCOR starts efforts for Bahamas relief

(UMNS) - Methodists in the Bahamas are among those who will be helping to meet basic needs after Hurricane Dorian decimated Grand Bahama and Abaco Islands. The United Methodist Committee on Relief is partnering with them. Linda Bloom reports

Plans for 2020 General Conference Nearing Completion

(UMNS) - In their final meeting before the 2020 General Conference, the Commission on the General Conference came together on August 7-9, 2019, in Lexington, Ky. to complete plans for the quadrennial legislative event. Kim Simpson, who has been serving as Secretary of the Commission, was elected chairperson to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former chairperson Duncan McMillan. Vice-chair Mujinga Kashala was not able to attend the meeting and declined to assume the office of chair by succession. The Rev. Gary George was elected as the new secretary of the Commission. The 2020 General Conference will see changes in the Daily Christian Advocate, which will be fully digital and available through a Daily Christian Advocate website. The Advance Daily Christian Advocate will still be printed as well as items in the daily editions that need to be voted on, but the proceedings of the General Conference, delegate lists and news articles will be on the website only. Improvements to the website include highlighting items that are currently being discussed so they are easy to find. More here


Preach Like TED

(Lewis Center) - Charley Reeb says preachers should take a lesson from TED Talks — the 18-minute internet videos that have reached over a billion people worldwide. The popularity of TED Talks suggests people still hunger for powerful, authentic discussion of ideas, especially when presented in novel and memorable ways. More here

Inviting deaf and hard-of-hearing people to church

(UMNS) - As Deaf Awareness Week approaches, the Rev. Leo Yates Jr. offers tips for how churches can be more accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals and their families. The international observance of Deaf Awareness Week will be Sept. 23-29 this year. Read tips.  


Damage Assessment Training, September 10

Resisting Racism: A Required Diversity Training for AWF Clergy, September 12

Means of Grace | Day Apart for Spiritual Formation (Session 8), September 14

Early Response Team (ERT) Training: Perdido Bay UMC, September 14

Guided Personal Retreat, September 16-18

Tanzania Partnership Information Session - Montgomery-Prattville District, September 22

Resisting Racism: A Required Diversity Training for AWF Clergy, September 24

Resisting Racism: A Required Diversity Training for AWF Clergy, September 26

ARM No More Shacks, September 26-October 1

Connecting Neighbors Workshop - Demopolis District, September 28

Marriage Enrichment Retreat, September 29-October 1

Tanzania Partnership Information Session - Mobile District, October 6

Vital Conversations, October 8

Vital Conversations, October 10

United Methodist Women Spiritual Enrichment Retreat, October 11-13

Connecting Neighbors Workshop - Marianna/Panama City District, October 12

Tanzania Partnership Information Session - Baypines District, October 13

Vital Conversations, October 15

Choir Music Weekend, October 18-20

Connecting Neighbors Workshop - Montgomery-Opelika District, October 19

Guided Personal Retreat, October 21-23

Connecting Neighbors Workshop - Dothan District, November 9

Tanzania Partnership Information Session - Marianna/Panama City District, November 10


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