January 30, 2017/Volume 16, No. 2

Conference News

A Word from Bishop David Graves: January 29, 2017

We invite you to hear a message from Bishop David Graves, Resident Bishop of the Alabama-West Florida Conference. Click on the image or here to view. Click here to read the written transcript. Bishop Graves gives specific information about the upcoming day apart on February 21, including a few requests about what to bring in preparation for the day.  You 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.

Bishop's Day Apart to Welcome Rev. Jerry Herships and Claire Bowen 

The 2017 Bishop's Day Apart will be held Tuesday, February 21, 2017, at Dothan FUMC. Bishop David Graves will welcome Rev. Jerry Herships out of the Denver, CO, area. This day apart will look different from past years and will have a more interactive component. The sessions will be a bit more interactive than perhaps you’re used to experiencing. The topic is entitled, “That'll Preach! How to Make Your Message Stick.” Rev. Herships will explore his innovative techniques to engage all personality types through your sermons. Jerry will give a similar presentation that he did last year at the Fred Craddock Center in Cherry Log, North Carolina. You will walk away with practical knowledge to further engage your congregations. Claire Bowen will facilitate a 15-minute Communications Style Preference assessment at the beginning of our session that will allow us to better understand how we engage with differing personalities. We are also asking that you bring a rough-draft sermon you are working on that is not Wi-Fi dependent, perhaps it is your Easter sermon or Ash Wednesday sermon. Click here to register

Weekend Tornadoes Impact Multiple Conferences

The weekend of January 21 was a deadly one for residents in the Southeast due to the extensive outbreak of tornadoes. It was also a destructive one for those who live in the Mississippi, South Georgia and Alabama-West Florida Conferences. While the damage was limited to the West Alabama area of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, the impact was significant on Pleasant Hill UMC. Two families, the Boykin and Pruitt families, both had roofs ripped from their homes. Rev. Jimmy Boone, pastor at Pleasant Hill UMC, reported that the church is a very small membership church that averages about seven people a Sunday, so the damage affected over half of its membership. The church thankfully escaped any damage. Boone said, “After the roofs were blown off of the structures the heavy rains did substantial damage to the interior of both homes. The families were able to salvage some of their items but have had to seek shelter in nearby apartments and a hunting lodge. The road to the Pruitt’s home is currently washed out and not accessible.” Full story here

Around the Conference

Fresh Expressions Vision Day Announced

The AWF Conference has announced another Fresh Expressions Vision Day to be held Thursday, March 30, 2017, at Prattville FUMC. Fresh Expressions is a movement that is cultivating new forms of church alongside existing congregations in order to reach a changing world. Vision Day is a great way to discover more about Fresh Expressions. In an interactive format, you will have the chance to:
-Hear how Fresh Expressions is renewing the church.
-Talk about the development of Fresh Expressions US.
-Learn more about the Mission-shaped Church.
-Discover tools to start Fresh Expressions in your area.
Click here for more information and to register

Standing Rules & Petitions/Resolutions Information and Approaching Deadline 

The Committee on Standing Rules has begun its work in preparation for the 2017 Annual Conference. The committee will be reviewing proposed changes to the Conference Standing Rules. The current rules can be found on pp.16-29 of the 2016 Conference Journal; if you do not have a print copy of the Journalyou may view it on the conference website here. Please be aware of upcoming deadlines specified in our Standing Rules. The deadline to submit petitions and resolutions is also approaching! Contact the chairperson, Rev. Christina Shaver at if you have any questions. The deadline to submit reports is February 15, 2017. The committee on Resolutions and Petitions will soon be meeting to discuss resolutions and petitions for Annual Conference 2017 and we want to hear your voice. Complete information here

Town Hall Meetings Underway in AWF Conference 

In an effort to tour the conference and get to know pastors and laity, Bishop David Graves and Beverly Maddox, AWF lay leader, continue Town Hall Meetings. Three of the eight districts, thus far, have welcomed Graves and Maddox to share their personal faith stories and answer questions about the conference, denomination, church revitalization and much more. They are spending the first evening of the schedule conducting the meetings and then Bishop Graves is also gathering with clergy and key laity the next two days of the tour. Click here for photos from the Montgomery-Opelika District Town Hall Meeting

AWF Mission Statements: Educated, Empowered, Enriched

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:17-18 
(Jennifer Hope Knox) - The aforementioned Bible verse is the heart song of the individuals who have participated in and have been transformed by the Christian services of the Dumas Wesley Community Center in Mobile, AL. Sybil H. Smith Family Village (SHSFV), the center’s transitional housing program, gives its participants the opportunity to be educated, empowered, and enriched. SHSFV was founded in 1999 and provides 24-month housing for families experiencing homelessness. It also provides individualized case management, life skill classes, and the tools necessary for achieving self-sufficiency/permanent housing. To date, this program has served 850 total individuals of which 238 have been families. Full feature here

Agape Fund Welcomes Donations for Son of Rev. David Murray

Rev. David Murray unexpectedly received news of the death of his 32-year-old son. Because his son had no insurance policy, Rev. Murray and his wife are having to shoulder the added burden of paying for funeral expenses, which total about $12,000. In addition to our words of support and prayers, we would like in this instance to also send a tangible expression of our love and care. You may or may not be aware that the Conference has an established Agape Fund for just such occasions. If you are interested in making a donation to this fund, please send a check to the conference office and include the words “Agape Fund – Murray” on the memo line of the check. We each know how blessed we are to be a part of this wonderful connection; it is in times like this that these blessings take form in helpful ways. Thank you in advance for your caring support of our brother in Christ. Please contact Rev. Nancy Watson for more information. 

Connectional News

Commission on a Way Forward Holds Organizational Meeting

(UMNS) - The Commission on a Way Forward held its first meeting in Atlanta, Georgia January 23-26, 2017, with 32 members from nine countries in attendance. Led by commission moderators Bishop David Yemba, Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball and Bishop Ken Carter, members worked and worshipped together and began the foundational work integral to their charge of developing consensus about how to move forward amid different theological understandings of LGBTQ identity. “We need to diagnose what is happening in our churches, in our denomination and in our world,” said Bishop Ken Carter. “We sometimes pre-arrive at a diagnosis. Let us be careful and deliberate and thoughtful and take the time we need to diagnose what is going on in our church.” The moderators are not members of the Commission, but help to facilitate the conversation. Presentations from Dawn Wiggins Hare, General Secretary of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, and Erin Hawkins, General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race, focused on gender, race and culture and provided some principles for self-monitoring and laid the groundwork for the group to agree on behavioral norms and build a covenant for their work together. Full story here

Center Honors Black Methodists’ History

(UMCOM) - A church is not a building, but a group of people coming together with shared values. Part of the rich story of Methodism includes African Americans who chose to stay with the denomination despite being sometimes excluded or treated unfairly. Archivists hope churches and families will donate items to the African American Heritage Center, so the stories of those who built the church will remain alive for future generations. More here

Four-part Series on Methodism in Cuba Starts Jan. 31

(UMNS) - A four-part series that examines the state of the Methodist Church in Cuba begins on Jan. 31. The United Methodist News Service series looks at how Methodism is growing throughout urban as well as rural regions of the nation. Writer Linda Bloom and photographer Mike DuBose spent a week traveling throughout Cuba, taking advantage of a recent loosening of travel embargoes for Americans to the Caribbean island. Read press release.

Upcoming Clergy Benefits Academy Announced

Wespath Benefits & Investments has announced their upcoming Clergy Benefits Academy for all active clergy members of the United Methodist Church. The event is scheduled for February 6-8, 2017, in Pensacola, Florida. The Alabama-West Florida Conference Board of Pension & Health Benefits will not host the 2017 February Pre-retirement seminar so that the conference clergy members will be able to attend this event. Additional information on the event can be found on the Wespath website here. The Conference Board is encouraging all active members to attend. 


2017 Lenten Resources Now Available

Are you or a small group in your church still looking for just the right Lenten resource for the upcoming season? An updated list has been posted to the AWF Website. Several new resources are part of the list, including Tom Berlin's latest book entitled, "Restored: Finding Redemption in Our Mess." Click here for complete list

Why Some Ministries Need to Die

(Lewis Center) - A major problem of any struggling church is that it consistently does what it’s always done before, and avoids doing what it’s never done before. Whenever a church has maintained a long-term ministry or mission — one that started with such passion, and that sustained energy for a long time — the ministry will eventually go into decline. It’s the problem of entropy. Every church, every ministry, every pastor, and every leader eventually declines. Decline isn’t the issue. Allowing things to die is. If there’s no death, there’s no resurrection. And without resurrection, there’s no new life. There’s a life cycle for everything: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2). More here


Blue Lake Winter Retreat, February 3-5

Wespath Clergy Benefits Academy, February 6-8

UMW Annual Day, February 10-11

Montgomery-Opelika District Lay Servant Training, February 10-11

Great Night of Methodist Singing, February 12

Alabama Rural Ministry (ARM) Site Leader Training & Certification, February 12

Dothan District Town Hall Meeting with Bishop Graves, February 12-14

Legislative Prayer Breakfast, February 16

Baypines District Annual Lay Speaker Training, February 17-18

Saint Simons Island Storytelling Festival, February 18-20

Bishop's Day Apart, February 21

Disabilities Awareness Sunday, February 26

Pensacola District Town Hall Meeting with Bishop Graves, February 26-28

Bishop’s Confirmation Retreat, March 3-5

Whom Shall I Send?, March 4

Marianna-PC District Town Hall Meeting with Bishop Graves, March 5-7

Conference Lay Servant Training, March 10-11

Blue Lake Christian Writers Retreat, March 22-25

Demopolis District Town Hall Meeting with Bishop Graves, March 26-28

Fresh Expressions Vision Day, March 30


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