October 3, 2017/Volume 16, No. 16

Conference News

Alabama-West Florida Conference Prays for Las Vegas

The Alabama-West Florida Conference and Bishop David Graves continue to join in prayer in the wake of the horrific shooting in Las Vegas. We remember the lives lost in the senseless act of violence and continue to pray for the families and friends of those who died, the injured, law enforcement, medical professionals and the city of Las Vegas. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers. 

Alabama-West Florida Conference Displays Radical Hospitality and Generosity

The Alabama-West Florida Conference continues to respond in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria. We have collected over $365,000 in just weeks that will go to the United Methodist Committee on Relief to help those who need it most. Our local churches have also assembled thousands of UMCOR relief kits. Thank you to those who collected supplies, loaded trucks, assembled kits, provided relief stations to evacuees returning home and donated money. The Texas Conference has requested immediate help from adult work help teams and the Florida Conference has also requested teams. Rev. Rob Haynes of Morgan's Chapel UMC will be leading the relief efforts after these hurricanes. He can be reached at Photo courtesy of Marianna UMC

Friday Night Lights: UMC Pastors, Congregations Show the Love During Football Season

(Kari Barlow for the Alabama-West Florida Conference) - On Friday afternoons during high school football season, the folks at First United Methodist Church of Marianna don’t have a lot of time to stand around and chat. They’re too busy cooking up baked chicken, barbecue pork or some other hearty fare for the Marianna High School Bulldogs. And while feeding dozens of hungry varsity and junior varsity football players before each game is hard work, the church wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s a big ministry here,” said Dr. Nathan Attwood, senior pastor at the church. “On game nights, we have church members who have decorated the tables with purple and gold. … Sometimes we have motivational speakers, and we always pray for the team.” More here

A Word from the Bishop: Good News

(The Montgomery Advertiser) - These past three weeks have been filled with hurricanes, shootings, ongoing tensions in our political climate, contentious court decisions resulting in protests and violence, another terrorist attack and to much lesser degrees, heartbreaking college football losses. Then you dig deeper personally into your own life and it may have been filled with more difficult circumstances. Don’t we all need some good news? Several years ago, Brian Williams was the NBC evening news anchor. During the great recession of the late 2000s, people were losing their jobs, their homes and businesses were closing. The nightly evening news had become so depressing, people were asking, “Can’t you report something good for a change?” Brian Williams came up with the idea to end the nightly broadcast with a segment called, “Making a Difference." It was a news piece featuring people who were making a difference in their own lives and in the lives of their communities. It made a profound impact on the sending forth news segment, which focused on Good News. Full commentary here

Around the Conference

Church Congregations Work Towards Bridging Racial Divides Through New Initiative 

(WSFA) - Bridging racial divides was the focus of an event held Monday night at St. James United Methodist Church in Montgomery. Building Bridges Together was hosted by a group of clergyman hoping to facilitate a conversation about how to achieve unity here in the city and our country. "Cast down your bucket where you are," were words spoken by Booker T. Washington on Sept. 18, 1895, during and exposition address, and was the theme behind a new initiative. "It means wherever you are and whatever we are doing we can make things better," said Dr. Clifford Jones, Pastor of Greater Peace Missionary Baptist Church. Building Bridges Together brought together the congregations of St. James UMC and Greater Peace Missionary Baptist Church as a symbolic gesture of unity. Full story here. Photo courtesy of WSFA

Guest Commentary: You Can’t Go Wrong When You Love Others

(Dr. Jeff Wilson) - A few weeks ago, I was making my regular drive up I-85 and, as is my normal routine, catching up on the news via NPR. I found myself listening to an interview with radio host Kelly McEvers and another radio reporter named Al Letson. Letson had covered a right-wing rally in Berkeley, California, where only a few right-wing protesters showed up. Instead, thousands of peaceful counter-demonstrators, and 150 left-wing antifa protesters, gathered as a voice against the anticipated alt-right rally. Letson, an African-American, watched as a right-wing protester fell to the ground and was surrounded by left-wing marchers. The counter protesters were kicking the man who had fallen to the ground, and someone was beating him with a flagpole. Letson told the radio host what happened next: “And when I glanced to my left, I saw… a mass of people just coming off the lawn towards this guy….  I thought they were going to kill him. And I just didn't want anybody to die. And I just put my body down on top of his in the hopes that they would not hit me.” Full commentary here.  

Social Principles Seminar Educates UM Members

Almost 200 people gathered in person and 400 online on Monday, September 18 at Frazer Memorial UMC to discuss the United Methodist Social Principles. Popular topics that are often controversial were covered such as racism, immigration, human sexuality, abortion and the environment. Rev. Brandon Dasinger, Mission and Teaching Pastor at Frazer UMC, facilitated the event. Dasinger stated, "In today's world, many our our social principles are often either not known or misunderstood by many United Methodists. This forum allowed us to have open and respectful discussions about these hot topics and educated people at the same time. As Christ followers we are called to engage with one another and learn to be respectful of those with differing opinions." The seminar was recorded and is available by clicking here. Photo courtesy of Laurel Akin

Communities of Transformation Joining Community Volunteers with Adults Wanting to Make the Journey Out of Poverty

(Journey Magazine) - This collaborative approach pairs community volunteers with adults seeking to reverse their own poverty. A support system is created by matching participants with volunteers who will provide support and guidance. “Families in poverty need much more than money or tangible resources,” says Laurel, “What they need most are healthy, nurturing relationships. Isolation is perhaps the greatest problem for those who live “without enough.” They live without enough hope, enough encouragement and love, enough positive role models. They do not live a healthy lifestyle, nor do they work to develop their skills and abilities.” Click here for full feature

Connectional News

UMCOR is There for the Long Haul After Disasters

(UMNS) - While Irma, Harvey and Maria dominate news headlines, the United Methodist Committee on Relief hasn’t forgotten about Matthew. That storm left a path of destruction from the Caribbean to the southeast United States nearly a year ago. Haiti was the hardest hit with more than 500 people killed, while catastrophic flooding left more than 47 dead in the U.S., more than half of those in North Carolina. “We’ll be at it for five more years,” said the North Carolina Conference’s Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of recovery efforts in the state. “We have moved into the long-term recovery phase and are rebuilding homes.” Full story here

Commission Starts to Sketch Options for the Way Forward

(COTWF) - The Commission on a Way Forward has started sketching models to share with the Council of Bishops as options for finding a way forward for The United Methodist Church (UMC) regarding human sexuality. During the meeting in Berlin, Germany (Sept. 18-20), members of the Commission expressed the need for the unity of the UMC, yet recognizing the different theological understandings and expressions on human sexuality. From spirit-led devotions through heartfelt discussions to one-on-one dialogues, the members of the Commission delved deeper into the LGBTQ identity, guided by the values of multiplying our Wesleyan witness, fruitfulness, a heart at peace, de-centralization and simplicity. Full release here. Photo courtesy of the Commission on a Way Forward. 

Missional Engagement: It’s All About Relationships 

(Lewis Center) - The term missional engagement stands in deliberate contrast to our traditional understanding of outreach. Let me offer some distinctions. Outreach has traditionally taken two forms. It can be missional efforts. These are traditional helping ministries such as food and clothing drives, neighborhood clean-ups, and food pantries. There are some outreach efforts that are more evangelistic efforts. These include activities like attending a street festival and handing out invitations to church, or going to a park to pass out water bottles with the church’s information on it. More here

Local Church Resources

Seven Things Congregations Have Taught Me About Preaching

(Yale University, Reflections) - Congregations have long intrigued me. Whether serving as a pastor (as I have done in congregations that range in size from 38 members to 3,800), or as a scholar/teacher (in diverse seminary settings), I have spent a lot of my life thinking and talking about the nature and mystery of congregations. In my book Preaching as Local Theology and Folk Art, I argued that we should prepare pastors not only to exegete Biblical texts, but also to “exegete” congregations, so that ministers can preach in ways that are both fitting and transformative for local faith communities. I regularly teach courses in which students are required to undertake an interpretive study of the signs and symbols of a congregation’s corporate life (much as an anthropologist would interpret a new culture), and to share their results with the class. Read more

Grant Application Deadline Extended to Oct. 4 

(GCORR) - The deadline for applications for the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race Action Fund grant program, designed for empowerment of diversity, inclusion and racial justice work inside and outside the church, has been extended to Oct. 4. The 2018-2020 grant period will begin in May with $750,000 in available funding for programs in the United States. For more information.

Charge Conference Forms Available Online

2017 Charge Conference Forms are now available online. You may access them through this link or go to our home page and click on the link under Quick Links. Should you have questions, please contact your district office or Lauren in the Episcopal office. Click here to access forms


Sweet Homes for Alabama-No More Shacks (ARM), October 4-10

Pensacola District Lay Servant Ministries Training, October 7

Baypines District Day Apart, October 7

COT Mobile Books, Balls, and Blocks Event, October 7

Wesley Heirs Fall Gathering, October 10-11

ERT Training, Dothan District, October 14

ERT Training, Jubilee Shores UMC, October 15

SEJ Black Methodists for Church Renewal, October 19-21

UMW Spiritual Enrichment Retreat, October 20-22

Prayer Shawl Retreat, October 23-26

At The Table: An Intentional Multi-Ethnic Gathering, October 28

ERT Training, Lynn Haven UMC, October 28

Pensacola District Conference, November 5

Pensacola District Youth Fused Conference, November 5

2017-2020 Spiritual Direction Training, November 13-16


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