September 25, 2017/Volume 16, No. 15

Conference News

Alabama-West Florida Conference Responds to Irma

The Alabama-West Florida Conference continues to respond in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.  Thank you for your incredible response through UMCOR monetary offerings and kit collections. The Florida Conference has officially requested as many kits that we can assemble. Click here for instructions and collection sites. Amelia Fletcher, AWF Disaster Response Coordinator, released this video so that churches may always be prepared, whether it be a hurricane, tornado or other disaster. Rev. Rob Gulledge and a team from Eclectic UMC have restored the conference shower trailer that will be going to Florida this week. Rev. Rob Haynes of Morgan's Chapel UMC will be leading the relief efforts after these hurricanes. He can be reached at disasterresponse@awfumc.orgClick here to see the AWF Conference featured in a United Methodist News Service articlePhoto courtesy of Christ UMC, Mobile

A Word from Bishop Graves: Hurricane Aftermath

Over the last several days, we have watched the destruction from Hurricane Irma as it traveled through the Caribbean, Cuba, up South Florida, and into Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Here in the Alabama-West Florida Conference, we experienced little or minimal damage. You are always thankful when you seem to dodge the storm, but your heart hurts for all those who are suffering major damage and loss of their home. Some lost their life. Irma and Harvey have been overwhelming experiences for our nation and the church in the last few weeks. Today, I write to thank this annual conference for all you are doing to help others. You have collected offerings for UMCOR, prepared flood buckets and hygiene kits along with the collection of other supplies to help our neighbors to the west and now you will do it again to help those to our east. Many of our churches have opened their doors as a shelter, a shower station, or a place to receive a hot meal. I am so thankful to be in ministry with you as your Bishop. More here

A Word from the Bishop: DACA

As we enter the recovery phase of Hurricane Harvey and prepare for Hurricane Irma, along with Tropical Storm Jose forming in the Atlantic Ocean, we continue to navigate the immigration storms of our nation. Many of our Hispanic brothers and sisters in our AWF Conference Churches are living in fear. An executive order has been handed down by President Trump to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and is being turned over to Congress for a six month review, which adds to this storm of fear. I know that DACA most likely needs adjusting, but to eliminate it puts many children at risk. I am calling on all of us to be in prayer for the right decisions to be made around this matter. The United Methodist Immigration Task Force has put out a helpful document that I encourage you to use as a resource. Our prayers, our voices, and our actions are most important to living out Jesus' “Great Commandment” and our United Methodist Social Principles. Today, let’s place this situation, along with many living in the storms of hurricanes, in our prayers. See online here

Around the Conference

AWF Conference Participates in "Praying Our Way Forward" 

The Alabama-West Florida Conference participated in the "Praying Our Way Forward" initiative. The denomination-wide initiative launched on New Year’s Day 2017 with 75 weeks of focused prayer for The United Methodist Church. Each annual conference will take one week to have intentional prayer for the mission of The United Methodist Church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and for the work of the Commission on a Way Forward. The effort began in the North Carolina Conference and will conclude in the West Angola Episcopal area in June 2018. The week started with a prayer from Bishop David Graves. Throughout the week prayers were posted from the AWF district superintendents online and via social media. Local churches also participated by ringing their chimes or bells on Wednesday, September 13, 2017, from 5:23-5:30pm. The 23 signified the week date the 2019 special called session will begin. Churches shown in the photo top left and clockwise: Church Street UMC, Selma; Shalimar UMC; Auburn FUMC; Dothan FUMC; Atmore FUMC; Auburn FUMC (using the remote control to sound the chimes). 

Bishop Graves Continues Discussions with AWF Leadership Groups

Bishop David Graves is spending several days in the month of September spending intentional time with various leadership groups in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. On September 6 he spent the day with deacons at Aldersgate UMC where they discussed such topics as ways deacons and elders could partner together to strengthen the conference and the role deacons play now and in the future. Later that week he met with female clergy at Greenville FUMC. At that meeting he discussed a way to incorporate more inclusive language and ways churches welcome female clergy into leadership. Next week he will meet with young clergy and large membership church pastors. At the end of October he will meet with African-American and Hispanic pastors for an "At The Table" event

Opelika Residents Open their Home to Strangers; Kids, Families Become New Friends

(OANOW) - When Jami Ramsey saw that Hurricane Irma was headed for her home in Odessa, Fla., just north of Tampa, she made plans to evacuate. “I have two small children, and I didn’t want to take any chances of being there,” the mother of a 5-year-old and a 7-month-old said. “Even if the winds didn’t directly hit us, we still had to worry about a loss of power, especially with a baby.” So Ramsey loaded up her mother and her two small children and drove north. Her husband and father both stayed behind to wait out the storm at home. Click here to read how an Opelika FUMC family welcomed the stranger into their home

Connectional News

Agency Offers Post-Charlottesville Toolkit 

(GCORR) - In the wake of Charlottesville and other protests around the U.S., the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race is providing church leaders with resources to promote awareness and foster relationships across lines of difference. The toolkit is a curation of resources that may be beneficial for a small group or congregation on the themes of white supremacy, hate and violence. See toolkit. Click here to access through the AWF Resource page

Churches Helping One Bucket at a Time

(UMNS) - People hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma need time to “get their arms” around the most pressing needs. But United Methodists around the connection can start helping by donating to the United Methodist Committee on Relief, collecting and assembling flood buckets and earnestly praying. Alabama West-Florida Area Bishop David Graves said his conference seems to have dodged the storm but “our hearts hurt for all those who are suffering. “Teams will be called upon in the future, but right now, please pray for our neighbors to the east and to the west. Your giving to UMCOR is the greatest way you can help right now,” Graves said. Click here to read how Aldersgate UMC, Montgomery and FUMC Monroeville answered the call. Pictured above: Fifth- and sixth-graders at Monroe Academy donate supplies for a relief bucket drive sponsored by First United Methodist Church in Monroeville, Ala. 

Does Your Church Need an Online Campus?

(Lewis Center) - Multisite ministry expert Jim Tomberlin says having an internet campus involves more than just offering a video sermon online. It involves offering a full, virtual experience of church. He anticipates an explosion of internet campuses in the coming years. More here

Local Church Resources

Grant for Seminary Students Announced

(COB) - Applications for a partial scholarship to attend The Ecumenical Institute at Bossey during the Fall 2018 Graduate Session are now available. Seminary students who intend to vocationally serve The UMC are encouraged to consider this opportunity to engage in an ecumenical community for this 5-month, graduate-level course. For more information about The Ecumenical Institute at Bossey go to Click here for a copy of the COB scholarship application and guidelines

Dr. Lewis Parks' New Book Reveals Strengths of Small Churches 

(Wesley Theological Seminary) - Dr. Lewis Parks’ book titled “Small on Purpose: Life in a Significant Church,” released in May, draws on his lifelong passion for the ministry of small congregations. “I spent a lot of my teaching time doing apologetics for the small church, justifying its existence,” Parks said. “You have to ask, is the only legitimate form of the church one that is focused on growing bigger and bigger and bigger?” For Parks, the answer is clear. “From a historical, theological, and practical point of view, the answer is no,” he said. “Churches exist in forms that simply don’t grow. That doesn’t mean that they’re failed versions of church.” More here

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


Dothan District Fall Gathering, September 25

Pensacola District Lay Servant Ministries Training, September 30 

World Communion Sunday, October 1

Mid-career Retirement Seminar, October 5

Pensacola District Lay Servant Ministries Training, October 7

Baypines District Day Apart, October 7

Healing Ministries Workshop (CBOD) Crestview, October 7

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

Healing Ministries Workshop (CBOD) Montgomery, October 8

Wesley Heirs Fall Gathering, October 10-11

ERT Training, Dothan District, October 14

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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