December 4, 2017/Volume 16, No. 20

Conference News

Alabama-West Florida Grieves Blackwell, COT Co-founder

The Alabama-West Florida Conference was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Laurel Blackwell, co-founder of Communities of Transformation. Laurel bravely and successfully battled cancer but developed some recent health complications and passed away last evening, November 30, 2017. Her husband, Fred, and daughter, Sarah, were at her side. Laurel and Fred Blackwell were instrumental in launching the conference ministry, Communities of Transformation, in 2011. They felt called to spend their retirement years bridging the socioeconomic, cultural and racial gaps that often divide people. As a result of their leadership and dedication, nine communities have been established throughout the conference. More here

Oh, How We Need Advent

(Bishop David Graves for The Montgomery Advertiser) - We have just come off months of dealing with white supremacy, terrorist attacks, mass shootings that are just unthinkable and political behavior from Alabama to Washington that leaves us shaking our heads. Oh, how we need Advent! We have witnessed so much hatred, racism and polarization. Oh, how we need Advent! Advent? For some, you may ask, “What is Advent?” Full commentary here

Bishop Graves Announces New Staff Members

The Alabama-West Florida Conference, under the leadership of Bishop David Graves, is pleased to announce two new staff members. Ms. Celeste Eubanks will be joining the connectional ministries staff as Director of Leadership Strategies, effective January 8, 2018. Eubanks currently works in the secular human resources field but has recently felt a call into ministry. She has been active in the Mobile district and the conference through her service on the Board of Ordained Ministry and the district board of trustees. Celeste also serves as a delegate (lay member) to annual conference through St. John UMC. Mrs. Sarah McWilliams began her ministry on October 10 as the conference receptionist and connectional ministries administrative assistant. She has extensive experience in a variety of areas with her work in a local church prior to coming to the conference office. More here

Upcoming Annual Conference Deadlines Announced

The Committee on Standing Rules has begun its work in preparation for the 2018 Annual Conference session, June 3-6, 2018, at Frazer Memorial UMC in Montgomery, AL. The committee will be reviewing the Conference Standing Rules and recommending revisions. Please be aware of upcoming deadlines specified in our Standing Rules. Full details here.  

Around the Conference

AWF Local Church Committee Training Videos in Production

Three training videos are currently in production that will help AWF local churches train new and current SPR/PPR, finance and trustee committee members. These videos will discuss what is expected of the committee and how to better understand the members' role on the committee. Bishop David Graves, Dr. Darren McClellan and Dr. Jeff Wilson will be leading the video training sessions. An e-mail will be sent mid December and again in early January with links to these resources.  

Missionaries Delbert and Sandy Groves Visiting AWF This Month

Missionaries Delbert and Sandy Groves will be traveling through the Alabama-West Florida Conference soon and are available to speak to small groups, Bible studies, UMW Circles, mission committees, and other groups in your church. Delbert and Sandy serve in Zambia, at the New Life Center in Kitwe. They are missionaries with Global Ministries.They are available December 12-14, 2017. Contact Susan Hunt at or 334-356-8014 to have them visit your church. 

Missional Giving Year-end Deadline Information

The last day apportionment payments can be applied for the 2017 year is Monday, January 8, 2018. Payments must be received in the conference office by 3pm so they can be deposited before the close of business. Payments can also be deposited directly into the conference bank account at Regions Bank no later than 4pm on January 8, 2018. If a church wishes to do so, they need to call 888-873-3127 or e-mail the fiscal office so that they can provide you with the account information.

No Greater Gift than a Place to Call Home, White Christmas Offering

(UM Children's Home) - Each year during the Christmas season, we are reminded there is no greater joy for us than giving to others. Since 1930, the White Christmas Offering has enabled Methodists to share their blessings with those whose circumstances in life just haven't been fair. These children and young adults certainly didn't sign up to be in the situation they're in and with your support, they have the hope of a much brighter tomorrow. Click here for more.  

Connectional News

Lake Junaluska Board of Trustees Seeks Next Executive Director

After leading with excellence through seven years of transition, Jack Ewing, Executive Director of Lake Junaluska Assembly Inc., is retiring December 31, 2017. Lake Junaluska is a conference and retreat center located in the mountains of western North Carolina. The Executive Director oversees the organization as Chief Executive Officer; maintains and refines the vision as Chief Strategic Officer; builds and maintains strong staff teams, advancement, and communications; and exhibits entrepreneurial and adaptive leadership through economic, ecclesial, and organizational shifts. The mission of Lake Junaluska is to be a place of Christian hospitality where lives are transformed through renewal of soul, mind, and body. The Board of Trustees of Lake Junaluska Assembly, Inc. welcomes nominations and applications for Executive Director through January 31, 2018. Applicants should describe in a cover letter how their experience and skill sets will further the mission. Please submit cover letter and resume to Rachel Watkins at Click here for full job description.

GBHEM Announces Scholarship Recipients

(GBHEM) - We celebrate that the Office of Loans and Scholarships will be awarding over 2,500 students a total of $5 million in financial assistance for 2017! Thank you for your support in recognizing United Methodist Student Day, World Communion Sunday, and Native American Sunday which help fund a portion of our scholarships. The remaining funds for these awards come from gifts, annuities and endowments GBHEM has invested and administered for decades. Click here for a list of those in the Alabama-West Florida Conference who have received scholarship money.  

United Methodist Men Take on Domestic Violence

(UMNS) - The leadership of the Commission on United Methodist Men recognizes that ending violence against women begins with men. The United Methodist general agency is partnering with AMEND Together, an initiative of the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee dedicated to ending violence against women and girls. The partnership features an eight-week group series aimed at United Methodist men. Gilbert C. Hanke, top executive of the Nashville-based agency, said the partnership aligns perfectly with United Methodist Men’s mission to support spiritual growth among men. Two years ago, Hanke was invited to a local school to learn more about the AMEND program, which includes clubs that teach boys in middle and high school to value and respect women and girls and to challenge a culture that supports violence against women. One in four women in the United States will experience domestic violence in her lifetime and more than 15 million children witness that abuse in their households every year. Those numbers resonated with Hanke. Hearing how the program would work in schools, he quickly realized that it also would be a powerful opportunity to engage men across the denomination on the issue. Full story here

UMI Offers Cyber Liability Protection

(GCFA) - The Federal Trade Commission reports that if you have a credit report, there’s a good chance that you’re one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax that lasted from mid-May through July 2017. Hackers into the Equifax database were able to access sensitive information stored by Equifax. To continue its ministry of protecting United Methodist properties, the Board of Directors of United Methodist Insurance announced that it added Cyber Liability Protection to its policies on October 1, 2017. More here

Local Church Resources

New Ways to Celebrate Advent with the Kids

(UMCOM) - Advent begins the Christian new year, and everyone — from the youngest to the oldest member — should celebrate. Making Chrismon ornaments that convey the life of Christ is a time-honored tradition. Another is the calendar with a little piece of candy behind the numbered windows counting down the days until Christmas. However, if you do the same thing year after year, these traditions can become stagnant. Consider these new ideas to celebrate Advent with children. More here

Chuck Knows Church: Advent Wreath

Advent is a time of anticipation. Chuck looks at the symbolism in using an Advent wreath to count the weeks to Christmas. Chuck Knows Church: The Original Series aims to interpret the objects, symbols, and terms we often hear in church. Each video features “Chuck” who helps us learn more about our church while inviting us to have deeper conversation with our pastor. See video here

Prepared for Emergency: Resources for Churches

After the terrible tragedy in Texas weeks ago, many of our churches are considering how they can best prepare for an emergency in their community or congregation and how United Methodists can take a stand against gun violence. This link provides some of the resources available to clergy, trustees committees, church leaders, and others on this topic. Click here for more. 


Pensacola District Clergy & Spouses Christmas Dinner, December 5

Baypines District Clergy Christmas Party, December 7

Montgomery Districts Christmas Party, December 7

Appalachian Christmas at Lake Junaluska, December 7-10

GBHEM Scholarship Applications, January 3

Fresh Expressions-Pioneer Learning Community, January 5-6

COSROW Event, January 19-20

Lay Servant Ministries Training, January 19-20

Conference Committee on Lay Servant Ministries Board Meeting, January 27

Baypines District Conference, January 28

ERT Training-Trinity UMC, Ft. Walton, January 31-February 1

UMVIM Team Leader Training-Lynn Haven UMC, February 3

Planning for Your Retirement, February 6-7


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