August 3, 2021
Welcome back to the bi-monthy Alabama-West Florida Conference newsletter. Please take time to read this information as it will provide the latest updates on conference news, resources and events.
A Word from Bishop Graves: COVID Transmission Rates
In recent days the COVID transmission rates have drastically increased in some areas of the Alabama-West Florida Conference. We all prayed we would not be back in this scenario yet we are again faced with challenging days ahead of us. I have received inquiries from some of you asking for recommendations for your local church. I appreciate the concern we all have for the health and well-being of our congregations and communities. The necessary decisions and next best steps will be adopted at the local church level. Each of your communities are very different, therefore decisions about in-person worship and activities should be made in consultation with your church COVID task force, local authorities, and health experts. If you have not consulted with these leaders, now is the time to have those discussions. More here.
A Word from Bishop Graves: 2021 Charge Conference Season
As we move into the second half of 2021, all of us continue to shift, pivot, and adapt our leadership to win people to Jesus and make disciples for the transformation of our corner of the world. A few constants remain like the Atlanta Braves bullpen continuing to disappoint, afternoon rain showers, and charge conference season. Like all of last year, the 2021 charge conference season was very different. We learned a lot. We learned new ways of meeting and more efficient ways of conducting church business while honoring the outstanding work of the local church. As I shared in my clergy meetings on May 24 and June 5, as well as in my Episcopal Address at Annual Conference, the cabinet and I desire to focus all of our energy on celebrating ministry and discipleship. Let me update you on a few critical items. Charge conference forms will be 100% online. More here.
Annual Conference Giving Update
Thanks to your generosity for the 2021 Annual Conference missional giving efforts. To date, our totals are as follows:
Blue Lake Camp - $49,673.68
Communities of Transformation - $2,761.59
AWF Disaster Response Ministry - $3,268.31
Teaming with Tanzania - $3,887.32
Total giving: $66,746.53
Thank you for your generosity!
Around the Conference
Volunteerism is a priority at Florida church
(UMNS) - More than 90% of attendees at the South Crestview campus of Crosspoint, a United Methodist church, do volunteer work. The Rev. Lisa Ausley, associate pastor, tries to find the right volunteer job for each church member, "because of what it does for the individual." Jim Patterson reports.
Fraud Alert: Spoofing emails being sent from fake address
The conference office has been notified of a spoofing email as well as a text making the rounds to various Alabama-West Florida United Methodists appearing as a message from Bishop Graves and other conference staff. This most recent email is from a fake, spoofed email account that has NO ties to Bishop Graves. Please know that conference leaders or clergy will never ask for a donation, gift cards, or any kind of transfer of money via email. Remember now and in the future that the conference sends emails from official conference email addresses only. (Note conference staff's actual email address ends in "awfumc.org" not "gmail.org."). More here.
Upcoming Bishop's Time Apart with Olu Brown Announced
Join us for another Bishop’s Clergy Time Apart on Thursday, August 19, 2021 from 10am-Noon with well-known author and pastor, Rev. Olu Brown. Author of “4D Impact: Smash Barriers Like a Smart Church” and pastor of Impact Church (Atlanta, GA), Olu will join us for a time of discussion around four mission-critical aspects of twenty-first-century ministry and church vitality: technology, hospitality, worship, and culture/systems. A graduate of Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas, Olu earned a Master of Divinity degree from Gammon Theological Seminary of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA. Click here to register.
2 jurisdictions plan for church future
(UMNS) - Two United Methodist jurisdictions held special online sessions in recent days with an eye toward the denomination’s future. On July 21, the Southeastern Jurisdiction — by a vote of 335 to 3 — approved the long-sought union of the Tennessee and Memphis conferences. With the vote, the new Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference can start operations on Jan. 1. On July 17, the Western Jurisdiction discussed the possibility that it might need to reduce its number of bishops and reimagine its ministry. Delegates reviewed reports that dealt with the jurisdiction’s mission statement, the need for greater collaboration across boundaries and the role of bishops. More here.
Council of Bishops hires Dr. David Field as new Ecumenical Staff Officer
(COB) - The Council of Bishops (COB) of The United Methodist Church (UMC) has hired Dr. David N. Field as the new Ecumenical Staff Officer for Faith & Order and Theological Dialogue. Dr. Field, a member of the UMC Central and Southern Europe Central Conference, replaces the Rev. Kyle Tau, PhD, who left in July to pursue new ventures in his ministry. Dr. Field will work with the Rev. Dr. Jean Hawxhurst who is the other Ecumenical Staff Officer for the COB. More here.
AWF Sunday School Resources Provide Weekly Curriculum
Each week, Dr. Hunter Pugh provides commentary on Biblical passages that can be used in Sunday School classes, small groups or Bible studies. This is a helpful option as churches reimagine how they best gather and fellowship with one another. Click here for weekly lessons.
How to facilitate hybrid worship
(Rev. Jeremy Steele for UMCOM) - As the pandemic has continued to ebb and restrictions lessen, churches have been returning to in-person worship services. But at the same time, church leaders throughout the country are also encountering a new reality: hybrid worship. While many people are ready to come back to an in-person experience, many others are choosing to continue worshipping online. This development, like the move to exclusively online worship, brings with it unique challenges that church leaders need to resolve in order to best serve the needs of the congregation. More here.
Game Changing Leadership Event to Help with Post-covid Stewardship
This fall, there will be an unprecedented opportunity for churches to highlight, emphasize, and focus in on the God-inspired vision He’s laid on the hearts of their congregations. Join us on Thursday, August 12th at 11:00 am CST as Chris Stovall (Generis) explains the significance of this fall’s Annual Stewardship Campaign, and the impactful ways it can and should look different coming out of the pandemic. More here.
AWF UM Foundation "Game Changing Leadership," August 12
Bishop's Clergy Time Apart with Olu Brown, August 19
2021 Academy of Church Business Administration, September 20-30
Blue Lake Camp Reunion, September 21-23