September 18, 2018
We celebrate the two-year anniversary of Bishop David W. Graves being assigned and installed to the Alabama-West Florida Conference. Hear more from him in this interview with Mary Catherine Phillips, AWF Director of Communications, about his second year and his hopes for our conference.
Click here to see the interview. We invite you to share this on social media and with your local churches. 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.
September 17, 2018
In an effort to better align the work and focus of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, Bishop David Graves, the extended cabinet, and the Compass leadership team (ministry area directors) have released four priorities that will streamline the efforts of the conference. The priorities were carefully crafted over several months and are a result of many hours of exploring all ministry areas.
“It is almost an impossible task to narrow down the fruitful ministry that this conference produces,” said Bishop Graves. “However, for the remainder of the quadrennium, we must focus on what will change the landscape of this conference. When we focus on disciple making, attracting talent, preaching, and adaptive leadership, we are sending the message that we have a clear, concise plan to move forward.”
The priorities read as follows:
We exist to help our local churches and extension ministries by:
• Growing God’s kingdom by making disciples and developing a multiplication mindset throughout the annual conference.
• Attracting and retaining exceptional talent that helps promote a culture of call for clergy and laity.
• Teaching, training, and coaching to support excellent preaching so that people encounter Jesus and live out the Great Commission.
• Being adaptive leaders through uncharted times emphasizing connectionalism and focusing on Kingdom work.
Although this priority list was staff and conference leadership driven, this plan will also help local churches better identify their focus.
“Many churches look to the conference for guidance on priorities and resources," said Rev. Ashley Davis, AWF Director of Connectional Ministries. "This will give them a head start on their ministry. We understand each church has its own priorities depending on the health of the church, location of congregation and financial resources, but we feel that any church can adopt this focus.
"As a new member to the conference staff team, I appreciate the identification of these priorities as it will help me focus my ministry and time. I think you will see a positive change in what resources are offered, who can best help the local church related to a specific topic, and streamlined conference-sponsored events," she said.
Claire Bowen, a lay person from the North Georgia Conference who specializes in on boarding and team building, led a staff retreat earlier this summer. In that session each staff team member identified the components of their work and it became clear that although the work was positive, it lacked focus and clarity.
"It can be so difficult for a staff person to say no to one thing and yes to another," Graves said. "The AWF staff needs to feel empowered to clearly define if the work they are doing or visioning aligns with one of these four priorities. If it does not, we need to take a second look at that particular task.”
The conference priorities will be adopted immediately into the ongoing work of conference staff, the cabinet, and conference leadership.
Thank you for your prayers for those who have been affected by the winds, storms, and floods brought by Hurricane Florence in South Carolina, North Carolina, and its continued path up the east coast.
Our AWF conference disaster response leadership team has been in touch with officials from UMCOR and our counterparts in the affected conferences. At this time, they are still waiting for waters to recede before they do assessments and know what they need. Their own ERT teams are not yet being sent into the harmful or dangerous situations; they have not offered invitations for our teams to travel there, either.
If your ERT teams are interested in serving in the Carolinas, now is the time to review your response protocol, form your teams, and get any necessary vaccinations or booster shots (e.g., tetanus) to avoid future possible illnesses. We will send out more information when they have requested teams.
However, there will be many offers of help for the Carolinas from major metropolitan areas closer to the east coast. Please consider planning a long-term recovery team in the spring or summer.
The affected conferences are not yet asking for UMCOR relief kits, but will soon begin receiving those direct from the UMCOR depot in Sager Brown, Louisiana, and other UMCOR affiliated warehouses. If your church is interested in assembling relief kits (cleaning kits and hygiene kits), we will collect them and send them to Sager Brown or the warehouse in Decatur, AL. This is by request from the affected conferences.
Watch for additional details in the next few days on where these items will be collected in the Alabama-West Florida Conference.
*NOTE: We are only collecting cleaning kits, hygiene kits, scoop shovels (flat), wheelbarrows, box fans, and rakes, all in good condition. Click on the kits' names for more details on contents for each kit. Please do not collect clothing, water, food or other supplies.
The best way to respond to those who are affected, after prayer, is through financial contributions. If your church would like to collect/make an offering for Hurricane Florence, make your check payable to AWFC with "Hurricane Florence" in the memo line. Send it to AWFC - Fiscal Office, 4719 Woodmere Blvd, Montgomery, AL 36106.
We will continue to update the conference website as we learn more in the next few days and weeks. Visit this link: https://www.awfumc.org/outofconferencerecoveries
September 12, 2018
In an attempt to study and obtain data on conference-sponsored events, we invite you to take a brief survey. One of our goals at the Alabama-West Florida Conference office is to make the best use of our clergy and laity's time while offering relevant and helpful events that will better equip our leaders for ministry.
Thank you for your valuable time. Your input is most helpful to us.
Mary Catherine Phillips
Director of Communications
Alabama-West Florida Conference
Yet, we choose sides not only in sports but politics, church, schools (private vs. public) and even what side of town one lives. Our polarization around these and many other matters of our society seem to position people against one another. People often think, “If you have the same thought or attitude as mine, you are a winner.” Or, “If it is different than my way of thinking, well…you are a loser. Not only a loser, but I don’t even like you.” To go deeper, hate builds a wall around our heart.
This winner and loser mentality is crippling us as a nation and our Christian witness. Every day as a Bishop in the United Methodist Church, I make decisions that tend to be viewed by some, and perhaps many, as a win or a loss. I’ll decide on one matter, be criticized for making it, and then be called names–most of which I cannot print here! I then make another decision, am applauded by the same group who criticized me before and then criticized by the other side. It could be viewed as winning and losing. What I have come to focus on is that it is not about winning and losing, but simply doing the right thing in the sight of God.
In our United Methodist denomination, we are heading to a called General Conference in February of 2019 where we will vote on issues around human sexuality–primarily our stance on human sexuality and same sex marriage. In our church polity, only the General Conference of the United Methodist Church can speak or change anything around church law or principles for ministry. Currently, our Book of Discipline states that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching and marriage is between one man and one woman. There will be petitions presented at General Conference to strengthen our stance and there will be petitions to include same sex marriage and remove language that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. At General Conference 2019, there will be proposals, much debate and voting over these issues. When the votes are tallied, there will be winners and losers.
We witness in our political elections, whether they be national, regional, or local, where a typical election is decided by a narrow margin. Winners and losers. The results come with a great cost where divisiveness leads to polarization and distracts us from what is important in life. The important things in life are our relationships with people and most importantly our relationship with God.
Over the last two weeks, we have seen people place a priority on the mission of our children here in Montgomery over politics, teams, and schools to help in the aftermath of the Booker T. Washington Magnet High School fire. People have rallied together to prepare the temporary location at the Hayneville Road property and to pray for all those involved. The community response has been a wonderful blessing and has united us in a cause that is most important–children who are our future. The tragic loss of a building from a fire has ironically brought such a winning attitude to our community.
Jesus reminds us in His message called the Sermon on the Mount: blessed are those who know they need more than this world can ever offer and that is a need for God.
Blessed are those who are humble. We all need to think about that one.
Blessed are those who thirst for what is the right thing to do.
Blessed are the merciful.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
In a culture that seems to thrive on winning and putting down others who disagree with them, Jesus reminds me to focus on going deeper in my relationship with God, put a spirit of humbleness within me, seek to do the right thing even when we are persecuted for it, have a spirit of mercy and seek to be a peacemaker in a world that so needs a spirit of peace.
What about you?