UMCOR Assists With 2018 Hurricane Recovery

published 4/25/2019

(Linda Bloom with UMNS) - United Methodists in North Carolina and Alabama-West Florida are undertaking large-scale recovery programs for those affected by U.S. hurricanes in 2018, with assistance from the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

The $4.6 million grant for the Alabama-West Florida Conference will help launch and fund the first two years of a phased four-year recovery program in response to Hurricane Michael. 

Greg Ellis, UMCOR project manager for the grant, called it “by far the biggest program in recent memory that this conference has done.”

Nearly $6.4 million has been allocated to the North Carolina Conference, where residents were left reeling last September from slow-moving wind and rain generated by Hurricane Florence. The storm’s impact affected nearly the entire state, including areas still recovering from Hurricane Matthew two years earlier.

Both grants were part of some $27.6 million in funds authorized April 11 by UMCOR’s board of directors for U.S. and international disaster response, sustainable development and global migration projects, and support for denominational hospitals and health boards through the Global Health unit.

While the Alabama-West Florida Conference has suffered through significant tornados and floods in the past, “they do have some new players that hadn’t managed at that level,” said Catherine G. Earl, UMCOR’s director of disaster response and U.S. partner relations. But they are leaning into those responsibilities “extraordinarily well,” she added.

“In disaster ministry, the conferences have to go from zero to 60 very quickly,” Earl explained. Along with resources, UMCOR provides guidance and flexibility from its own disaster recovery experience, so “we’re able to provide that sense of comfort to them.” 

Hurricane Michael swept across a narrow band of the Florida panhandle on Oct. 12, leaving total destruction in some areas. Six of the 12 counties that are FEMA-eligible are in the Alabama-West Florida Conference, which has received additional support from the North Alabama and Florida conferences. Alabama-West Florida also will receive a separate $180,000 UMCOR grant for church repair.

In North Carolina, Ellis said, United Methodists are working in partnership with FEMA through a relatively new STEP (Sanitary, Temporary, Essential Power) program. FEMA assists with purchase of materials and then volunteers, like United Methodists or other religious groups, pick up the materials and perform the actual construction work.

“It really stretches their budgets and it also is a great benefit to the survivor because that money doesn’t count against the household’s allowances,” Ellis explained.

Earl agreed the program is an added benefit. “The intention is to fast-track families and get them back into a livable situation,” she said.

The STEP program setup allows for “sheltering in place” by providing running water, electricity, bedrooms for sleeping “and a way to secure the envelope so no further damage happens” while the house awaits further renovations.

The North Carolina Conference’s project goal is to help at least 1,020 families impacted by Hurricane Florence or Hurricane Matthew in 2016 into full recovery. An estimated 720 will be assisted through the STEP program and 300 through UMCOR funds, Ellis said. 

The Mississippi Conference also will receive $2.4 million from UMCOR to assist with recovery from multiple disasters in 2018-19, along with $854,660 to create a management team to undergird its UMCOR recovery projects. Since 2002, Mississippi has had 25 FEMA-recognized major disasters.

Other major grants for U.S. disasters approved by UMCOR directors included $2.3 million to the South Carolina Conference for Hurricane Florence recovery; $1.1 million, Winding Rivers United Methodist Church in Juneau County, Wisconsin, long-term storm recovery; $1 million, West Virginia Conference, long-term flood recovery; 

U.S. grants also included $1 million for the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico, church repair from Hurricane Maria; $720,000, South Georgia Conference; Hurricane Michael recovery; $700,000, Mennonite Disaster Services, Hurricane Harvey recovery; $100,000, New York Conference, Puerto Rico volunteer coordination partnership and $70,000, Arkansas Conference, Marion County tornado.

A $250,000 international disaster grant will go to International Orthodox Christian Charities to provide shelter support for Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanians in Jordan. United Methodists in the North Katanga and Central Congo areas also will receive $100,000 and $93,907, respectively for disaster management.

UMCOR directors approved 11 grants to address sustainable development needs, including WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) projects in Ecuador, Guatemala and Liberia. 

The historic Cambine Mission agriculture station in Mozambique will receive nearly $200,000 to scale up production, market access and farmer field school programming. SILOE, a development organization of the United Methodist Church in Côte d’Ivoire, has two grants — one for $97,083 for a WASH project and another, for $200,693, for a cassava-growing project.

Beyond Borders, an UMCOR partner in Haiti, will receive $100,000 to increase food production and family security in three villages on Lagonav. A $90,188 grant to the South Congo Zambia Episcopal Area will establish a community agricultural program and farmer field school in the Lubumbashi region. The Tanzania Provisional Conference will receive nearly $98,000 for a village savings and loan project.

The Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action, a longtime UMCOR partner in India, also will receive two sustainable development grants — $141,594 to address the issue of farmer suicide and recovery and $300,000 to undergird its core programming.

As part of The UMCOR emphasis on global migration, Church World Service will receive nearly $140,000 to assist Syrian and other refugees in Europe who are stopped at the border of Bosnia. A $150,000 grant to the UMCOR Sudan office will help build a permanent classroom structure for children in Al Nimir Refugee Camp in East Darfur.

Twelve Global Health grants were approved for United Methodist-related hospitals and health boards. The largest grant of $1.06 million will go to the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area Health Board to enhance access to and the quality of health care in that African country, with a $625,425 grant to Mary Johnston Hospital in the Philippines to rehabilitate the operating and delivery suites.

During the meeting, Dr. Graciela Salvador-Davila was introduced as the interim director of Global Health programs, succeeding Dr. Olusimbo Ige, who had served as executive director of Global Health since 2015. 

Bloom is the assistant news editor for United Methodist News Service and is based in New York.

Potential Palm Sunday Severe Weather

published 4/12/2019

For most of our conference, there is potential for severe weather on Palm Sunday. It is impossible to know the exact timing or areas of concern, but please be aware of this possibility. 

As a clergy person or a leader in your church, your priority for your congregation's safety should outweigh the desire to insist a worship service must happen. Please stay tuned to your local news on Saturday evening and early Sunday morning. Do not depend on weather sirens. Make sure your church has a NOAA weather radio with proper battery backup and the ability to frequently monitor conditions. 

Now is an appropriate time to review your church emergency plan. There are several resources on our conference Website that could be helpful to you

We hope the threat for severe weather will diminish and ask that each church in the Alabama-West Florida Conference take a few minutes to devise a plan for Palm Sunday. We are grateful for your ministry. 

Lee County Aftermath: How You Can Help

published 4/10/2019
(Rev. Lisa Pierce) - We appreciate your love, support, and prayers over the past five weeks. It has been a whirlwind, as you can imagine. Below you will find an update on the progress being made in Lee County. 

We appreciate so very much the United Methodist connection coming together. Several churches in our area have been faithfully serving throughout Lee County including both Beauregard and Smiths Station. Auburn UMC, Cornerstone Church, Embrace Church, and FUMC Opelika have been sending a steady stream of groups and individuals. Trinity UMC of Opelika hosted Eight Days of Hope and spent a month with chainsaws and heavy debris removal equipment. Churches in Phenix City and Smiths Station, like Mt. Zion UMC, staged for volunteer groups and prepared lunches. Pierce Chapel and Wesley Chapel UMC served as a staging ground for supplies and meetings. Recently, St. James UMC (Montgomery) travelled to help with more chain saw and debris removal. There are others who have helped that we are not even tracking because the outpouring of help and support has been so overwhelming. So, thank you!

Alabama Rural Ministry (ARM) hosted a father and son team from Michigan, an individual volunteer from Indiana, and currently has a team of 16 from Tuscaloosa running chainsaw teams. Every Friday and Saturday at our office at Pepperell UMC, we set up as a gathering center for groups desiring to serve from the local community. 

ARM has established an additional team dedicated to the long-term recovery response. Our team consists of Rev. Katrina Love who is from Beauregard and serves as a case manager, Ms. Allison Porter who is a Young Life leader in Beauregard and also serves as a case manager, Mr. Joseph Farris who is our construction coordinator, and Mr. Andrew Baird who is our volunteer reception coordinator. They have hit the ground running hosting volunteers, continuing clean up efforts, and coordinating for the long-term recovery process. I am grateful for their leadership. 

ARM is part of the long-term recovery effort called MEND. Rev. Laura Eason, a United Methodist deacon, and the chaplain for East Alabama Medical Center, is the main coordinator for MEND. ARM is leading the team responsible for planning and coordinating the rebuilding, reconstruction, and repair of homes destroyed and damaged in Lee County. We are meeting with several home building groups, AU Building Science/Architecture, and other home repair groups. ARM is also being asked coordinate volunteer opportunities throughout the community.

Here are ways your church can help:
1) Schedule to bring a summer work team: Our summer is still very structured and we can host teams that arrive on Sunday and depart Friday morning for a cost of $195/person which covers all of your expenses. If this schedule does not work, we have some other options. You can see these options at or email Andrew Baird at

2) For those within the Opelika/Auburn area: There are several teams to help with long term recovery, aka MEND. This includes grief counseling, legal support, financial counseling, home repair and more. Click here for an overview of these teams and a form to fill out to be part of MEND. Please consider getting this out to your churches and see if individuals would like to join these groups.

3) ARM continues sending groups out on Fridays and Saturdays and will do that through April except Easter weekend. Groups can also serve at the Distribution Warehouse. If you would like to serve contact or sign up on this form

Thank you for the many ways you have blessed this community. We need your help, love and prayers. 

2019 Annual Conference Information

published 4/4/2019

Annual Conference 2019 is quickly approaching! This year's theme is, "This We Proclaim." We are most appreciative to Dr. Larry Bryars and his staff at Frazer Memorial UMC in Montgomery, AL, for hosting us again this year as well as Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon and his staff at Montgomery FUMC for hosting the ordination and commissioning service. This year we welcome Bishop Tracy Smith Malone from the East Ohio Conference for the opening worship and commission and ordination services. Sean Dietrich from "Sean of the South" will be the laity banquet speaker and the spouse's luncheon speaker. Jarvis Wilson and Keith Wilson will be leading our music once again. Please note several important highlights and changes to annual conference.  

Annual conference is Sunday, June 2-Wednesday, June 5, 2019. The reservation system is available by clicking here. This simplified system is needed if you or members in your group wish to reserve a meal or participate in the Biometric Health Screening. On-site registration will open on Sunday, June 2, 2019, at 3:00pm. 

Whether you are a new or a returning member to annual conference, the conference has released an Annual Conference overview video. Please take a few minutes to watch this presentation. 

We will begin each day of annual conference with worship and communion. Many people throughout the annual conference will be involved in this holy time. Our own clergy will be preaching at all worship services. To see the working agenda, click here. Note that opening worship will begin at 6:00pm on Sunday, June 2. The clergy and laity sessions will follow that service. 

This year's missional offering is Teaming with Tanzania. We will joyfully collect this offering at opening worship on Sunday, June 2. Click here to access a bulletin insert and video to use in your worship services

We will utilize electronic voting devices to elect delegates to the 2020 General Conference. An informative video has been released about this topic. Please arrive early as your device must be obtained as you enter Wesley Hall (not registration). Also note that Bishop Graves could call for a vote at any time during a business session. Your attendance is important. We will not use these devices for other votes during conference. Also note that there will be a business session on Tuesday evening, June 4. This is new for our conference. 

There are several remaining pre-conference briefings in the districts. Click here to see the schedule. These meetings will cover important information for lay and clergy members to annual conference. Your attendance is highly encouraged. 

We are excited to invite choir members from around the conference to participate in the Opening Worship Mass Choir. Choir directors who are interested in bringing members to participate should contact Wayne Sigler at Frazer Memorial UMC. Details about the evening and music selection information may be found here

Meals will again be served at Frazer Memorial UMC for Monday and Tuesday lunch as well as the Laity Banquet on Tuesday evening. The cost for lunch is $8.50. Please make a reservation by clicking here if you plan to eat meals on campus, attend the spouse's luncheon (tickets are limited) or attend the laity banquet. Traditional group breakfasts/lunches may also choose to have their gatherings on campus and will arrange their own catering. If you are in charge of a group or special lunch and need room space, please click here to register your group.

Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church is offering child care for most sessions of annual conference. The Frazer nursery will be open 30 minutes prior to the sessions. Montgomery FUMC will provide nursery care for the ordination/commissioning service and spouse's luncheon. Both facilities offer this care for nursery- and elementary-aged children, except where designated. There is no charge for child care. Child care can be reserved here

Youth pages have always been a part of our annual conference and we appreciate their presence, energy, and assistance! Students, ages 12-18 and active members in the United Methodist Church, are eligible to serve as pages at annual conference. Youth pages extend lay leadership and we appreciate their participation. Click here to apply

Please note the ordination and commissioning service will again be a combined service this year. It will be held Monday, June 3, starting at 7:00pm at Montgomery FUMC. 

In order to be good stewards of the conference budget, we will again forego printed worship bulletins for several services. Instead, a downloadable "Guide to Annual Conference" PDF will be provided several weeks before annual conference. In it will be worship bulletins, pages that were previously bag inserts and other relevant notes. You may wish to access it on your computer, tablet or phone, or print a hard copy on your own to bring with you. Printed worship bulletins will be provided to family members at the memorial service as a keepsake. The traditional ordination/commissioning service bulletin will be a printed version, as usual.

Should you or your agency wish to submit a digital "insert," it must be laid out and submitted no later than May 3. It will go in the "Guide to Annual Conference" behind the agenda and worship bulletins that will be electronically distributed to all clergy and lay delegates. All inserts must be one page, 8.5 x 11 submitted as a PDF to Please do not submit a brochure repurposed. Digital inserts should be a general overview of your ministry. No late submissions will be accepted. All submissions must be affiliated with the United Methodist Church. 

The working Book of Reports is available as a downloadable link on the conference Website. The final file will be uploaded in the coming days. Should you wish to order a hard copy, that link will also be available soon. It is essential that you review this publication before arriving at annual conference. Should you choose the PDF download option, it is recommended that you download it from the conference Website before arriving at annual conference. As we confirm more cost-effective methods to print/distribute our conference journal, we will provide an updated link with information and instructions for ordering as soon as it is available.

Alabama-West Florida boards and agencies have been given priority for the limited number of available display spots. To reserve a table or exhibit display, click here. Should there be openings, our conference registrar will contact you in order of request. Requests must be affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

We are again anticipating a great response to the request for UMCOR relief kits and supplies. This year we have identified specific supplies for each district to collect. Should you have complete kits, those are also always welcome. A truck from Coleman American will accept donations in the parking lot at Frazer Memorial UMC. We appreciate any group that is willing to continue this ministry and will gladly accept these donations at annual conference. Click here for more

As a reminder, we encourage you to prayerfully consider nominating someone for one of our conference awards: The Alice Lee Award, Jane Walker Scholarship Award, Francis Asbury Award, Harry Denman Evangelism Award, One Matters Award and the Local Church Heritage Award. Click here for more information.

Several hotels in Montgomery have offered the conference a discounted room block. Click here for more information

Again we welcome volunteers to annual conference. Click here for a volunteer registration link. If you are attending conference as a spouse or guest and would like to help, we welcome your service. 

We look forward to seeing you at annual conference in Montgomery, AL, June 2-June 5, 2019!

Mary Catherine Phillips
Director of Communications

A New Era of Leadership: Tuskegee University and AWFUMC Celebrate Inauguration of First Woman President at Tuskegee University

published 4/3/2019
(Audrey Rodgers) - On Saturday, March 16, 2019, Tuskegee University installed its first female president, Dr. Lily McNair. McNair’s inauguration was a grand celebration that honored the storied history of Tuskegee University, one of the largest producers of African American nurses, aerospace engineers, social-workers, bio-ethicists and veterinarians in the country. McNair invited the nation to partner with Tuskegee to ensure that students, regardless of their economic situation, are able to attend Tuskegee University and experience this new era of leadership. The Alabama-West Florida Conference, via the Wesley Foundation, answered the call to support efforts to provide opportunities for more students to attend Tuskegee University. A nineteen-person delegation attended including:
Rev. Audrey Rodgers, Director of the Tuskegee Wesley Foundation;
Rev. June Jernigan, Assistant to the Bishop and Director of Ministerial Services;
Rev. John Brooks, Director of Multicultural Ministries;
Rev. Ashley Davis, Director of Connectional Ministries;
Deaconess Celeste Eubanks, Director of Leadership Strategies;
Dr. Jeff Wilson, Montgomery-Opelika District Superintendent;
Rev. Robin Wilson, Senior Pastor of Opelika FUMC;
Rev. John Russell, Pastor of St. John United Methodist Church;
Rev. Richard Williams, Associate Pastor of Aldersgate UMC.
Proceeds from the gala generated more than $600,000 in scholarships for promising students at Tuskegee University. Specifically, the Alabama-West Florida Conference's participation in this historic event provided two Tuskegee Wesley students with funds that have allowed them to finish the spring semester without debt. The scholarship also helped the Tuskegee Wesley Foundation strengthen the relationship between the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church and Tuskegee University by continuing the UMC tradition of investing in the educational and spiritual development of students.
Notably, the Methodist church paid for the education of famed Tuskegee scientist, George Washington Carver, whose experiments and discoveries with the peanut and soybean helped to propel the southern economy for years to come. Carver became a lifelong Methodist because of the investment and the support of the Methodist Church during his collegiate years. The students of the Tuskegee Wesley foundation have the same potential as George Washington Carver, and I am certain that the seeds the AWFUMC has sowed in their spiritual and educational development will yield the next lay and clergy leaders of the United Methodist Church. Partner with us as we continue to develop the next lay and clergy leaders by donating to the Tuskegee Wesley Foundation at It takes a village to create and fund the education of the next George Washington Carver.

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