Conference News

Alabama-West Florida Conference Transitions to New Conference Structure

published 8/31/2020

As previously announced on May 5, 2020, the Alabama-West Florida Conference has made significant budget cuts that have led to the restructuring of staff. All staff transitions are complete as of today, September 1, 2020. To further assist our local churches in understanding the staff resources available, the following changes have occurred.
 
Episcopal Office and Office of Ministerial Services
-Erika Glawson will serve as the Executive Administrative Assistant to the Episcopal Office. She will resource Bishop David Graves and Rev. June Jernigan, as well as the AWF Board of Ordained Ministry.
 
Office of Communications
-Conference audio visual and design needs will be outsourced out as needed.
 
Office of Congregational Development
-Rev. Bill Kierce, AWF Director of Congregational Development, will serve as the staff liaison to the AWF Town & Country Commission.
 
Office of Connectional Ministries
-Rev. Ashley Davis, AWF Director of Connectional Ministries, will oversee the work of mission and outreach.
-Celeste Eubanks, AWF Director of Leadership Strategies, will manage multicultural ministries and will serve as the staff liaison to the AWF Committee on the Status and Role of Women and the AWF Board of Church and Society.
-Should you need to visit the conference office in person, please make an appointment with the relevant staff member prior to your visit.
 
District Changes
-The two regional offices have been established and are fully operational. The southern region includes the Baypines, Marianna-Panama City, Mobile and Pensacola districts and is resourced by Kim Doss, district administrator. The southern region office is located in the former Mobile district office. The northern region will include Demopolis, Dothan, Montgomery-Opelika and Montgomery-Prattville districts and is resourced by Charlene Moncrief, district administrator. The northern region office is located in the former Montgomery districts office.
-The current Montgomery-Opelika district superintendent will also serve the Montgomery-Prattville district, while other district superintendents will share supervision roles
- The eight district Websites are merging into a presence on www.awfumc.org.
 
“While reducing staff is always difficult work, I am grateful for the professionalism exemplified by our current staff and those who are exploring new opportunities,” stated Bishop David Graves. “Many of our former employees have found life-giving opportunities or have decided not to pursue job opportunities at this time. Each ministry area has embraced creative ways to continue to resource our conference. Since announcing these changes in May, I have been overwhelmed at the leadership shown by this conference. I want to thank Celeste Eubanks for her role in transitioning our district offices to regional offices and handling that tedious work with compassion and attention to detail. We covet your prayers and ask for grace and patience as we move forward with less resources. You will find that our current team demonstrates the best of our United Methodist denomination and I am proud to walk alongside them.”
 
A complete conference staff listing may be found here. District information may be found here


Hurricane Laura Response

published 8/27/2020

In the wake of Hurricane Laura, we continue to pray for those affected by the storm. Bishop David Graves is requesting that churches begin collecting special offerings so that we are prepared to purchase critical items or donate money directly to the annual conferences where there is a need. Our recent experience with Hurricane Michael showed that many supplies went to waste. We have been in contact with the Louisiana Annual Conference and others affected by the storm. Their Conference Disaster Response Coordinators will communicate to us what supplies are needed and how we can best assist them. Please do not send goods and supplies until we have clear needs, and do not deploy until the call is made. So many well-meaning efforts often go to waste. We want to be faithful and good stewards of our funds, time, and energy.  
 
UMCOR has already staged thousands of flood buckets in the area. In the months and weeks to come, there may be a need to help replenish the supply at Sager Brown. We will communicate with you if there is a time to produce those buckets.
 
We will begin identifying churches that have been impacted by the storm and will be looking for partner churches within our annual conference to spiritually and financially support them. Please consider being a partner church. If you are interested in partnering, please reach out to disasterresponse@awfumc.org.
 
Offering checks may be mailed to the conference office at the below address. Please write "Hurricane Laura Relief" in the memo line. We are grateful for our United Methodist connection during devastating times such as these. Our prayers are with Louisiana and Texas as they begin the recovery and relief process. 
Alabama-West Florida Conference
Attention: Fiscal Office
4719 Woodmere Boulevard
Montgomery, AL 36106


A Video Interview with Bishop David Graves: Reflection on Four Years

published 8/24/2020

As Bishop David Graves completes his first four years of Episcopal ministry in the Alabama-West Florida Conference, he reflects on several important topics in this interview. Hear his thoughts on: 
-ministry in the pandemic;
-general conference;
-the conference response to dismantling racism;
-how he stays encouraged during uncertain times;
-and the one thing he would change in the past four years; to name a few. 

Click here to viewYou 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. We invite you to subscribe to these podcasts.

We welcome shares with your congregation and on social media. 


Conference Releases Hurricane Season Reminders

published 8/21/2020
To our friends, neighbors, and churches in the Alabama-West Florida Conference:
 
As I am sure most of you are aware, we currently have two storm systems that have the potential to be hurricanes entering into the Gulf of Mexico. As of right now, both systems seem to be tracking towards the west with one possibly landing in the western portion of our conference. It is important to remember that these are just predictions and we must stay alert and continue to monitor the trajectory. 
 

Here are some of the things that we need to be doing now to prepare for any such eventuality:
  1.  Back up your church and home systems (computers, databases, etc.) onto devices that can be taken with you should you need to evacuate, or to a location that will not be affected by the storms.
  2. Protect your electronic devices, sensitive equipment, musical instruments, organs, pianos, etc. Covering them with a tarp or plastic sheeting will protect them from leaks that might occur. Any equipment that can be elevated at least four inches off the floor will help prevent damage if waters do get into the building. Many computer towers sit on the floor under desks….put them up on the desk if you can.
  3. Protect your records and historical documents (technical drawings, pictures, paper files). Placing them in sealable, waterproof plastic bags within a safe or file cabinet would help if you cannot relocate them to a safe place.
  4. Secure your building, bringing inside loose items that could be blown around. This is especially important for church playgrounds.
  5. Verify that there is a contact list for all facility personnel, neighbors, family, etc. Do not rely on cell phones; land lines may be disrupted as well.
  6. Check on your fragile/elderly folks: are they evacuating? Where will they be going? If they are not leaving, who will check on them following the storm?
  7. Be aware of where shelters are in your community. 
In the event of a disaster in your area:
1. Make sure you and your family are ok. 
2. Check on your church and congregants and report to your District Superintendent or your District Disaster Recovery Coordinator (DDRC). 
- If the disaster is larger than what you can handle on your own, then reach out to your district for help. 
- If the disaster is larger than your district can handle, then your DS will reach out to the Conference.
 
We would also like to share with you the following video that explains more about what steps your church and district leadership should take in the event of a disaster in your area. Please click on your district’s link.
 
Baypines District: https://vimeo.com/341846801
Demopolis District: https://vimeo.com/341852737
Dothan District: https://vimeo.com/341864328
Marianna Panama City District: https://vimeo.com/341872073
Mobile District: https://vimeo.com/341865253
Montgomery Opelika District: https://vimeo.com/341873949
Montgomery Prattville District: https://vimeo.com/341876510
Pensacola District: https://vimeo.com/341868258
 
Blessings,
Rev. Chris Ackerman
Director of Hurricane Michael Recovery
AWFUMC/UMCOR
Conference Disaster Recovery Coordinator

Churches hold blood drives in ministry to their local community

published 8/5/2020

(Susan Hunt) On a recent Monday afternoon, Ken and Brenda Smith of Montgomery First UMC each held out an arm to give a little of themselves. They, along with about 40 other people, were at the church to donate blood at a LifeSouth mobile blood drive bus.

During this time of a pandemic, Montgomery FUMC and several churches have chosen to hold blood drives as a way to be in ministry to their communities. This is an option any church can undertake. It is safe and makes a difference, especially in these days when the blood supply is critically low.

Brenda said, “I felt that during this pandemic would be a good time to give. I imagine that many people are not giving blood and I felt it was something I could do to help in some small way.” Several donors echoed Brenda’s response. Kate Wheaton, coordinator of the Montgomery FUMC drive, said, “People were so thrilled to be able to feel involved and that they could make a real difference.”

Auburn UMC has also regularly held blood drives. Joe Davis, Mission and Outreach Coordinator at AUMC, noted, “During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all experienced how important the ‘little things’ are in our lives - the phone calls, letters, and just seeing the faces of those we love. Giving blood to support our local hospitals is another one of those ‘little things’ that we take for granted that can become a vital source of hope during the pandemic. Hosting a blood drive is a great way for churches to care for their communities and get behind their healthcare workers who have sacrificed so much for us.”

Rev. Lucas Tribble, associate minister at Montgomery First UMC, said, “There’s always a need for blood, but especially right now in the circumstances in the pandemic. Also, now we don’t have as many opportunities to serve so this is a way to make a difference when our normal day-to-day ministries are affected.”

LifeSouth takes all safety precautions for participants. Ken shared, “I felt they did a pretty good job of protecting donors. The act of giving blood necessitates close contact, but the staff made sure to wear masks and provide other safety measures that made me feel secure.” Sharon Litchfield, another donor at Montgomery FUMC’s drive, said, “They were careful, and I was perfectly comfortable.”

LifeSouth is a community blood center. All blood donated through LifeSouth stays in the community where it is donated, and they provide a free test for COVID antibodies on all donated blood. Contact Melinda Hinds, mahinds@lifesouth.org (334-260-0803) to schedule a drive at your church.


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