Bishop David Graves has announced one change to the AWF Cabinet. Dr. Jeff Wilson, current Montgomery-Opelika District Superintendent, will also serve the Montgomery-Prattville District, effective July 1, 2020.
Rev. Allen Newton, current Montgomery-Prattville District Superintendent, will receive an appointment into a local church on the aforementioned date.
“In this season of uncertainty, one thing I am grateful for is the leadership of Rev. Newton,” said Bishop David Graves. “Allen has faithfully served the Montgomery-Prattville District and will take numerous gifts and graces into the local church. His family is a blessing to our conference and I look forward to following his ministry.”
As conferences continue to find creative ways to be the best stewards of ministry funds, the Alabama-West Florida Conference will continue to assess how to faithfully focus on our priorities.
“Dr. Jeff Wilson is a highly gifted individual who will strategically serve two districts,” Graves continued. “This model will most likely be something we continue to consider as we streamline our leadership roles. We must continue to be adaptive leaders while staying focused on the mission.”
All other clergy appointments will be published online in early June.
The comprehensive online AWF Easter service is now available in two formats. This service is dedicated to the glory of God and as a gift to the clergy and laity of our annual conference. All eight districts participated in this service–a testament to the fact that we are in this pandemic together.
The HD version is available via Dropbox by clicking here. This file is over 5GB. Therefore, we recommend you use the above standard definition version if you have internet bandwith concerns.
Closed captioning is available for this service on the files.
Our sincere appreciation goes to the churches, clergy and laity who participated in this collective effort so that all may experience the power of the resurrected Christ. This piece was edited and produced by Luke Lucas. Let us continue to pray that Christ will show us new ways to reach new disciples in this challenging time. Happy Easter!
Bishop David Graves
The AWF Cabinet
The AWF Office of Communications
Community Life Church (CLC), Gulf Breeze UMC, Navarre UMC and St. Paul UMC have collectively pooled their resources to supplement what other agencies are doing. “The local school systems are doing an outstanding job of feeding families, but transportation is required to pick up those meals,” stated Rev. Jenn Lusher, CLC director of care ministry. “United Methodists in the Gulf Breeze and Navarre areas are meeting families where they are. Some children are home alone because parents are working and some families do not own cars. By delivering food we can fill in the gaps that other programs do not cover. We are also meeting the needs of families who do not have school-aged students. The power of our connection is phenomenal.”
A food request starts with Gulf Breeze UMC, who registers the student’s family and helps to access the need. CLC then receives the request and handles the delivery. Navarre UMC already had their “We Care Ministry” in place so some of the knowledge and expertise on this ministry existed. Rev. Christina Shaver at St. Paul UMC also assess the needs of her congregation and assists with publicizing this service. Gulf Breeze UMC, under the leadership of Dr. Dan Morris, is also assisting the elderly with their Methodist Meals program by continuing to deliver food to them while also taking on this additional food delivery service partnership. By churches using their existing structures, the program has been able to quickly take off.
Lusher noted that there is no guidebook for this. “The gulf coast is constantly training and preparing for hurricanes but nobody has a manual on how to safely feed thousands in a global health pandemic,” she said. To be compliant, all volunteer workers are not only practicing social distancing, they are taking temperatures each day; ensuring background and license checks are up to date; and ensuring stringent safety measures are in place to provide sanitary meals. “It is essential that we stay above board in all that we do to protect those we serve,” stated Rev. Scott Veroneau, CLC lead pastor. “We do not want to cut any corners just because we are responding to an emergency situation. To meet people where they are, we are loading up church buses full of food and therefore, we want those receiving these groceries
to know our volunteers can be trusted.”
The group has been classified as an essential service because of the amount of groceries they are providing to the underserved community. Lusher continued, “We have Piggly Wiggly, Panera Bread and other national food distributors backing trucks up to our church to help with our mission. When the shelter-in-place order was announced, we thought our services would end but instead, the local authorities realized how necessary our work was and has partnered with us to continue our ministry.” The volunteers provide food to make three meals a day for five days with no person-to-person contact.
In addition to grocery delivery, these trained and committed United Methodists have helped provide mental health phone and online counseling; home repairs; financial assistance; 24-hour phone prayer line; childcare resources, delivery and supply replenishment for elderly persons; diapers and clothing for children; foster care support and intentional mentoring and resourcing of single parents who have been laid off, to name a few.
Veroneau also referenced the AWF apportionment reduction and benefit exemption as a gift to this ministry. “The recent announcement by the conference has allowed us to immediately put more money into community ministry,” he said. “The leadership of our conference has made historic decisions that enable us to better serve those around us and I’m extremely grateful for this good news in an otherwise challenging time. This area relies heavily on the tourism industry and right now, it is all on hold. We have an opportunity to walk alongside people and help them through this crisis while doing everything possible to demonstrate and connect them to the love of Jesus.”
It is unknown how long this food delivery service will continue. “We sprang into action so fast we don’t even have a creative name for ourselves,” said Lusher. “But those are unimportant details at this time. Simply knowing we are spending our days serving others is all that matters in this pandemic. God’s faithfulness continues to sustain us and we will run on that energy and commitment as long as we are able.”
Alabama-West Florida Conference Releases Updates on In-person Worship and 2020 Annual Conference Session
The Alabama-West Florida Conference has released a revised date for all conference- and district-related gatherings in the bounds of the conference. To comply with the recommendation of President Trump, all in-person worship and church meetings are not to be held through April 30, 2020. The bishop, cabinet and leadership team will continue to assess when churches may gather again. Should you have any questions on this new date, please contact your district superintendent.
The 2020 session of Annual Conference, scheduled for June 7-9 in Montgomery, AL, at Frazer Memorial UMC, has been postponed due to the coronavirus. A new date has not been set but conference leadership is hoping to reschedule for late summer or early fall. “Although meeting capacity guidance has not yet been provided past April 30, it is evident that large groups will not be able to safely gather anytime soon,” stated Bishop David Graves. “We are in unprecedented times and are all assessing rapidly changing information by the hour. The length of annual conference will be significantly reduced in order to be good stewards of our limited funds. Many ministries and agencies who usually give reports will need to be prepared to provide a written update for our annual Book of Reports. We know this is unlike any previous annual conference and appreciate the grace we will all need to move forward in a different way. What I look forward to most is seeing our clergy and laity in person, who have lived into being adaptive leaders during this global crisis.”
Information such as a revised working agenda; previously scheduled health screenings; and details on specific celebration and remembrance services will be released when alternative plans are made.
Clergy appointments will continue to follow the previously announced timeline and are still effective July 1. Should moving restrictions or complications occur in a specific case, the district superintendent will advise the pastors and churches based on the situation.
“My prayers continue with you daily,” said Bishop Graves. “In my lifetime I have never encountered an illness that was as far reaching and life changing as COVID-19. Together, we will get through this with God’s help and care for one another.”
Up-to-date information may be found at www.awfumc.org.
In the midst of COVID-19, important information is rapidly changing and evolving. There are several urgent actions you or your church might need to take to maximize your potential financial assistance.
1) The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act information page on the AWF Website has been published. Please be aware it is being frequently updated and edited. We encourage you to check it often. The easy URL is www.awfumc.org/cares. There are some immediate things you can do to better prepare your church, which are listed on this page, as this act continues to be evaluated.
2) The Alabama Small Business Development Center Network (SBDC) is hosting three webinars this week regarding the updated process for applying for the SBDC Economic Injury Disaster Loan, the $10k forgivable advance, and the new Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Each webinar is limited to the first 1,000 participants. There is not a similar option for Florida churches but conference leadership continues to research this option. Resources specifically for Florida may be found click here. The SBDC Webinars are as follows:
3) The Alabama-West Florida Conference Fiscal Office is providing an online giving platform to local churches who do not have their own as a way for members to give to their churches during the COVID-19 period of isolation. Church members may access the giving form via this online link. Churches who wish to take advantage of this service should please complete an ACH/direct deposit form, print, sign and return to Suzanne Krejcar at email@example.com. The name, email and telephone number of the signer must be included and must be an established financial contact for the church. The fiscal office will contact the pastor as a secondary validation measure before any funds are sent. Once the ACH information is validated by the pastor, the funds will be transmitted electronically every second Tuesday to the local church along with an e-mail confirmation and donor file. This e-mail will be sent both to the financial contact and the pastor.
4) As a reminder, an important announcement was made yesterday to inform churches of the 1/12th apportionment reduction and the two-month benefit exemption. Click here for release. In order to allow churches that may be applying for the Paycheck Protection Program (that will cover payroll, health insurance and certain other costs until June 30th), we will structure the health insurance holiday (April/May) as a simple two month credit that the church can elect to take either when designated or at any point until end of year. In this way, those churches that are applying for the PPP can delay taking the credit and get a “double” benefit while other churches who may not apply, can proceed with taking the credit.
The Alabama-West Florida Conference will continue to provide necessary guidance on fiscal matters as it relates to COVID-19. If I can be of assistance to you, please reach out to me through email: firstname.lastname@example.org. My prayers are with each of you daily and together, we will make it through this uncertain time.