Conference News

WinShape Camp: Aldersgate UMC prepping for ‘best week ever’

published 3/21/2018
(Kari Barlow for AWFUMC) - When the school year comes to an end, many school- aged children across Montgomery are left without a safe, fun place to spend their days. Aldersgate United Methodist Church is doing its part to change that.
This summer the congregation will host the city’s first-ever WinShape Camp on church grounds at 6610 Vaughn Road. “We’re using the tag line ‘best week ever’ because it’s going to be the best week ever!” says Rev. Richard Williams, minister of discipleship at Aldersgate UMC. “Private school, public school, homeschool—this is a camp for the entire city of Montgomery.”
The five-day WinShape Camp, slated for June 4-8, will be one of 10 WinShape camps being held across Alabama this summer. Children in grades 1-9 will spend five straight days worshipping together, learning about Jesus’ life and enjoying a wide range of activities from archery and basketball to cooking and musical theater. Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy and his wife, Jeanette, established the WinShape Foundation to support the camps, which started in 1985 in Mt. Berry, Georgia. Today there are five overnight locations in North Georgia and more than 90 day-camp locations across the nation.
“Jesus is all through the life and blood of everything WinShape does and what we do as a church,” Williams said. “All of the activities and skills such as archery and soccer to even musical theater are taught through the lens of the Gospel.”
WinShape has already begun training an out-of-town team of roughly 28 people who will be responsible for running the Montgomery camp.
Senior Pastor Brian Miller said that unique set-up will leave local volunteers free to spend their time with campers—an opportunity that has church members excited.
“In most VBS experiences, the volunteers have the weight of actually creating the crafts and making sure that everything runs well,” Miller says. “This year our volunteers are going to be the ones who actually get to connect with students. They will be the ones to welcome, walk with, celebrate and champion the kids along the way. They are there to build relationships.”
Aldersgate UMC recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the church attended by members of the Montgomery City Council along with local business and community leaders that have pledged support for the camp.
The congregation currently focused on recruiting campers, soliciting support from local businesses and raising money for scholarships that will benefit campers who need financial assistance. The cost of the five-day camp, which runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., is $214.
For more information about the WinShape Camp in Montgomery, call Aldersgate UMC at 334-272-6152.

A Video Message from Bishop Graves

published 3/20/2018

We invite you to watch a video message from Bishop David Graves, Resident Bishop of the Alabama-West Florida Conference. Click here to view. Click here to read the written transcript

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. We invite you to subscribe to these podcasts.

Bishop Ough, thousands of United Methodists to join in rally against racism

published 3/13/2018

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – As the nation marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., United Methodists will unite with members of the National Council of Churches in Washington, D.C., April 3-5, for the Truth and Racial Justice Initiative.

The events begin with a briefing on alleviating racism and injustice in the areas of criminal justice, economic justice, the media, health care, voting, civil and human rights, environmental justice, education and immigration. Led by the General Board of Church and Society, the briefing will be held April 3, from 1 to 2 p.m., at the Methodist Building at 100 Maryland Ave., NE, in Washington, D.C.

Bishop Bruce Ough, president of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church, will kick off the ACT NOW to End Racism event on April 3 with a prayer rally to Awaken, Confront and Transform, at the United Methodist Building at 2 p.m. Leaders from Baltimore-Washington Conference, Virginia Conference and others will also be in attendance.

A Rally to End Racism will be held April 4 on the National Mall. The day begins with a silent prayer walk from the MLK Memorial to the Mall at 7 a.m. An interfaith worship service is on the Mall at 8 a.m. and the rally and call to commitment will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

NCC leaders expect thousands of people from across the nation to attend the rally. Among the speakers are Bishop Vashti McKenzie, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Jennifer Harvey, Bishop Darin Moore, Rev. Freddie Haynes, Danny Glover, Esther Lopez, Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, DeRay McKesson, Bishop Michael Curry, Phil Lee, Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Rev. Jim Wallis, Lou Gossett, Jr., Rabbi David Saperstein, Christie Duncan-Tessmer, and many others. Ben & Jerry will be present and will bring ice cream.

April 5 is a National Day of Advocacy and Action. That morning, the Methodist Building will be open so that United Methodists can have conversations and network with leaders from the General Board of Church at Society and the General Commission on Religion and Race, and the Council of Bishops at the Methodist Building. The NCC will lead efforts to lobby legislators on Capitol Hill.

For more information, visit:
Act Now! Unite to End Racism - United Methodist Facebook event
Unite to End Racism Eventbrite registration page

Singing from the Heart: Auburn Wesley Foundation Forms New Student Choir

published 3/12/2018
(Kari Barlow for the AWF Conference) - Auburn University Freshmen Chip Blake and Carsen Grant are proof positive that you can’t take the youth choir outta the kid.

When Blake and Grant started college last fall, they proceeded to have a blast, happily juggling classes, friends and Auburn Wesley activities. But soon these two youth choir lifers—Blake from FUMC in Montgomery and Grant from Asbury Church in Madison— realized something was missing.

“We started talking about how we really love to sing, but as students … it can be hard to find an outlet for that passion,” says Blake, who sings tenor.

For Grant, youth choir at Asbury was her primary vehicle for reaching out to the community.

“It was just a really cool way for me to go out and serve through music,” she adds. “We would sing at nursing homes and homeless shelters and Boys and Girls Clubs, and we would also have a service project day.”

They started to envision a choir not only for students in Wesley but anyone on campus who wants to “continue singing and worshipping God like we have our whole lives,” Chip says.

One night after a fellowship dinner, they presented their idea to Wesley Director David Goolsby—literally writing the names of all interested students on a napkin they had passed around the table—and after a few months, the choir was officially approved.

Goolsby enlisted the assistance of Rev. Chris Kelsey, a member of the worship and media staff at Auburn UMC, to lead the choir, and the ensemble started practicing in January.

“These kids, they’re just bubbly and excited,” says Kelsey, a provisional deacon in the Alabama-West Florida Conference who also has a background in choral music. “It’s very obvious in the way that they sing. They really want it to be something good and special.”

The 15 to 20 participants have different backgrounds and majors, but they share an intense love of singing and are “taking initiative and ownership of their faith,” he adds.

“The gusto with which they’re singing is just delightful,” says Kelsey, who sees the choir as an effective outreach tool. “Music is always a connection for people. Whether you play the music, sing or just listen, music is almost always a place where you can meet God.”

For now, the choir is sticking to simple, three-part harmony and primarily contemporary worship songs such as the popular Hillsong anthem, “Forever Reign.” Kelsey, who provides accompaniment on the piano, wanted the group to feel successful right off the bat. The choir made its debut Sunday, Feb. 25, singing selections at two AUMC services and also at the Wesley evening worship. As the group progresses, it plans to share its singing in and around Auburn.  

And for Blake and Grant, putting choir practice back on their weekly to-do lists just feels right.

“I see (God) working every time we sing,” Blake says. “I am really excited to see what God has in store for us because I can already start to see how we have affected people’s lives.  

Bishop Announces District Cabinet and Staff Appointments

published 3/6/2018

Bishop David W. Graves is pleased to announce two projected district appointments and two projected staff appointments. Rev. John Brooks, current Montgomery-Prattville District Superintendent, will be appointed as the Director of Multicultural Ministries in the conference office. Rev. Allen Newton, current Demopolis District Superintendent, will become the new Montgomery-Prattville District Superintendent. Rev. Alan Gantzhorn, current pastor at Jackson FUMC, will be appointed as the Demopolis District Superintendent. Rev. Bill Kierce, current pastor at Trinity UMC-Opelika, will be appointed to the conference staff as the Director of Congregational Development and Vitality. 

As Director of Multicultural Ministries, Rev. Brooks will focus on recruiting minority clergy, developing relationships in the appointment process and forming relationships with churches of other denominations and community leaders. Rev. Kierce will cultivate conference work in congregational vitality, Fresh Expressions of Ministry and new church starts as the Director of Congregational Development and Vitality.

“I am excited to announce these conference leadership changes,” said Bishop David Graves. "John will do an outstanding job of developing multicultural ministries in the conference and Bill has tremendous training and experience helping teams and organizations improve on all levels. Allen Newton has done a phenomenal job in the Demopolis District and for that I am most grateful. Alan Gantzorn will easily step into this role to provide fruitful leadership and be an outstanding asset to the cabinet. I look forward to these four servants leading us in the coming years.” 

Brooks and Kierce will join the Bishop’s extended cabinet in these new leadership positions. Also joining the extended cabinet are:
-Celeste Eubanks, AWF Director of Leadership Strategies;
-Susan Hunt, AWF Director of Mission & Advocacy;
-Martha Rovira, AWF Director of Hispanic Ministries.

To see the complete extended cabinet, click here

Graves continued by saying, “The more leadership voices and diversity we have at the table, the better we can serve our local churches. By expanding our extended cabinet, we have more representation for the numerous ministry areas in this conference, therefore, more people are heard.” 

All appointment changes are effective July 1, 2018, and other local church appointments will be announced at annual conference on June 6, 2018, at the sending forth service. Click here to see yesterday's announcement about the appointment process

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