Conference News

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 www.arm-al.org/summermissions or email Andrew Baird at Andrew@arm-al.org.

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 Andrew@arm-al.org or sign up on this form www.arm-al.org/tornadoregistration.

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 marycatherine@awfumc.org. 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 https://www.tuwesley.org/donate. It takes a village to create and fund the education of the next George Washington Carver.

Pierce Named Director of Lee County United Methodist Disaster Response

published 3/21/2019

Rev. Lisa Pierce, current Director of Alabama Rural Ministry (ARM), has been named as the Lee County United Methodist Disaster Response Director. Pierce is an ordained deacon in the conference and has served as the ARM director since 2013. “This was an obvious selection,” stated Dr. Jeff Wilson, Montgomery-Opelika District Superintendent. “Lisa is a gifted individual who not only knows how to compassionately respond to people in need but also a leader who is a seasoned veteran in working with under-resourced communities and building strategic community partnerships.” She will continue to serve as the Director of ARM while also offering her gifts to the Lee County tornado survivors.

The Lee County response is classified as long term, meaning the UMC will be in the area as long as there is a need. She will work with Rev. Ashley Davis in the Office of Connectional Ministries and will utilize resources from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Churches who are interested in sending teams or partnering with this relief effort can contact Lisa at lisa@arm-al.org.


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