(Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon) - The Cabinet of the Alabama-West Florida Conference met in a regularly scheduled session at the Conference Office in Montgomery on September 10-12. In reviewing ministry across the annual conference, we celebrate the ways congregations continue to "make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." The superintendents shared "Glory Sightings" from their respective districts of churches that are faithfully sharing the gospel in their communities and bearing witness to Christ's love for all persons. We also reviewed pastoral care concerns among our clergy families throughout the conference and spent time in prayer for these brothers and sisters facing difficulty in recent days.
We spent considerable time reflecting on changes to the office of superintendent as decreed by the 2012 General Conference, particularly shifting the role of the DS to that of "chief missional strategist" for their districts. This emphasis will necessitate superintendents spending more of their time on aspects of teaching, preaching, coaching, building teams, and casting vision for their particular areas. In an effort to create alignment, the superintendents are committed to doing this work under the SEND model of the Annual Conference, as we Seek, Engage, Nurture, and Deploy persons for the work of ministry throughout central and south Alabama, and northwest Florida.
We reviewed ministry opportunities from the General and Jurisdictional levels of the church, including Imagine No Malaria and a possible partnership with the Red Bird Missionary Conference in Kentucky. The effort to save lives on the continent of Africa through the distribution of mesh nets and the chance to improve the quality of life for persons in poverty-stricken areas of Appalachia will be explored in the upcoming months and hopefully presented to the congregations throughout our conference.
In the bounds of the conference, we reviewed the Comprehensive Plan for Inclusiveness and spent time reviewing this plan which includes seminary visits to recruit leaders to serve in the Alabama-West Florida Conference, identifying predominately white congregations that would be possible places for persons of racial / ethnic diversity to appointed, reviewing the congregations in our conference that are in transitional communities, and developing a list of prospective "restarts" under racial / ethic pastoral leadership.
Additionally, we celebrate the faithful participation in the connectional giving, noting that the percentage of apportionments received has increased year over year again. Thank you for your commitment to this shared ministry, underscoring a fundamental belief in our tradition that we can do more together than we can on our own. We see the fruit of this effort in our new church starts, in programs like CIRCLES, our Wesley Foundations, our church-related colleges, Blue Lake Camp, and many other ministries throughout our conference and beyond.
Throughout the Charge Conference season and into the first part of 2014, the superintendents will be sharing and calling on leaders to share two resources that will enable all of our churches to live into the SEND model. The first is "The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations" by Bishop Robert Schnase, the resident bishop in the Missouri Conference. Some of our churches and districts have utilized this outstanding study to highlight the importance of Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission and Service, and Extravagant Generosity. The second is a new resource developed by Bishop Scott Jones of the Great Plains Area (Nebraska and Kansas) entitled "The Wesleyan Way." Our hope is that congregations will find ways to incorporate these outstanding resources into the life of their church, enabling them to continue to be fruitful, effective, and vital congregations in their communities. These resources are available from Cokesbury.
While there is certainly a tremendous amount of energy devoted this time of year to the setting of the budget, stewardship, and preparation for charge conference, these activities are essential to the work of ordering the life of the church for effective ministry. We are grateful for the leadership of clergy and laity who give of their time, resources, and talents in service to the church. We continue to be hopeful because of the faith that is ours in Christ Jesus and because of the ways lives are being positively impacted through the people called Methodists in Alabama and northwest Florida. Thank you for all that you do for the cause of Christ! These are exciting time to be a United Methodist!
(Alabama Rural Ministry) - Local church pastors and ministry leaders are uniting together in our 6th Annual "No more Shacks Campaign" with Alabama Rural Ministry (ARM). Lisa Pierce, director of ARM, will live in a makeshift shack for up to eight days. Other ministry leaders will commit to 24 hours in two other "shacks" next to Lisa's. The goal is to raise awareness about poverty housing in our local area and Alabama, provide efforts for people to volunteer to help repair homes, and to raise $50,000 which helps ARM repair these homes. The need is great as there are over 100 families who have called in requesting help in our local area. With a housing shortage of 90,000 units in Alabama and a declining housing stock with our elderly, the need is always great and before us.
The “shacks” will be located in front of the AU Wesley Foundation along Gay Street (across from Tiger Rags) beginning Friday, October 11th. Lisa and others will have information about poverty in Alabama and specifically Lee and Macon Counties. This is a children’s event as well. Kids who give a $5 donation or more will receive a paint brush and be able to “paint” part of the shack as a way to connect them with home repair and brighten the shack. They also get a free paint brush. Other information will be available about tangible ways to volunteer and help families in our community. Rain or shine, we will be there!
Who else is staying in the shack? Rev. David Warren and Rev. Earl Ballard from Trinity UMC, Rev. Rusty Hutson and Brian Johnson from Cornerstone UMC, and Rev. George Mathison and Rev. Charles Cummings from Auburn UMC and more. We hope our community will come see them and make a donation or pledge towards our $50,000 goal!
ARM is a 501(c)3 faith based organization that serves families through home repair and children’s ministry. Each year we are able to repair 30-40 homes for families in our community. Most of the work includes roof repair, floor repair, and building handicap accessible features. The families served tend to be elderly, have a disability, or are single-parent units. Volunteers complete 95% of all the repairs. All donations are tax deductible.
ARM will also be sponsoring lunch seminars with other organizations who will lead short sessions about poverty or other aspects of families in our community. These will be held on campus beginning Monday Oct. 15th and running through Thursday October 18.
(Bishop Paul L. Leeland) - During an engaging conversation with one of our United Methodist Missionaries several weeks ago, my wife, Janet, and I found a growing interest in the movement and work of missionaries from a global perspective. We were intrigued with those who dedicated themselves to enter into areas of our world to do evangelism and offer specific ministries that point others to Jesus Christ. This, of course, is the traditional view of missionaries – people who witness across cultures to make disciples of all nations, fulfilling the Great Commission. I think our interest was heightened when we were told about the growing number of Korean and African missionaries that can now be found all over the world, even in the United States.
The Church owes a great amount of gratitude to those who have entered other cultures, learning the language of the culture, coming to adapt and respect the values of the culture, and developing deep relationships of respect in order to introduce these new found friends to Jesus.
Our son-in-law shared his experience of campus ministry during his college years where as a student he was encouraged to get a part time job. This job would introduce him to a circle of people whom he would see consistently and often. Many of these people would not have a relationship with a church and may not think of themselves as Christians. Still, our son-in-law was urged to be friendly, make a friend, and bring this new friend to a Bible study, a mission work team, worship service, or prayer group. The college mantra was, “Be a friend, make a friend, bring a friend to Christ.” This was not done in a manipulative way, but offered as a guide to initiate and present new disciples of Jesus who would have a growing interest in what the Bible says, who Jesus is, and what life looks like when one lives their personal life following the teachings of Jesus.
For some, as they step into a new work environment, meeting new people, this means finding oneself in a new culture – perhaps an un-churched culture. It becomes challenging to listen both to the language of this new culture and recognize the values of this new culture. As new relationships of trust and respect are developed, these new friends are invited into some contact point with our own Christian community that will allow a healthy interest in Jesus Christ to develop.
We don’t need to travel to Africa, Korea, or South America simply to find new disciples. We need to go no further than our own zip code. Changing our patterns of behavior, the time we walk, where we go to eat, or opportunities to serve our community through volunteer efforts, will allow us to meet new people. As we learn of their interests, what they value, and their needs, we develop genuine relationships of trust where it becomes natural and easy to invite them to join us for Bible study, worship, mission work teams, or covenant groups. We become missionaries within our own zip code.
Next month, October 11-12, at Woodlawn United Methodist Church, Panama City, you will certainly want to participate in our Conference Evangelism offering, “Seed Cast,” when Rev. Jim Cowart, founding pastor of Harvest United Methodist Church, Macon, Georgia, comes to share practical steps and insight for growing disciples of Jesus Christ. He started a congregation that now has an average worship attendance of over 2,000 people a week. I hope you will register for this event today by clicking here; it will be well worth your investment since this will be a practical approach to inviting others to follow Jesus Christ.
More importantly, when you return home from this event, thoroughly tour your zip code and then “Be a friend, make a friend, and bring a friend to Christ.” Become a Zip Code Missionary!
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(Mobile, AL) - The Mobile District of the United Methodist Church is pleased to announce the grand opening of the Open Doors Resale and Thrift Store located at 4125 Government Boulevard. The store was established to financially support mission endeavors of the United Methodist Church in the Mobile area. With the economic downturn over the past several years, charitable contributions have severely diminished and impacted those needing assistance.
Rev. Charles Fail, current pastor at New Life United Methodist Church, is helping to lead the efforts of this new endeavor. He said, "We believe that God has led this process. In a changing economy and life of the Church, the resale and thrift store is the best way to ensure that Mobile District mission agencies are funded well. Everyone wins. There are great deals on great items, opportunities for people to serve, and the proceeds enable ministry to the poorest among us."
The store acquired its name from the widely used tagline of the global United Methodist Church, “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.” The United Methodist Church and the ministries of the Mobile District are open to all persons, thus the appropriate naming of the facility.
Purchases will directly have an impact on the following agencies:
-The United Methodist Inner City Mission
-The Dumas Wesley Community Center
-The University of South Alabama Wesley Foundation
-The Mobile Metro Jail Chaplaincy Program
-The United Methodist Babies First.
The Open Doors Resale and Thrift Store needs merchandise donations, volunteers, grass-roots advertising, shoppers and prayers! Currently the store is operated 100% by volunteers. There are many ways the citizens of Mobile and surrounding areas can touch lives through this new store.
The Mobile District is one of eight districts of the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church and is comprised of more than sixty churches and 16,422 members in Mobile and South Washington Counties. For more information about the store including donation information, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 251.661.5661.