Conference News

An Invitation from Bishop Paul L. Leeland

published 2/21/2013


It is my sincere pleasure to invite you, as pastors and clergy, to our Alabama-West Florida Conference “Bishop’s Day Apart” which is scheduled for March 11, 2013, at St. James United Methodist Church in Montgomery, AL from 9:00am-3:00pm.

Dr. Maxie Dunnam, a United Methodist clergyman, is a scholar, preacher, leader and popular author of more than forty books. Dr. Dunnam is the Pastor Emeritus and Director of Christ Church Global at Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis, TN. He also has extensive experience in church planting in Georgia, Mississippi and California. Prior to his appointment at Christ United Methodist Church he served with The Upper Room, seven of those years as World Editor. He left Christ Church to serve as President of Asbury Theological Seminary for 10 years where he currently serves as chancellor.

It is my hope Dr. Dunnam will give insight and inspiration to us as ministers of the Gospel. During this time of Lent we look to God for renewal and spiritual refreshment. Dr. Dunnam will help inspire this desire through his transformational teachings.

Please feel free to invite any of your church leadership who would like to join the clergy of our conference for this Bishop’s Day Apart. While this day is intended to strengthen our calling, a broad base of persons are inspired and shaped by Dr. Dunnam’s ministry. We would certainly extend hospitality and invitation to all who wish to join us on this day.

To ensure lunch is provided, it is critical to register for this event. To register, click here. The $10.00 registration fee will cover the cost of lunch and will only be guaranteed to those who pre register. If you need help in the registration process, simply call Megyn or Traci at our Conference Center.

As always, I am very proud of our Alabama-West Florida Conference, for your ministry, and for the Gospel of Jesus Christ you proclaim and invite others to follow. May you join me in giving thanks for the words of the Apostle Paul who said, “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5).

Lenten Blessings,



MATthew 6 Ministry: Helping the Homeless

published 2/18/2013

Below is a Q & A with Rev. Diane Baldwin, pastor of Georgetown-Chunchula United Methodist Church, about their new MATthew 6 Ministry. 

Q: Tell us what the MATthew 6 ministry is and the meaning behind the name.
MATthew 6 is a ministry that centers around the needs of the homeless in our community and beyond. Many homeless find themselves on the streets or in makeshift shelters. Our mission is to provide some basic personal items that provide some comfort and relief from the outside elements and lack of facilities. In doing so, we also strive to surround them with the love of our Savior, Jesus Christ and provide reassurance that He is with them and will provide for them.

We provide homeless care kits which include a handmade prayer MAT crocheted out of plastic bags by the ladies of our church. The prayer MATS are large enough to sleep on and provide some protection from moisture and bugs. When not in use, the MATS can be rolled up and carried using a shoulder strap which is also included. The rolled up MATS also contain a large blanket, hat and gloves, toiletry items, insect repellent, a bible, flashlight and other assorted items according to the season. When the kits are given to individuals, they are also given food.

The name MATthew 6 comes from verses 31-33 of Matthew 6 which provide assurance of God's provision when we seek Him first. We hope that the prayer MATS provide a reminder and reassurance of God's love and provision each time a person uses it.

Q: How did this ministry form and where did the idea come from?
One of our members, Tonya Rostas, learned how to make the mats from a friend. She brought the idea back to our congregation and taught several of the other ladies how to make them. Each MAT is prayerfully made with approximately 600 plastic bags.

Q: How has your church and community embraced this effort?
The church immediately embraced this ministry. Although we only have about five ladies who actually crochet the MATS, there are many others who are also involved in the ministry. Many families save their plastic bags to be used in the mats. Others, including a number of our youth cut the bags into strips and create the chains needed in order to crochet them together. Still, others pray over the MATS and participate in blessing them before they are assembled into kits and given out.

This ministry has also allowed our church to extend our ministry beyond our local community and to join with others in surrounding communities to distribute the MATS.

Q: What has been the feedback from those benefiting from this ministry?
The initial feedback from those who received the MATS was incredible! During distribution of the MATS, there was an opportunity to hear the stories of those who live under bridges or in tents and the struggles that they face everyday. There was also time for discussion about Jesus and His saving grace. Ultimately there was an opportunity to form new relationships and to continue to include those who received the MATS in our daily prayers.

After initial distribution of the MATS, there was one left over which was placed in the trunk of a car. Several weeks later while parked at a downtown gas station, one of the ladies overheard the conversation of two homeless men who were huddled up near the building. One of the men was telling the other how all of his belongings had been stolen and that he had nothing to keep him warm. It was a cold night and the woman remembered that she had homeless care kit along with the MAT in her trunk. She approached the men and offered the items along with a hot cup of coffee. The man was ecstatic and graciously accepted the items. He spend a great deal of time speaking to her and rededicated his life to Christ that evening. He also asked her to remember him in her prayers and to come back and see him sometime. He saw Christ through her that evening and hopefully feels His presence each time he lays on the MAT or curls up in the blanket.

Q: If someone wanted to contribute to this ministry, how can they get involved?
We encourage others to get involved in this ministry. If you would like to learn how to make the prayer MATS or how to start this ministry in your church, we would love to help you. We will be giving instruction on how to do this during annual conference Mission Day on June 4th. We welcome you to sign up for our project when you register for annual conference. We also invite you to come out to our church and learn more about this wonderful ministry!

Q: What are your short- and long-term goals for this ministry?
We will continue to crochet the MATS and provide them to as many people as we can. Our long-term goal though is to spread this ministry to other churches and organizations so that this ministry can touch a greater number of people. Although the MATS are the central focus of this ministry, Jesus is the essential part of this ministry. Our ultimate goal is to reach the homeless with Christ's transforming love and to form lasting relationships in His name.

Q: What else would you like the conference to know about this ministry?
This is an easy ministry to start and does not require much in start-up costs. Churches of any size can successfully start this ministry.


Extraordinary Women Doing Ordinary Things, COSROW 2013

published 2/6/2013

(Ruth Ann Powers) - It was with a rousing send-off that the COSROW Event of 2013 began. The participants came together with joy and sadness to honor Dawn Wiggins Hare. Dawn has been selected to serve as the General Secretary of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women and will work out of her office in Chicago.

According to our research, Dawn Wiggins Hare is the only member of the Alabama-West Florida Conference who has ever been named to be the chief executive officer of a General Church Agency.

Friends and colleagues spoke of her leadership, her advancements for women in her work and their love and appreciation for her guidance. Gifts were presented to Dawn for her office and depicted some of the symbols COSROW uses in its work. Dawn also received some personal gifts from friends.

Sandra Ruby, the facilitator for the event, presented Dawn with a book that tells the history leading up to the General Conference's delegating the General Commission, and recognizing many of the women who led the charge to have clergywomen approved for service and who worked for years to have GCSRW as a part of the General Church. She also presented a paten and chalice that was designed for the Assembly of 1986 and made by the Marshall Company in Indiana, Sandra's home state.

The ceremony ended with a litany written in Dawn's honor. In celebration of Dawn’s new role, Julia Norton presented a beautifully decorated cake that everyone enjoyed. What a terrific way to begin COSROW's weekend together!

After the break, the sessions began. Sandra Ruby brought lessons and discussion periods about familiar stories from the Bible with a whole new perspective, in line with the event’s theme, “Extraordinary Women Doing Ordinary Things.”

From the discussions came great ideas and action plans for Alabama-West Florida Conference COSROW. Participants volunteered to fill various roles to help promote women’s leadership and equality in the conference: to be district COSROW leaders; to work with Wesley Foundation chapters throughout the conference; and to plan new COSROW events. Volunteers also signed up to help with COSROW’s traditional activities, including the Alice Lee Award, the Jane Walker Scholarship, and the Annual Conference breakfast and monitoring of Annual Conference sessions.

COSROW extends an invitation to all people in the annual conference and beyond to mark their calendars for the 2014 event tentatively planned for January 24- 25, 2014. More news will follow throughout the year. Plan now to join us.

Click here for photographs from the event.


Glory Sighting: God is at work in Plantersville and Jones

published 2/6/2013

(Rev. Butch Cousins) - When I was assigned to be the pastor at Plantersville United Methodist Church and the pastor of Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church things did not look very promising.

Plantersville was in a state of decline and the handful of members were concentrating on keeping the doors open. We began praying for God to show His awesome power and lead this congregation into a closer relationship of service to Him and the community. A few months later, we were given the deed to a community center building that had been closed for several years. I contacted other pastors and community leaders and asked for input on how we could use this building to serve the whole community. A few days later I was approached by an old friend (Jolene Kearns), whom I have known for 25 years, about starting a mobile pantry program through the Montgomery area food bank. We began holding mobile pantries every time we could get one. These mobile pantries gave approximately 125 pounds of food to 125-175 families each time. The cost to us was $250.00 for about 20-22 thousand dollars of food. The program was such a success that the community became excited and we formed a coalition of five churches, which became IMPAC (T) The Intentional Mission of the Plantersville Area Churches. A 501c3 public charity whose stated primary objective was to make an Impact because of the Cross. The members of Plantersville UMC and the surrounding churches suddenly had a mission other than keeping the doors open and people began joining the churches and the mission. One more way that God revealed His glory to us was that the building needed a new roof, estimated cost $16,000.00 we had $3,000 on hand. Working through a great company in Alabama Steel and the wonderful ministry of the Chilton County Carpenters for Christ a new roof was installed for $2,300. God continues to bless Plantersville UMC because of the service to the community started there through the vision of the members and the wonderful help of A.D. (Dayton) Lovelady who was instrumental in getting the building which was after his going home was named A.D.Lovelady Center.

In Jones, Pleasant Valley UMC had slowly lost members from family who had gone home or moved from the area until only three remained. With a membership roll of 25-30, only three people attended worship service and Sunday school each Sunday. Their faithfulness was and still is incredible. Mrs Catherine Colee, her brother Bob Ed Reed and his wife Golda were there every Sunday. We worshipped and prayed each Sunday for God to bless us with new members. This faithful practice continued from 2007 until 2012 when God chose to answer our prayers. First a couple of members came back, then one person joined then another then two families and soon we were having 12-15 every Sunday. We had a young couple join and a few months ago the first baby was born into this church in 39 years. God continues to bless and on Sunday before Christmas 2012 we were blessed to have 37 people in attendance. When we are faithful to God He is more faithful to us. 


Ultimate Training Event to Prepare Youth Leaders in AWF

published 2/6/2013

Nick Mielke, Director of Youth at Prattville First United Methodist Church, talks with us about the upcoming Ultimate Training Event in Youth Ministry and what conference attendees can expect. 

Q: Tell me a little bit about Ultimate Training for Youth Ministry and its history within the AWF Conference.
Ultimate Training Event started in the early 1990's under the leadership of Greg McKinnon. It was designed to be, and still is, an accessible way for churches to send all manner of people who work with youth for a day of training and expertise. Much of the training is provided by veteran youth leaders from around the conference. This model of peer training helps in that the people leading the seminars have "been there" and understand where you are coming from. UTE died out for a period of time in the early to mid-2000's but is back and better than ever.

Q: How did you get involved with leading and organizing this event?
During the two years that I worked as Director of Youth Ministries for our conference there was a call from youth workers throughout the conference for a training event of some kind that was accessible to churches of all sizes. With the help of many great youth leaders in our conference (in particular Jeremy Steele at Christ UMC, Mobile) we were able to get it started back up again. One of the ideas was to host it in different parts of the conference, with the three most recent being in Mobile, and so this year we offered to host at First Methodist in Prattville.

Q: Who all can and should come to this event?
This event is aimed at youth workers of all stripes. Full-time veteran professionals, part-time, volunteers, interns, small group leaders, and more. The keynote sessions and seminars offer something for everyone. If this is your first youth ministry job or you've been doing it for 15 years you will come away with valuable training and information.

Q: Give us the details on this event should someone want to register.
UTE will take place on Saturday March 16, 2013 at First United Methodist Church in historic downtown Prattville, Alabama. The event starts at 9:00 a.m. that morning (with check-in and coffee and donuts starting at 8:00 a.m.) and will be finished about 4:00 p.m. to leave time for attendees to drive home. The cost is $20 per person and includes lunch. There will be opening and closing times of worship as well as our keynote speaker. There will also be 16 seminar options throughout the day covering a range of topics. More information can be found here and registration is available here.

Q: What new things can people expect that might have previously attended this gathering?
As we continue to grow and relaunch Ultimate Training Event we hope that youth workers will find seminars that speak to the unique needs of their ministries. At the same time we hope that our worship and keynote speakers allow them the opportunity to be reenergized for this important job that they all do.

Q: I know you have speakers and sessions lined up. What is the format and who all will be leading the training?
Our keynote speaker, Lane Davis, is the Director of Youth Ministries at Dunwoody UMC outside of Atlanta. Lane grew up in our conference and is on track to be commissioned and ordained as an elder in the North Georgia Conference this summer. He is a graduate of Huntingdon College and Harvard Divinity School. He will be speaking at both of our main worship times as well as leading seminars. Other seminars will be led by a host of Youth Ministry professionals from around the Alabama-West Florida Conference as well as senior pastors, college professors and more.

Q: Will participants have the chance to interact with others that day and learn/share about what's working at their church in youth ministry?
There will certainly be time to make contact with the other participants to UTE especially as we gather that morning before it all kicks off as well as during lunch.

Q: As a youth director yourself, what things have you learned from attending a training like this?
Events like this have been invaluable to me over the course of my career because I am always able to connect with someone who knows what I'm dealing with. We all have unique churches, groups, etc...but there is always someone else who has had a shared experience similar to mine and being able to talk to them and learn from them makes it totally worthwhile.

Q: Anything else we should know?
We are very excited to be hosting UTE at FUMC in Prattville and sincerely hope as many of you can make it as possible to this great day of worship, training, and youth worker fellowship. See you on March 16!  



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