Conference News

New Ministry, "Mary Ellen's Hearth" to Open Soon in Montgomery

published 4/12/2012

(Debbie Dobbins, LGSW; Executive Director, Nellie Burge Community Center) - Since 1904 the Nellie Burge Community Center has been a ministry of the United Methodist Church. Over the years many programs have been provided from the center and programs have changed as the needs of the community have changed; but the Nellie Burge Community Center has always served under-served women and children.

In 2012 Nellie Burge will open a new ministry, Mary Ellen’s Hearth, a transitional housing program for homeless women and their children. In Montgomery alone there are over 600 homeless people and about half of that number is women. Ten percent of the homeless are children. The staff and Board of Directors of Mary Ellen’s Hearth at Nellie Burge are determined to decrease the number of homeless women with children in Montgomery. The new ministry is being named after Mary Ellen Bullard. Mary Ellen Bullard lived to serve and held every lay position imaginable within the United Methodist Church from Director of Christian Education at the local level to Executive Committee of the World Methodist Council. One of her greatest passions in Montgomery was the Nellie Burge Community Center. The Board of Directors is proud to honor her legacy by naming the new ministry Mary Ellen’s Hearth.

As the Executive Director of Mary Ellen’s Hearth at Nellie Burge, I receive about a call a week referring a homeless mother with children to us. Most of the calls are from agencies that are working with the mothers but recently I received a call from a homeless woman. She had a small child and was pregnant with another one and had nowhere to live. I told her we would like to help but we were not open yet. This woman, in desperation, said “why won’t someone help me?” That statement breaks my heart, not only for this woman but for all the women living on the streets with their children. I have heard stories from other professionals about women living in their cars while they were pregnant because they had nowhere else to live.

Mary Ellen’s Hearth at Nellie Burge is not a handout. It is transitional housing where women can live for up to two years while they receive training in budgeting, housing, safety, parenting, GED, and life skills so they can live self-sufficiently when they leave the center. They will find jobs, go to school, save their money and learn how to live on their own. We feel we are following the example set by Peter and John in Acts 3: 1-10 when they told the lame man they had no money to give him but instead healed him. When they healed him, they were giving him what he needed to earn his own money. That is what the staff at Mary Ellen’s Hearth will do: empower the mothers with the skills to live independently. Mary Ellen's Hearth offers hope, help and healing to homeless women and children throughout the River Region. We offer hope by providing life skills training. We offer help by providing transitional housing. We offer healing through Christian love and support. The goal of MEH is for the families we serve to leave us within two years – their dignity and self-respect restored – prepared for a life of independence.

Please visit our website at and be sure and click on the video tab to watch our video. Also, if you are on Facebook, please “like” us. You can call me at (334) 264-4108 if you would like to talk about Mary Ellen’s Hearth or would like for me to speak to a group about this new ministry.

An Update from the AWF Cabinet

published 4/9/2012

The Bishop met with his Cabinet on April 3-4 in Montgomery to continue working on this year's appointments. As the flowers and trees bloomed around us, so did our time together. Bishop Leeland began by asking for prayer requests from each district and this was followed by a heartfelt prayer for all dear to us across the conference. Each day began with inspiring devotionals which connected us with Holy Week themes and our core value that our work is of God.

As we continued our appointive work, great attention was given to the mission of the Church... "The making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." Time was spent on seeking how to better align our conference and churches to bear fruit in the future. In addition to the hope of aligning around fruitfulness, the gifts and particular needs of pastors were deeply considered. Also, significant time was given to the appointments and needs of our smaller churches and part-time local pastors. In addressing some of the needs of our conference, both challenges and opportunities became part of our deliberations. On day two, Bishop Leeland again paused for prayer reminding us that our work is of God and that fruitfulness is our hope across the Alabama-West Florida Conference.

Also on day two, the extended cabinet met with the appointive cabinet and many exciting reports were offered and greeted with enthusiasm. First, the cabinet celebrated all the plans for new churches, restarts, and new sites which are beginning to blossom across our conference. As many as ten new communities of faith have been formed or are being planned in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. Second, early indications reveal that giving is up in each district so far in 2012. Third, we continued to plan regarding asking every church in the Alabama-West Florida Conference to participate together in becoming vital congregations by measuring worship attendance, baptisms, small groups, people sent out in mission, and dollars toward mission. One idea that was especially exciting was to create an in-conference narrative option utilizing stories from the Vital Congregations site. The narrative would allow churches to express in their own words "glory sightings" of how how they see Christ at work in their church. An overall plan will be worked on by a sub-team of the cabinet and presented to our churches when completed. Overall, our Bishop and Cabinet are hopeful that we in the Alabama-West Florida Conference are beginning to see some hopeful signs of new life and that we are moving into a new era of fruitfulness. We will meet again in May following General Conference and continue preparations for Annual Conference.

Philip McVay, on behalf of the Cabinet  

EQUIP Leader Training

published 4/5/2012

(Rev. Neil McDavid) - Cultivating fruitful leaders and congregations who make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is at the heart of our mission in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. One of the ways we are engaging the cultivation of fruitful leaders is through EQUIP LEADER TRAINING, a biblically based, servant leader training resource. The newly formed Academy for Congregational Excellence is leading this effort in partnership with the John Maxwell EQUIP group.

February 17-18 of this year clergy representatives from each district, along with three lay leaders, were led in the EQUIP leader training by Dr. Herb Sadler, Rev. Ron Ball, Rev. John Bonner, Rev. Neil McDavid and Mrs. Kim Bullard. These persons were led through Notebook One in the EQUIP series which focuses on spiritual formation, skill formation, and strategic formation. The twenty persons involved in the training will each lead a group in their local church and/ or district. The focus in these first steps is on leader development in the small membership church. The Equip leader development process is centered on leaders training leaders who train leaders.

We look forward to this leader development process multiplying leaders, thus growing more fruitful leaders and more fruitful congregations who are "making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."


Bishop Paul A. Duffey Remembered at Memorial Service

published 3/23/2012

A capacity crowd filled the beautiful sanctuary of First United Methodist Church, Montgomery on Friday, March 23, 2012 to remember the exemplary life of Bishop Paul A. Duffey.

The service represented the many wonderful attributes and gifts Bishop Duffey shared with thousands of people he encountered over the years as a pastor, district superintendent, bishop but more importantly, friend and mentor.

Bishop Paul Leeland of the Alabama-West Florida Conference gave the greeting and opening words of the memorial service and confirmed what many have said about Bishop Duffey in that he served as a mentor and “advanced Christ and not himself.” He also confirmed how many felt by saying, “He was the most Christ-like man I’ve ever known.”

Bishop Lindsey Davis of the Kentucky Annual Conference represented the Council of Bishops and gave testament to Bishop Duffey’s 32 years on the council (8 years as an active Bishop). He expressed that Duffey’s humble spirit, keen intellect and warm presence made them, as a group, better. “His wisdom was readily known and appreciated. When Paul Duffey spoke, we all listened,“ he said. Davis further expressed, “We learned over the years to trust his judgment.” A theme guests would continue to hear throughout the service.

Rev. Joe Hastings, retired pastor in the AWF Conference, warmly shared of his friendship he and his wife shared with Louise and Paul Duffey over the years. While the ladies enjoyed their time in the UMW, the men would enjoy lunch together at various eateries in Montgomery. Hastings told of one instance where he realized he left his wallet at home to which Duffey responded, "Likely story!" 

Associate Minister Rev. David Saliba of First United Methodist Church, Montgomery offered a unique and heartfelt perspective as someone who recently met Duffey in 2006. His first encounter was a phone call from Paul Duffey while a seminary student at Candler School of Theology. Bishop Duffey had received word Saliba would be appointed to serve First Montgomery and wanted to welcome him to the staff and express his excitement of getting to know him. Duffey’s late wife, Louise, also shared this hospitality by writing him welcome notes and by being a constant source of encouragement. Saliba said, “To be with Paul and Louise was like seeing the Proverbs of God in living color.”

One of Duffey’s closest confidants was Dr. Karl K. Stegall, Pastor Emeritus at First Montgomery and Founder of the Stegall Seminary Scholarship Fund. Stegall and Duffey remained the closest of friends even after Duffey moved to his assisted living facility in Gainesville, GA. Stegall gave a humorous witness to Bishop Duffey’s love of etymology. He sincerely shared that Duffey defined greatness, integrity, commitment and selfless service. A profound statement from Stegall that resonated with those in attendance was, “The Word of God flowed through him with clarity and conviction.” He concluded by saying, “He lived fully and he died well.”

Dr. R. Lawson Bryan, Senior Minister at First Montgomery, gave the final remarks before offering a prayer of thanksgiving. He shared that Bishop Duffey was always ready to preach and always ready to pray, noting that one of the most moving sermons he ever heard was at an annual conference ordination service where he filled in at a moment’s notice for someone who was ill—exemplifying that Duffey had a gift to be able to preach so profoundly at any given time.

Dr. Nathan Attwood and Rev. Jay Cooper, Associate Ministers of First Montgomery, delivered prayers and scripture throughout the service. The cathedral choir of First Montgomery, led by Jack Horner and accompanied by Linda Gill, sang a moving version of, “Majesty and Glory of Your Name” by Fettke. “The Lord’s Prayer” was sung by choir member and music professional, Susan Cooper. This arrangement and her presentation of this song is a favorite by Methodists throughout the Southeast.

As the service concluded, the family followed a processional of United Methodist clergy including several visiting Bishops and their spouses. The world of Methodism united on this peaceful morning to celebrate the life of Paul A. Duffey. He would have been humbled and overjoyed at the outpouring of love and kindness bestowed upon him where all agreed we were lucky to have such a good and faithful servant for 91 years. Until we meet again Bishop Duffey, you will be greatly missed.



Memorials and Condolences for Bishop Paul A. Duffey

published 3/21/2012

On behalf of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, we extend our deep appreciation for the prayers and kind words expressed about Bishop Paul A. Duffey. Arrangements were previously announced and can be found here

Clergy of the United Methodist Church will be named honorary pall bearers for the memorial service and will be seated in a reserved section along with their spouses.

Memorials may be made to:

First United Methodist Church 
2416 West Cloverdale Park 
Montgomery, AL 36106 
(Music Ministry or General Fund) 

Stegall Seminary Scholarship Fund 
P.O. Box 241661
Montgomery, AL 36124

Paul & Louise Duffey Scholarship
Birmingham-Southern College
900 Arkadelphia Road 
Birmingham, AL 35254

Huntingdon College Fund of Scholarships
Huntingdon College
1500 East Fairview Avenue 
Montgomery, AL 36106

Written condolences may be sent to the family at the below addresses:

Mrs. Melanie Duffey Hutto (David)
P. O. Box 1128
Hendersonville, NC 28793

Mr. Paul A. Duffey, Jr. (Tanya)
5638 Newberry Point Drive
Flowery Branch, GA 30542



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