News

Churches hold blood drives in ministry to their local community

published 8/5/2020

(Susan Hunt) On a recent Monday afternoon, Ken and Brenda Smith of Montgomery First UMC each held out an arm to give a little of themselves. They, along with about 40 other people, were at the church to donate blood at a LifeSouth mobile blood drive bus.

During this time of a pandemic, Montgomery FUMC and several churches have chosen to hold blood drives as a way to be in ministry to their communities. This is an option any church can undertake. It is safe and makes a difference, especially in these days when the blood supply is critically low.

Brenda said, “I felt that during this pandemic would be a good time to give. I imagine that many people are not giving blood and I felt it was something I could do to help in some small way.” Several donors echoed Brenda’s response. Kate Wheaton, coordinator of the Montgomery FUMC drive, said, “People were so thrilled to be able to feel involved and that they could make a real difference.”

Auburn UMC has also regularly held blood drives. Joe Davis, Mission and Outreach Coordinator at AUMC, noted, “During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all experienced how important the ‘little things’ are in our lives - the phone calls, letters, and just seeing the faces of those we love. Giving blood to support our local hospitals is another one of those ‘little things’ that we take for granted that can become a vital source of hope during the pandemic. Hosting a blood drive is a great way for churches to care for their communities and get behind their healthcare workers who have sacrificed so much for us.”

Rev. Lucas Tribble, associate minister at Montgomery First UMC, said, “There’s always a need for blood, but especially right now in the circumstances in the pandemic. Also, now we don’t have as many opportunities to serve so this is a way to make a difference when our normal day-to-day ministries are affected.”

LifeSouth takes all safety precautions for participants. Ken shared, “I felt they did a pretty good job of protecting donors. The act of giving blood necessitates close contact, but the staff made sure to wear masks and provide other safety measures that made me feel secure.” Sharon Litchfield, another donor at Montgomery FUMC’s drive, said, “They were careful, and I was perfectly comfortable.”

LifeSouth is a community blood center. All blood donated through LifeSouth stays in the community where it is donated, and they provide a free test for COVID antibodies on all donated blood. Contact Melinda Hinds, mahinds@lifesouth.org (334-260-0803) to schedule a drive at your church.


Important 2020 Annual Conference Information

published 8/3/2020

As previously announced, Annual Conference 2020 will be held in two parts in the fall of 2020. Both sessions will be held virtually through Zoom webinar. 
 
The clergy session will be held on Sunday, September 13, 2020, at 4:00pm and the half-day annual conference session will be held on Saturday, September 26, 2020 at 1:00pm. A non-voting live stream option will be available for guests. 

A working agenda for the 1/2 day annual conference is available by clicking here

We will plan to use the theme, "At the Table" for 2021 so that we may live into the fullness of Luke 24:35.

Registration will be through Zoom. Please click on the relevant links below to obtain a unique login link. Only those participating in an official capacity (clergy, board of ordained ministry, voting lay members) need to register. Only lay members elected at charge conference and entered into the dashboard for their church will be approved. If you know there has been a change to your lay member since charge conference or that you are to attend for your church as an alternate lay member, please contact sarah@awfumc.org. Clergy should register for both sessions.
Click here to register for the clergy session.
Click here to register for the 1/2 day session for clergy and lay members
Please note that registration for both sessions will close one hour before each event. You will not be able to obtain a link for voting once registration has closed. We will be present on the Zoom webinars an hour before each session to work through any technical issues that may arise as participants log on.
 
More information on both sessions will be sent to registrants closer to the event dates. Should you need to edit your registration, please contact sarah@awfumc.org.

If you are unfamiliar with Zoom, please consult this brief instructional sheet

The retiring clergy will be honored in the Board of Ordained Ministry Report. The names of clergy who have died in the past year will be read as part of that same report. 

The working Book of Reports will be available mid August. Should you wish to order a hard copy, that link will also be available soon. It is essential that you review this publication before logging onto annual conference. 

The awards typically presented at annual conference will be given if a committee made a selection. All awards will be announced through a single presenter and complete recipient profiles will be posted online and in the daily recap. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Board of Pension and Health Benefits has agreed to waive the mandatory biometric screening for 2020. The deadline of August 31st has also been waived. However, to be a good steward over our health, we are strongly encouraging all enrolled health participants to have a physical/biometric screening in 2020 with their own healthcare provider. 

The beginning of the half-day session will feature a virtual mass choir singing, "And Are We Yet Alive?" AWF choir directors in our database will receive more information soon. 

The 2020 ordinands and commissionees will come before the Zoom clergy session and the annual conference to answer Wesley's historic questions and be approved. A celebration service where these persons will be ordained and commissioned will be announced at a later date. 

The following elements of annual conference will not occur this year:
-Memorial Service: we will honor those who died this past year at 2021 Annual Conference. 
-Missional offering: we encourage you to support a United-Methodist related ministry; 
-UMCOR kit collection;
-Exhibit displays;
-Guide to Annual Conference, including insert advertisement (a pre-conference pdf packet will be sent to all clergy and lay members with necessary information);
-Guests and clergy spouses will need to utilize the live stream option.

We look forward to seeing you through Zoom webinar on Sunday, September 13, 2020 (clergy), and on Saturday, September 26, 2020 (the half-day annual conference session).

Mary Catherine Phillips
Director of Communications


A Word from Bishop Graves: 2020 Charge Conference Season

published 7/15/2020

Friends,

It goes without saying that we are living in a new normal. Most of you know that one of our conference priorities relates to adaptive leadership in uncharted times. I never knew how prophetic that would be when those priorities were adopted in 2017.
 
By now the majority of local churches are holding online worship services; conducting committee meetings through Zoom; and offering virtual Sunday School; to name a few ways the church has adapted. It will not surprise you that the 2020 charge conference season will also look much different. Sometimes forced change can actually reveal new and more efficient ways of conducting church business while honoring the outstanding work of the local church. The cabinet and I also desire to focus more energy on celebrating ministry and discipleship.
 
Charge conference forms will be 100% online. The forms will be available no later than August 15 and will be due by October 5. An email with complete instructions for this new system will be sent to each pastor in charge. This will allow six weeks for you and your church to collect the requested information and also troubleshoot any technical questions you may have. Please note, all completed forms will be due by October 5, regardless of the date of your charge conference. Forms will not be accepted through mail.
 
Charge conferences will be held in a variety of formats as determined by your district superintendent. The vast majority of charge conferences will be done via zoom and clustered with other churches. Charge conferences will run October 15-November 30, and district superintendents will produce the charge conference schedules for their districts no later than September 15.  
 
During the month of August I highly encourage you to spend intentional time working on your church leadership nominations. This is such an important disciplinary task that shapes the health of your church. Prayerfully consider how you can identify gifted members within your church; paying careful attention to diversity of race, gender, age and special abilities and gifts. This work should be finalized by the middle of September to meet the October 5 deadline.   
 
Finally I would ask you to consider using Zoom or another online meeting platform for your fall church leadership meetings. Some of you are already utilizing this option. In the coming months churches will be prioritizing what is essential in person and what can be held online. Committee meetings are one area of the church that can successfully be held through a virtual format. The risk of gathering in person for these meetings is not justified.
 
I am grateful for your willingness to adapt to a new charge conference plan. There will be many questions along the way, but our hope is to provide a more positive experience that honors your time.
 
In Christ,
Bishop David Graves
Resident Bishop
Alabama-West Florida Conference


New Vital Conversation Topic and Dates Released

published 7/8/2020

In Bishop David Graves’ statement released on June 4, 2020, he charged us all to listen to one another. “I am asking all people of the Alabama-West Florida Conference to listen and stand in solidarity with people of color!” So that we may live into this charge, we will be providing several opportunities to take part in two different Vital Conversations via Zoom from July 13-25.
 
As you may remember, we offered “Vital Conversations: Meaningful Conversations on Race” during the latter part of 2019 and early 2020. These gatherings allowed people of all races to come together to have open and honest dialogue about issues around race and what hinders us from having these conversations. For those who may have missed being involved in one of these gatherings, we are again offering this topic.
 
Additionally, we are introducing a new Vital Conversation–“Vital Conversations: Deconstructing White Privilege.” This session will focus its discussions around a video in which Dr. Robin DiAngelo (author of What Does It Mean to Be White? Developing White Racial Literacy and White Fragility: Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism) discusses white privilege couched in overt and implied/unspoken prejudices–also referred to as explicit and implicit biases. Dr. DiAngelo also addresses the obvious aspects of racism and white privilege.
 
Below are the dates and times that each session will be offered. Please note that two of the sessions are specifically for young adults, which in our context is ages 18-40. Each session will be led by a facilitator and will last no longer than two hours. Once you have identified the session that you would like to attend, click on the associated time to access the Zoom registration. REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. (NOTE: While both sessions are open to all, Dr. DiAngelo’s lecture used in the “Deconstructing White Privilege” session is geared towards a white audience.)

Deconstructing White Privilege
Tuesday, July 14 - Noon    5pm (Young Adults 18-40)
Thursday, July 16 - Noon   6pm
Saturday, July 18 - 10am
Tuesday, July 21 - Noon    5pm
Thursday, July 23 - Noon   5pm   6pm
 
Meaningful Conversations on Race
Tuesday, July 14 - 5pm
Thursday, July 16 - 6pm
Saturday, July 18 - 10am
Tuesday, July 21 - Noon    6pm (Young Adults 18-40)
Thursday, July 23 - 6pm
Saturday, July 25 - 5pm

Should you have any questions or need to cancel or change your registration, please email Celeste Eubanks at celeste@awfumc.org.
 
Thanks to the following clergy and laity who will be serving as our facilitators:
Rev. Bill Curtin, Rev. Ashley Davis, Deaconess Celeste Eubanks, Rev. Alan Gantzhorn, Rev. Andy Gartman, Michelle Hamff, Rosaland Harrison, Rev. Cheryl Hinnen, Rev. Kelli Hitchman-Craig, Rev. Sarah Jones, Rev. Dr. Holly Morales, Rev. Audrey Rodgers, Deaconess Annette Winston, Rev. Kirsten Wright, Rev. Micah Wright, and Katy Wrona
.


Dismantling Racism Resources

published 7/1/2020

On June 4, 2020, Bishop David Graves challenged the people of the Alabama-West Florida Conference to simply listen. This came after the tragic death of George Floyd and other acts of violence against people of color

The conference collectively prayed for 24 days on various social justice issues. That initiative concluded yesterday. If you missed any of the prayers on Facebook, they are all archived here. At any time you may resource the calendar and the videos. This might also be a thoughtful way your local church could participate with your own video series by using the topics assigned to each day. 

Our next step is to provide dismantling racism resources to clergy and laity in the conference. As the news continues to unfold, we are understanding more and more that it is essential to educate ourselves about racial issues. The resources are divided into listen, read and watch to meet your preferred style of learning.

Another step the conference is taking is to provide more opportunities to participate in Vital Conversations. Dates are forthcoming and will begin in mid July. These conversations explore how we strategically understand race, culture and justice. 

"As your bishop I feel called to address racist tendancies in myself and to help our conference address a systematic issue," stated Bishop Graves. "These prayers and resources are just the beginning of a long-term priority to address the injustices against people of color. I will be launching an anti-racism task force soon and look forward to seeing where this leadership team guides us in the coming months and years. These continued steps are part of the commitment to dismantling racism in the Alabama-West Florida Conference." 

Let us continue to pray for one another that we will be agents of peace, love and bold change. 


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