(Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon) - The Cabinet of the Alabama-West Florida Conference met in a regularly scheduled session last week at the Conference Office in Montgomery. We continue to affirm the work of our local churches in the ongoing effort to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and celebrate the "glory sightings" where congregations are experiencing fruitful, vital ministry engaging their communities in mission and service throughout the conference. Superintendents shared these stories with each other and continue to explore ways of making these known across the connection in an attempt to point toward examples of what we would hope to see taking place even more frequently in our churches.
In our monthly Incubator experience, in addition to prayer for and with one another, we spent time reflecting on the SEND model for ministry in the conference. With identifying spiritual leaders as our focus, we reviewed all of the ministry areas of our conference to determine the primary function of this area. Ministries were grouped base on whether the main function was Seeking, Engaging, Nurturing, or Deploying leaders. Categorizing these ministries helped us to clarify the purpose of these initiatives as they related to the life of the conference as a whole.
We spent time reviewing ministries of the conference and celebrating the ways these efforts are making an impact on our congregations and communities. Reverend Neil McDavid, Director of Connectional Ministries, updated the Cabinet on the CIRCLES of Transformation program that seeks to break the cycle of poverty. CIRCLES is at work in Dothan, Mobile, Montgomery, AL and Niceville, FL and will continue to expand their reach in our connection. The Cabinet reviewed the Comprehensive Plan for Inclusiveness that will help us to identify areas of the conference where we can better engage ministry with all of God's children through intentional focusing on nurturing faith communities in predominately African-American, Hispanic, Korean, Native American communities along with other ethnic groups that reside in the bounds of the conference.
We continue to give thanks for evidence of greater support for connectional giving, noting a 2% increase year-to-date. We are hopeful this is a sign that some economic stability is being experienced after several years of difficulty for our churches.
Discussion was held about priorities to identify during the upcoming charge conference season, including an emphasis on "turn-around leadership" where some of our congregation have become stagnant or are in decline. Conversation will be held with the leadership of these churches as to how we might be best able to reengage mission and ministry in these communities in the upcoming months. Emphasis on identifying ways to ensure timely recording of the Year End Reports from local congregations was also discussed. The reports are due on January 31, 2013 and we are shooting for 100% from Alabama-West Florida. An update was given by Reverend June Jernigan on the upcoming shift to group mentoring for candidates for ministry, a change adopted by the 2012 General Conference.
We want to again focus attention on the need for our congregations to place emphasis on their ministry zone. Bob Farr, Director of Congregational Excellence for the Missouri Annual Conference, identifies this zone as the two-mile radius extending from the location of your church. His assessment is that churches must permeate this area with their influence to establish a base from which to serve the larger community beyond this zone. We would encourage pastors and leaders to think through how visible their churches are in the ministry zone. The people who live in these zones are given to us by God and are ours to reach for the sake of the Kingdom. Let us share with each other the ways we can effectively minister to these persons and claim every soul for Christ in the communities that are found in the annual conference! With grateful appreciation for the faithful work of our clergy and laity, and with the expectation that God will move in our midst, we anticipate God continuing to use the congregations of the Alabama-West Florida Conference to make a difference in the Kingdom!
We have received word that the Louisiana Conference has started registering Emergency Response Trained teams to respond to damage by Hurricane Isaac. If you have a current ERT badge (ie. have completed the UMCOR ERT course in the last three years), please start making plans within your local churches by beginning to form teams and collect materials.
There is a cost associated with the response effort. Teams are needed for construction and gutting of houses. Please check the above link for more details.
Alabama-West Florida Conference Disaster Response Coordinator
Almost 100 persons have registered for the Alabama-West Florida pilgrimage to the Holy Land hosted by Bishop Paul Leeland, and the invitation is extended to any others who would like to be included. All clergy and laity of the conference are invited, but those clergy ordained or commissioned by Bishop Leeland are especially encouraged to join him for this experience, and a special discounted price is offered for them. But hurry – the final deadline for registering is October 10.
The trip departs January 23, 2013, and returns on February 1 for those who do not take one of the optional extensions. Pastors would miss only one Sunday to take the basic trip.
Brochures are available on the conference website here, and also in the Episcopal Office. Clergy ordained or commissioned by Bishop Leeland should register through Rev. June Jernigan in the Office of Ministerial Services. Others may register by mail using the form on the brochure, by phone at 1-800-247-0017, or online at www.eot.travel.
It will be a life-changing experience for all who participate. You’ll never read the Bible in the same way again after you have walked in the places where God unfolded His drama of redemption. Its scenes will come alive after you have bowed at the manger in Bethlehem, worshipped on the Sea of Galilee, followed the Palm Sunday crowd down the Mount of Olives, knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane, walked the Via Dolorosa, wept at Golgotha, and sung at the empty tomb.
Join us for this spiritual journey.
(Dr. Philip McVay) - Do we remember what was happening ninety days ago? Ninety days ago would have been Memorial Day Weekend and Annual Conference was just around the corner. In the twinkling of an eye the summer of 2012 has now vanished as a shooting star and left Labor Day in the wake. What will happen significant the next ninety days? The weather will cool down, school will be in full session, football season, church opportunities, a national election, and 2013 will be here in a flash! Before the next ninety days vanish like summer how can we make the most of them? Is there a way to add meaning and slow down our lives and move into 2013 with readiness? Prayer is a great starting place.
I would like to invite you and your church to make the next ninety days a season of prayer. There are approximately ninety days from Labor Day to the beginning of Advent, December 2. This season offers a great opportunity to become more intentional in our personal prayer life. The setting aside of time everyday for prayer can change the whole day, week, and season.
What have we to lose by setting aside some time each day in prayer? Is there not everything to gain? After all, what is life without prayer? Dwight Moody would answer..."too much business on too little capital." John Wesley would say...."God does nothing but by prayer, and everything with it." E.M. Bounds would add..."The praying ones want all that God has in store for them. They are not satisfied with anything like a low religious life, superficial, vague and indefinite." All of the spiritual giants hold in common the supreme difference prayer does make in a life.
In regard to making the next ninety days matter most for our church, I would like to invite pastors and laity to take the initiative to form a team and pray. This new team of three to seven people is invited to pray specifically how the church can..."make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." One option is for the new team to begin by praying through these disciple making questions each time they meet.
-Does our congregation understand what it means to make disciples of Jesus Christ? Can we pray for God to guide us to the honest answer? Can we be open to learn and do what it takes to make disciples?
-Are we open to pray along with the other churches of our district and annual conference about making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world for ninety days? And trust God will lead us to a fruitful place?
-What specifically do we need to pray about in seeking God's leading in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world? Are there obstacles to remove? Doors to open? Do we need courage?
-Is God calling us to begin something new to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world? How is the Spirit directing?
As the ninety days progresses, there are resources available to provide more information about "making disciples" and launching something new in 2013. You can find this information on the awfumc.org website, on a facebook page entitled AWF prayer initiative, and on our TheMontgomeryDistricts.com website. After ninety days of praying churches are asked to assess are they ready to STEP UP (sharpen the focus of disciple making with existing ministries), STEP OUT (launch something new like a mission team, worship service, or even a new church), or GO FORWARD with whatever you discern God is calling you to do.
May the next ninety days be some of our best because we took the time to pray! If you have not prayed today, there is no time like the present to begin and to invite a team to pray with you soon about making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!
I have spoken at length with the Mississippi Disaster Coordinator, Wayne Napier. He is putting me in touch with the Seashore District Disaster Coordinator. At this time there are families that have been moved to three different shelters and will not be home any time soon. In parts of the state, water is still rising. The situation with the breech in the southern Mississippi dam is still tenuous. He does not think that any sort of teams can be used before next week.
I have offered our manpower, our cleaning buckets (which he will most likely need) and other basic supplies and at this time has not requested anything. Assessments are scheduled for Monday. The affected areas are working with their VOAD groups (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) and are functioning as they should.
I have also been in touch with the Louisiana Conference coordinator, Darryl Tate. We are on standby there.
Be assured that we are in response as a conference to the disaster of Hurricane Isaac, but only in ways that will be helpful. We do not want to add to their problems by responding in ways that they do not need or request.
Prayer is powerful and at this time is the most helpful way for us to respond. However, as they work through the weekend and do assessments, Wayne is sure that our teams will be needed.
If you have been through ERT Training, you may want to review the issues involved with removing water damage. He also feels that some of the properties will be under water for at least a couple of weeks, so those properties may be condemned.
Your churches can also put together UMCOR cleaning buckets to replenish supplies that have already been sent or will be sent soon. For information on how to put a cleaning bucket together, click here.
Thank you for your concern and prayers during this time.
Alabama-West Florida Conference Disaster Response Coordinator