News

Virtual Vacation Bible School

published 5/13/2020

May 13, 2020

The Alabama-West Florida Conference would like to connect churches around the topic of 2020 Vacation Bible School (VBS).

As many of you know, it has been recommended by Bishop David Graves that there be no in-person worship through June 1, 2020. Many churches have cancelled on-site VBS for the coming summer and are looking for ways to continue to engage children in local churches. 

There are several ways you can help.

  1. If you are an AWF church who already has arranged to have virtual VBS, please complete the brief form below.
  2. If you are an AWF church who does not yet have a virtual option arranged, please complete the form below.

We are seeking to connect churches during this pandemic. For those churches who need assistance with virtual VBS, the conference will provide a list of churches in your district who do have existing plans who are willing to partner with other churches. 

In addition to this data collection, we would like to launch a children’s ministry cohort to connect children’s directors and volunteers throughout our conference. Celeste Eubanks, AWF director of leadership strategies, has cohort development experience and will organize this new offering. You may also indicate your desire to participate on the form below.

Thank you for being the hands and feet of Christ so that children around our conference and communities may hear the good news and experience the love of God.

Click here to complete form


Conference Leadership Releases Restart Guidelines for In-person Worship

published 5/12/2020

Under the leadership of Bishop David Graves, the COVID-19 task force has released updated guidelines for restarting in-person worship. Click here for guidelines.
 
The bishop, cabinet and conference leadership continue to affirm the previous announcement recommending no in-person worship through June 1, 2020. An updated announcement will be released on May 21, 2020.
 
“With a multitude of opinions on the topic of restarting in-person worship, we wanted to provide an updated document that each church needs to consider before opening their doors,” stated Bishop Graves. “We will continue to make recommendations based on local and state health guidelines and case statistics but ultimately, the decision must be made by the pastor in conjunction with their leadership task force.”
 
The guidelines offer clear steps and minimum standards to follow when considering the most appropriate time for AWF churches to welcome people onto their campus as well as recommendations on essential persons to contact.
 
“I am so humbled by the creative ways our clergy and lay leadership have brought worship to the United Methodist connection during this pandemic,” Graves continued. “I urge all churches to use extreme caution as they make these decisions that will impact many and hope they will continue to offer remote worship options for those who feel it is best to stay home at this time.”
 
Updated information as it relates to COVID-19 in the Alabama-West Florida Conference may be found at www.awfumc.org.


In-person Worship Cancellations Extend into June for Alabama-West Florida Conference

published 5/6/2020
Bishop David Graves, in conjunction with the Alabama-West Florida cabinet, is recommending the cancellation of all in-person worship and church meetings through June 1, 2020.
 
“We continue to assess recommendations from health officials, government leaders and medical experts about our best plan to reopen churches,” stated Bishop David Graves. “This is a sensitive topic because as United Methodists, we are passionate about in-person worship and the way it shapes our faith journey. I share your deep desire to gather again and celebrate our risen savior, but we simply cannot make that recommendation with the information we currently have.”
 
In the meantime, conference leadership recommends the following:

 

  1. Establish a COVID-19 task force leadership team within your local church to discuss a restart plan;
  2. Develop a written plan for your local church that can be communicated to your members to establish trust before reopening;
  3. Review the restart resources document on the conference Website to understand the necessary steps a church must take to reopen its doors;
  4. Assess your cleaning and personal protection supply inventory and discuss with your leadership team how to best acquire needed supplies to ensure the health and safety of your congregation when in-person worship does begin. 

“Although other businesses have begun to reopen, we must realize our houses of worship differ greatly than a brief visit to a store,” said Graves. “Between the duration of worship, limited staff at many local churches and the scarcity of cleaning supplies, to name a few, it is essential that our churches take the re-opening process seriously in the coming weeks and understand the challenges before us.”   
 
The bishop, cabinet and leadership team will continue to assess when churches may gather again and will communicate a future recommendation on May 21, 2020.
 
Visit www.awfumc.org for up-to-date information.


Alabama-West Florida Conference Announces Budget Reductions and Restructuring Plans

published 5/5/2020
The Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church is undergoing budget reductions and staff restructuring to appropriately plan for financial implications as a result of COVID-19 and the upcoming session of the 2021 General Conference. Based upon recent trends and detailed predictions, the annual conference is seeking to decrease its overall operating budget by as much as 50% by January 1, 2021, in order to continue to be a sustainable and viable annual conference.
 
The following restructuring plan will be finalized and take effect on September 1, 2020:

 

  1. The elimination of fourteen staff positions in the conference and districts;
  2. Salary reductions for director-level positions and district superintendents;
  3. Restructuring of existing work in the conference and districts;
  4. Line item budget reductions in most ministry areas;
  5. Reduction of travel and in-person meetings, enabling technology to achieve conference and committee goals. 

“This is the most difficult part of ministry leadership,” said Bishop David Graves. “We value people and talent, but we must prioritize what is needed in the conference and districts to achieve our goals. While it is painful to eliminate gifted staff and reduce ministry resources, we simply cannot continue to operate in a day-to-day mentality; we must appropriately plan for the future of the conference. We celebrate faithful missional giving during this historic pandemic and acknowledge the many churches who have continued their commitment to the conference. This comprehensive plan will ultimately allow more funding to remain in the local churches.”
 
The details of each staff ministry area are as follows:
 
Episcopal Office and Office of Ministerial Services
-The role of administrative assistant to the bishop will be eliminated.
-The current administrative assistant to the office of ministerial services will serve both offices.
- The Episcopal office will further reduce expenses, which includes the elimination of all reimbursements to the bishop.
 
Office of Communications
-The role of communications specialist will be eliminated.
 
Office of Congregational Development
-The administrative assistant for this office will have reduced hours.
 
Office of Connectional Ministries
-The director of mission and advocacy position will be eliminated.
-The director of multicultural ministries position will be eliminated and this work will be guided by the current director of leadership strategies.
-The conference operations coordinator position will be part time.
-The two part-time receptionists positions will be eliminated.
 
The essential work of the positions being eliminated will be managed by current conference staff.
 
District Changes
-All district administrative assistant positions will be eliminated. There will be two regional offices. The southern region will include the Baypines, Marianna-Panama City, Mobile and Pensacola and districts. The northern region will include Demopolis, Dothan, Montgomery-Opelika and Montgomery-Prattville districts.
-A district administrator for the southern region has been hired. A district administrator will be hired for the northern region. A job description will be posted and applications will be received at a later date.
-Six physical district offices will be eliminated, and all district superintendents will work remotely. In order to maintain a presence in the southern region and northern region of the conference, the current Mobile district office will remain. The northern region office will be housed in Montgomery at the conference office.
-As previously announced, the current Montgomery-Opelika district superintendent will also serve the Montgomery-Prattville district, while other district superintendents will share supervision roles
-Seven districts superintendents will be reduced to four, serving eight districts, by July 1, 2021.
 
“As much as COVID-19 has challenged us in unexpected ways, we are seeing creative opportunities to do ministry with reduced resources,” Graves continued. “I am grateful for the thousands of ways our current staff has made the conference and district offices better places. Please join me in expressing your appreciation to those who will transition to other opportunities in the coming months, and pray that they will find meaningful and life-giving employment. I also invite you to pray for those who will remain on staff as they will be assuming many more tasks and responsibilities in addition to their day-to-day ministry work. As leaders of the annual conference, we believe that these hard decisions today will enable the work of the annual conference to continue after we have traveled through these difficult seasons.”
 
The revised budget, including reductions in most ministry areas, was approved by the AWF core team on Thursday, April 23, 2020. That proposed budget will then be before the AWF Conference council on finance and administration for review before a recommendation is made to the 2020 Annual Conference voting members.


Alabama-West Florida Conference Important Announcements and Updates Related to COVID-19

published 4/29/2020
There are several important announcements for clergy, lay leaders, lay members to annual conference and staff parish relations chairs. Please take time to carefully read these announcements.

Annual Conference Dates

The 2020 session of annual conference continues to be revised as health and safety projections are made for large gatherings in late summer and fall. Because it is difficult to forecast, the conference is now shifting to a virtual-only event to be held June 28-29, 2020. There are many details to be arranged that will be announced at a later date, including a revised working agenda. Only essential reports and tasks will be conducted at this conference.

Virtual Safe Sanctuaries

On April 29, 2020, the Alabama-West Florida Conference Board of Trustees adopted an addendum to the current Safe Sanctuaries policy. This document is for online and digital ministry due to COVID-19. Each pastor who is currently under appointment at a local church is required to acknowledge that you have received and adopted this document for your local church.
-Click here for addendum
-Click here to sign the acknowledgement form

Church Restart Resources

At this time, Bishop David Graves has recommended churches remain closed through May 17, 2020. However, churches need to utilize this time to carefully plan for how they will reopen in the future. Please establish a COVID-19 task force or leadership team within your local church to discuss this plan.
Restart resources are on our Website at www.awfumc.org/restartresources.

AWF Daily Devotional

The AWF daily devotional will continue indefinitely with a revision to the schedule.
-The traditional devotional will continue to be held on Mondays at 10am.
-A lectio divina will be led by Rev. Julie Hare of Auburn UMC on Wednesdays at 10am.
This will allow our conference to continue to stay connected through this platform while also giving space and acknowledging technology calendars are full.
The Zoom link will remain the same.

AWF Clergy Devotional

At this time, the Monday afternoon clergy devotional will remain as planned at 4:00pm. The frequency will most likely be reduced in the coming weeks for the same reasons mentioned above.
-Rev. Allison Posell referenced two resources in the April 27th gathering.
         The Sprint Teams (COVID-19) document may be found here.
         Click here for The Common Symptoms Following A Traumatic Event.
The Zoom link will remain the same.

 Please visit www.awfumc.org for updated information.


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