(Florida Conference UMC) - Inspired by a matching funds challenge of $500,000 from First UMC Ormond Beach, Florida Conference churches raised over $1 million for Hurricane Michael relief for the Alabama West Florida Conference. A total of $1,533,096 was donated to their recovery.
Bishop David Graves of the Alabama West Florida Conference said the money will ease suffering so many continue to endure after the hurricane.
“I extend my deepest gratitude to each person who made financial donations on our behalf,” he said. “Please know how much I appreciate each of you. You have shown what it is to be not only be United Methodists, but also the hands and feet of Christ.”
“First United is honored to be on mission together with you in helping our neighbors in the Panhandle discover hope,” Pastor Scott Smith of FUMC Ormond Beach said. “When we come together and unite in a common effort, great things happen for the Kingdom.”
Those four areas—growing discipleship, cultivating exceptional talent, training and teaching and being adaptive leaders through uncharted times—are considered to be pivotal in the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the next two years.
“We really wanted to start the year off right,” said Rev. Ashley Davis, director of connectional ministries for the conference.
During the first week of January, Davis, along with Bishop David Graves, Rev. John Russell of St. John UMC in Mobile, Rev Richard Williams of Aldersgate UMC and Dr. Sam Parkes of Mary Esther UMC, attended the 2019 National Festival of Young Preachers in Atlanta. The annual event allows young preachers from across the country to attend master classes on preaching, to connect with mentors from colleges and seminaries and to network with other young people answering the call to full-time ministry.
Graves and Russell preached at the festival’s opening worship service, and the AWFUMC—a partner in the event—set up a booth to welcome and recruit potential clergy members.
“It’s a very ecumenical gathering—there were United Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Catholics,” Davis said. “It includes young preachers from age 14 to 35. If we’re going to encourage people, they have to start somewhere!”
All of the young preachers who attend have an opportunity to practice preaching—and be evaluated—during the event. Parkes, who holds a doctorate in homiletics, served as one of those evaluators tasked with providing constructive feedback. Russell, who leads a diverse congregation, and Parkes also taught a class on preaching in a multicultural setting.
“I was inspired by the level of preaching,” Davis said. “A lot of the sermons had me on my feet! … And there was a lot of willingness to call out injustice.”
One of her favorite moments came at the end of the festival with a “Gospel Slam” featuring traditional preaching and much more.
“It was great,” Davis said. “There were songs. There were poems. There were all sorts of ways people were sharing the gospel!”
The festival is an excellent way to create a “brave space” with a lot of camaraderie for young people who are considering becoming preachers, she added.
“It’s invaluable—especially because of the communities they are forming,” Davis said. “If you’re a 14-year-old or 15-year-old who wants to be a preacher, chances are you’re pretty different … and to be with other young people who are experiencing a call, there’s a lot of encouragement in that.”
The festival has even motivated Davis to explore holding a similar regional festival for young preachers across the Alabama-West Florida conference.
A few days after returning from Atlanta, Davis accompanied members of the conference staff and Huntingdon College to Lakeland, Florida, to meet with Florida Conference staff and the leadership of First UMC Lakeland. Their purpose was to learn about the programs that have helped the FLUMC and First UMC Lakeland create a vibrant culture of the call.
Davis said she was especially impressed with Rev. David McEntire, the senior pastor, and his staff’s commitment to First UMC Lakeland’s strong internship program and efforts to make the vocation of ministry accessible to young people.
“It’s very intentional,” she said. “Young people really get to experience all aspects of ministry.”
Although a quick trip, connecting with First UMC Lakeland inspired many ideas, Davis added.
“It was a really good time of crossing conference boundaries,” she said. “It was connectional!”
The conference plans to hold a meeting of 10 selected churches on March 2 to officially share what it learned in Lakeland.
“The hope is to do a deep dive with this group and spread it to others,” Davis said. “And one of the hopes is that we can make it possible for more small- and medium-sized churches to have internships.”
Photo courtesy of Rev. Sam Parkes.
March 31: Demopolis District: Demopolis FUMC, 4:00pm
April 28: Montgomery-Opelika and Montgomery Prattville Districts: Frazer Memorial UMC, 3:00pm
April 7: Marianna-PC District: Panama City FUMC, 3:00pm
April 7: Dothan District: Ozark FUMC, 6:00
May 5: Pensacola District: Navarre UMC, 3:00pm
May 19: Mobile District: Saraland UMC, 3:00pm
May 19: Baypines District: Bay Minette FUMC, 6:00pm
Currently the Cabinet, Pastors, Staff-Parish Relations Committees (SPRC), and churches are working on the upcoming appointment year, which spans from July 2019 to June 2020. To inform you of our process, but most importantly to ask for your prayers, I want to share the following information:
The Cabinet, consisting of the eight District Superintendents, the Assistant to the Bishop, and myself will be working to make over 650 appointments between now and annual conference, which is scheduled for June 2-5. While we may also consult with key conference staff members who represent multicultural ministries and new church starts, it is only the Cabinet who will be projecting the appointments. It is a vital process and is why I seek your prayers.
There are many factors that go into this process including retirements, clergy deaths, church and pastor needs/concerns, and family considerations. This will be my tenth year that I have sat at an appointment table either as a District Superintendent or Bishop. What I have come to experience is that the Holy Spirit is in the process. As unusual as this may sound, I have been so blessed by my appointment making time. It is sacred work and the Alabama-West Florida Conference has a Godly Cabinet that makes our work deep and rich. Please pray for us!
To help guide your time of prayer, let me share a timeline of our work:
December: Each District Superintendent shared with the cabinet about the ministry and needs of their districts related to appointments. We also reflected on how the results of the special called General Conference session might influence our work.
January: The Cabinet met the 8th-10th to take our December conversations to a deeper level. District Superintendents continue to hold consultations and SPRCs are also in the process of meeting to evaluate their pastoral needs.
February 4-6: We will determine which churches and/or pastors have requested a return or move. In some cases, the appointment is open due to a retirement, death or vacancy. I estimate 75-80% of pastors will be marked as a return. During this time, we will begin to make some appointment projections.
March 5-6: We will continue this process, but most of our work will be centered around how we move forward following the special called General Conference.
March 20-22: The Cabinet will project most of the appointments during these days.
March 28-29: We will seek to finish our work and prepare to communicate to all the pastors and church SPRCs.
April 1-3: Those pastors moving will receive a phone call from their District Superintendent to arrange a meeting to review their projected appointment. SPRC chairs will be called and informed of the projected appointment. The full SPRC will then be informed and all committee members will be required to keep the appointment confidential.
April 11-12: The Cabinet meets to review all projections and to make any adjustments. Following April 12, pastors and churches are free to publicly communicate the new appointment unless otherwise directed by the District Superintendent.
April 13-June 5: The Cabinet will continue to work at filling part-time appointments and handling other situations that might arise as pastoral introductions are made.
As you see, the appointment process involves most of our year with March and April being the most intense months of our work. In my mind, it is the most important work we do and led by God’s will. I feel it important to be transparent to all our clergy and congregations.
Thank you for your ministry; we need your prayers.
Bishop David Graves
Resident Bishop, Alabama-West Florida Conference
The Alabama-West Florida Conference is pleased to announce two new leaders for the Hurricane Michael long-term recovery efforts.
Rev. Chris Ackerman will serve as the Hurricane Michael Recovery Director and Tammy Tisher will serve as the Assistant Director. Ackerman is a licensed local pastor who was previously serving as an associate pastor at Lynn Haven UMC when Hurricane Michael came ashore. His responsibilities will include managing and overseeing all active disaster recovery activities on behalf of the Alabama-West Florida Conference and directing, assigning and coordinating the work of the regional team coordinators funded by UMCOR grants. He will also work with the Conference Disaster Response Coordinator and the Director of Connectional Ministries to create and implement a strategic plan for recovery and work in consultation on all staffing, funding and other issues related to the success of the recovery. Chris has spent many years of his life working in various kinds of construction. Most recently he owned his own custom furniture business where he built anything from farm tables to kitchen cabinets. Rev. Ackerman’s previous appointments include pastor at Shady Grove UMC and Grand Ridge UMC and associate pastor at Good News UMC.
Tammy Tisher is a resident of Panama City, FL, and a member of Woodlawn UMC. Tammy worked in inventory control and supply chain for General Motors for 22 years and started her own businesses in 2012 in ladies fashion. Moving from Tennessee to Florida in 2016, she was affected by Hurricane Michael, losing businesses and suffering damage in her neighborhood and home. After extensive volunteering immediately following the disaster, she felt a need to continue providing assistance to others using her skill set and will be helping lead the teams in our relief efforts.
“We are so thankful that God sent two qualified and capable people to us during this time of need,” said Bishop David Graves. “As we have been saying for months, this will be a long-term effort to which our conference is committed to for years to come. Both of these leaders are residents of Panama City and were in the heart of disaster area in the aftermath of the storm. They know, more than anyone, the needs of the residents in the Panama City, Marianna and Port St. Joe areas. We are grateful that both of them were open to new leadership opportunities. I would be remiss if I did not thank Rev. Shawn York for his outstanding leadership the past three months. Rev. York gave 110% to the recovery efforts in the immediate aftermath of the storm. I am grateful to Gulf Breeze UMC, the Pensacola District and his family for allowing him to serve as the director in the interim.”
Rev. Rob Haynes continues to serve as the AWF Conference Disaster Response Coordinator. He will implement disaster preparedness initiatives with the districts who were not affected by the hurricane so that they are prepared for future disasters.
Volunteer coordinators, construction coordinators and case managers at the three sites–Marianna, Port St. Joe and Panama City–will be announced at a later date.