News

Live in Peace Together

published 10/31/2019
(Kari Barlow for AWFUMC) - Edith Brooks thought she was planning a simple trip to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery for a few of her fellow United Methodist Women members in the Bay Pines District.
 
Then God started working.
 
Before long, prayers were answered, Christians of different races had joined hands and conference funds were secured, resulting in an all-out pilgrimage—via charter bus, cars and vans—to Alabama’s capital city to confront the truth of America’s history regarding slavery and racism.
 
“Certainly, his hand was in it,” said Brooks, who is a member of Morgan’s Chapel UMC in Bon Secour. “There was no doubt about that.”
 
The group of roughly 80 people gathered at River City UMC on Oct. 21—coming from as far away as Gulf Shores and Eclectic as well as Peachtree City, Georgia—for a formal sending forth that included prayers for healing and wisdom and enlightenment. Then they visited both the Legacy Museum on Coosa Street, which sits on a space where enslaved people were once warehoused, and the lynching memorial on Caroline Street.
 
“It was meaningful to me to have the background before I went to the memorial,” Brooks said. “You see some of the very trivial reasons or lies that led to so many people being lynched. … It is hard to soak in and it is hard to listen to.”
 
The memorial is the first in the United States dedicated to the legacy of enslaved blacks, blacks who were terrorized by lynching, those oppressed by racial segregation and present-day people of color who are forced to live their lives burdened with presumptions of guilt and violence.
 
The six-acre site, which blends sculpture, art and design, includes more than 800 6-foot monuments, one for each U.S. county where a lynching took place. The names of the victims are engraved on the columns.
 
After the visit, the UMW group returned to River City UMC for reflection.
 
“We talked about what we had learned and what we were going to do in response,” Brooks said. “We are committed to following through with that.”
 
The many different responses were encouraging and ranged from changing personal attitudes and behavior to starting book clubs, working to abolish the death penalty and serving the incarcerated, she added.
 
“We ended with communion, and we did it by intinction, so there was the image of one cup and one body,” she said.
 
Brooks said the best part about the pilgrimage was God bringing together black and white Christians from different walks of life to visit the memorial together. She was especially thankful for the spiritual guidance of the Rev. John Brooks and his wife, Reda, in planning the trip, Annette Winston for leading the post-visit reflection and the hospitality of Pastor Justin Todd and his staff at River City UMC.
 
“I was so thankful that we did have that participation,” she said. “This is what God wants from us. He wants us to love one another, be kind to one another and live in peace together.”

Open Enrollment for Conference Insurance for 2020

published 10/30/2019
Are you eligible for the Conference health/dental insurance?  Interested?  Have questions?  Contact BeLinda Carnegie at Office (888-873-3127) for answers about eligibility.
  • Become a church-plan sponsor the lay employees
  • Health insurance coverage is administrated through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama
  • Dental/Vision coverage are administrated through Guardian Company
Open enrollment begins November 11th and ends December 16th.  The effective date of coverage is January 1, 2020.

Active Clergy Coverage Premium Equivalent Rates per month
Individual Coverage (only)                                $875.00
Dependent Coverage (additional)                     $875.00
 
Laity Coverage Premium Equivalent Rates per month
Individual Coverage (only)                                $800.00
Dependent Family Coverage (additional)          $1,210.00
Laity Medicare Supplement*                             $210.00
 
*must meet requirements to enroll.
 

Ordained Deacon Leads a Life of Service

published 10/28/2019
(Kara Witherow for the AWFUMC) - Whether on the plains of Auburn, in the Black Belt of West Alabama, or the deserts of Iraq, there’s one thing in Rev. Lisa Pierce’s life that doesn’t change.

Her passion to serve.

For decades, the driving force of Rev. Pierce’s life has been serving others.

An ordained deacon in the Alabama-West Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church, for more than two decades Rev. Pierce has faithfully lived out the calling she first felt as a sophomore at Auburn University.

As a former Wesley Foundation director at the University of West Alabama, a lieutenant colonel in the Alabama Army National Guard, as director of Alabama Rural Ministry, and as director of Lee County United Methodist Disaster Response, Rev. Pierce epitomizes what Jesus said in Matthew 25: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Gifted in relational ministry with a heart for those in need, Rev. Pierce uses her gifts, graces, and talents to engage in the community, advocate for others, and make disciples and Christian leaders.

“Lisa has a heart for those who are living in impoverished situations and wants to provide safe and dry housing for all folks as well as advocate for helping people to understand poverty more and break the cycle of poverty,” said Rev. Ashley Davis, Director of Connectional Ministries for the Alabama-West Florida Conference. “Lisa’s just amazing.”

With a degree in animal science, Rev. Pierce initially thought she’d live out her calling by working with animals. But God had other plans, and upon graduation, she began serving as the Wesley Foundation director at the University of West Alabama.

“My calling was very broad; it was just a calling to service,” Rev. Pierce said.

While at West Alabama, she was reminded of the spring breaks, winter breaks, and summers spent serving in home repair ministries and, after much research and prayer, Alabama Rural Ministry was launched and welcomed its first four work teams.

“It’s been this experiment that’s been going on ever since,” she said.

This “experiment,” now in its 21st year, has served hundreds of families like Ms. Matthews, a grandmother living on a fixed income who adopted her two grandchildren. When her roof began leaking, Matthews saved money and hired a roofing contractor to fix it. But she still had interior damage she couldn’t afford to repair. Alabama Rural Ministry heard her story and wanted to help.

During the ministry’s twelfth annual “No More Shacks-No More Blue Tarps” fundraiser, Rev. Pierce slept in a tiny, one-room shack with just enough space for a mattress. With open windows and a roof that leaked, the building was Rev. Pierce’s home for five days and five nights.

The fundraiser netted nearly $120,000 to help families in Lee County repair tornado damaged-homes and help end substandard housing in Alabama. Matthews is one of the homeowners who will be helped.

In March, after deadly tornadoes tore through Lee County and destroyed and damaged hundreds of lives and homes, Rev. Pierce was named Lee County United Methodist Disaster Response Director.

Her compassion, coupled with her proven ability to work with under-resourced communities and build strategic community partnerships, made Rev. Pierce an obvious choice, Rev. Davis said.

“We want The United Methodist Church to be the hands and feet of Jesus and offer hope and reconciliation. We want to do everything we can to offer hope and healing,” she said.

In Lee County, where 242 homes were destroyed, 157 had major damage, and another 260 had minor damage, there are still nearly 200 families whose homes were destroyed or suffered major damage who were uninsured or underinsured. Those with unmet needs are being helped by Rev. Pierce and her three case managers.

It’ll be an 18-month to two-year process, but the team is building relationships, helping people access resources, and advocating on homeowners’ behalf.

Rev. Pierce’s faith drives all she does. Living out the greatest commandment – to love God with all her heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love her neighbor as herself – and the Great Commission – to make disciples – are her life’s focus.

“What I do and what we do is a response to Christ’s love,” she said.

For Rev. Davis, Rev. Pierce is the perfect combination of compassion and strong leadership, the person you want with you during difficult times.

“To borrow a Brené Brown quote, Lisa is somebody who has a soft front but a strong back,” she said. “And maybe more than anybody I’ve ever experienced, Lisa just portrays Jesus.”

For Rev. Pierce, she’s simply loving people, loving God, and following Him.

“I feel like I’ve lived into my calling.”
 

Veterans Day Reflection and Prayer from Bishop David Graves

published 10/28/2019

This commentary and prayer was originally published on November 8, 2017. We offer it again as a way to honor our veterans

As I travel around the Alabama-West Florida Conference, I meet those who are currently serving in the military and many veterans who have previously served our country, including some who are combat wounded. Rev. John Brooks, AWF Director of Multicultural Ministries, is one such veteran, who was severely wounded in Vietnam. John was told that he would never walk again and never use his left arm after losing his right arm. Today, Rev. John Brooks is a walking miracle. On Monday, November 11th, we recognize Veterans Day, and I encourage you to reach out and thank those who are serving in the military. Moreover, thank those veterans who have served to not only provide us the freedom we enjoy in the United States, but who have given humanitarian aid all across the world and right here at home.

Join me in praying this Veterans Day:

Lord, we are given the assurance in Psalm 23 that you are our Shepherd. You lead us beside the peaceful streams and renew our strength. Even when we walk through dark valleys and the shadow of death, we will not be afraid. Lord, you protect and comfort us. Even in the midst of the enemy, you prepare a feast for us. Your goodness and unfailing love pursues us all the days of our lives. The best is always yet to come because we will live in the house of the Lord forever, for those who live according to your purposes.

When we do not know what to pray for, the Holy Spirit prays for us. We join in prayer to give thanks for Veterans who have sacrificed so much for our freedom and the goodwill of other people. Bless those who serve and who have served, that they might experience the peace that comes from you, the peace that passes all our understanding.

Amen

Bishop David Graves
Alabama-West Florida Conference 


New Alabama-West Florida Podcast Series Focuses on Preaching Excellence

published 10/21/2019
The Alabama-West Florida Conference is pleased to announce a new clergy preaching resource. “Word on the Street” is a bi-weekly podcast that was designed to offer unique ways to explore the lectionary text and other relevant passages of the Bible.
 
“One of our greatest gifts as United Methodist clergy is to be in connection with one another,” said Rev. Ashley Davis, Alabama-West Florida Director of Connectional Ministries. “Preaching is a gift but can also be a daunting task week after week. Our hope is that we can present new ways to consider scripture that will challenge and enhance our weekly sermons.”
 
In 2018, Bishop David Graves announced four conference staff priorities. One of those is, “to teach, train, and coach to support excellent preaching so that people encounter Jesus and live out the Great Commission.”
 
“It is common for conference staffs to become overloaded with tasks and projects,” stated Bishop David Graves. “Our collective goal, with significant input from the staff and cabinet, is to prioritize our work in order have the biggest impact on our area. I am thrilled that this is another resource our clergy can count on so that they can continue to excel in preaching. The number one answer when we ask a church what makes a good pastor is relevant and exceptional preaching.”
 
The idea of the podcast came from Dr. Sam Parkes who is a member of the AWF Preaching Excellence Team and pastor at Mary Esther UMC (FL). He also had vital input into how the resource would be produced and implemented.
 
“Word on the Street” is hosted by Mary Catherine Phillips, AWF Director of Communications and is produced by Luke Lucas, AWF Communications Specialist.
 
“It is always rewarding to see a creative vision become a reality,” stated Mary Catherine Phillips. “This series will be new territory for the communications ministry team as this will be our first official podcast. We could not ask for a better team to collaborate with from conception to development to production. In addition to this being a personal area of growth, I look forward to connecting with clergy from around our conference in this unique way.”
 
The first episode launches today, October 21, 2019, and will be released every other week. Participants are ordained and provisional elders and deacons, licensed local pastors and occasionally a few guests.
 
To subscribe to the show, search “Word on the Street” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or your favorite podcast platform (show is populating out to all platforms and will be available soon). You may also access the podcast through this link

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