October 10, 2018, changed the lives of thousands as well as the landscape of the beautiful states of Florida and Georgia. The Alabama-West Florida Conference is home to numerous churches that received significant damage in addition to many clergy and church member residences that were devastated. The conference is inviting all churches in Alabama and West Florida to participate in this time of remembrance.
“We will never forget the fear of watching a category five hurricane descend on our conference,” said Bishop David Graves. “The residents of Panama City, Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach, Marianna and many surrounding inland communities suffered significant property loss and experienced trauma that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. Sadly, these communities continue to lose neighbors when the trauma becomes too much for some to handle. As a conference, it is imperative we all recognize and remember this catastrophic event. This conference continues to walk alongside residents of the gulf coast through the Hurricane Michael Recovery program. I am so grateful for a talented team that is dedicated to helping those impacted by the storm rebuild their homes and lives. Despite all of our denominational heartache, our disaster response program, with the help of UMCOR, exhibits what is best in our connection.”
The conference will remember the historic event in the following ways:
- We invite all churches in the Alabama-West Florida Conference and the global connection to ring their church bells at noon on October 10, 2019;
- Prayers written by pastors of churches in the impacted areas will be shared online in the coming weeks. We ask that you select one to be used in your worship services on the weekend of October 6, 2019;
- A brief video will be available to share in your weekend worship services on October 6 for those churches who have audio visual capabilities;
- Bishop Graves will be writing a guest column that our churches can use in place of the regular letter from the pastor in church newsletters;
- We will also supply a bulletin insert you may use the weekend of October 6 highlighting the ongoing disaster response work;
- Bishop Graves will offer a video prayer on our conference social media pages on October 10 – we invite you to share this on your local church social media pages;
- October 10 will serve as a Hurricane Michael Remembrance Day of Giving with all donations going to UMCOR to honor the partnership and significant grants we have received from them. Specials offerings in worship services on October 6 are also welcome and encouraged.
- Bishop Graves will be present in churches in the impacted areas in September and October where he will preach and participate in worship.
Materials will be available in late September. Please join us in this combined effort to remember a day that we will never forget in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. For more information on Hurricane Michael Recovery, visit www.hurricanemichaelrecovery.org.
Ms. Marth Rovira, Coordinator of Hispanic and Latino Ministries, has announced her retirement, effective November 1, 2019. Rovira has faithfully served in this role for twelve years and has been a dedicated advocate for this ministry.
“I am grateful for Martha’s commitment to the Alabama-West Florida Conference Hispanic and Latino Ministries,” said Bishop David Graves. “She has a heart for those in our conference who are often overlooked. There are many challenges in developing and implementing Hispanic and Latino Ministries in our churches and she has been an outstanding resource for our clergy, the cabinet and me. I wish her the very best in retirement and am thankful for her ministry.”
The Alabama-West Florida Conference is actively working with the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry of the United Methodist Church to explore ways to continue and strengthen this ministry. With the help of Rev. Francisco Cañas and Manuel Padilla of the National Plan, the AWF Hispanic/Latino Advisory Team will evaluate the needs of this ministry and move forward with a recommendation in the coming months.
Rovira will continue to serve in her current role through November 1, 2019, where she will complete several ongoing projects.
When Mrs. Belin and her daughter first saw the house after Hurricane Michael, they thought it would be easier to throw a stick of dynamite in the middle of it than repair the home. They cried tears of joy in her living room when they saw the house for the first time after the repairs were completed. Belin’s fellow members of FUMC Port St. Joe were instrumental in completing the home repairs.
Dr. Geoffrey Lentz, senior pastor at FUMC Port St. Joe, celebrated with her and prayed over this restored space. “Every church member and resident of Port St. Joe has been deeply impacted by Hurricane Michael,” said Dr. Lentz. “The greatest way we can minister to our members and community is to walk alongside them while they restore their lives and rebuild their homes. We continue to process the pain, grief, and loss while looking ahead to better days in our community. I am so grateful to be a part of a church that is such an integral part of the future of Port St. Joe.”
FUMC Port St. Joe continues to assess their church needs as they plan for their own rebuilding process after their sanctuary was destroyed on October 10, 2018, in the category five storm. Their worship services are held in the Great Hall, which is a newly constructed worship area that survived the winds and storm surge.
The Alabama-West Florida Conference is still encouraging each church to send teams to the panhandle area and teams from outside the area are welcome. More information can be found at www.hurricanemichaelrecovery.org.
It is oftentimes an eye-opening, embarrassing, and/or troubling moment when a person realizes they have offended someone with a racist comment or action. Situations like this are often the result of a lack of awareness.
In an effort to address and reduce the number of occurrences of unintentional and intentional racism within the Alabama-West Florida Conference, Bishop Graves is requiring all full-time appointed clergy and those part-time clergy whose schedules will allow to attend one of the three mandatory diversity trainings being offered throughout our Annual Conference in the month of September.
At this training, clergy experts on this subject from outside of our Annual Conference will be equipping our clergy with the tools and knowledge needed to resist all forms of racism in their church and community.
“If we are going to move forward as a Church, in society and in our communities, we must all come to the table not just for conversation, but transformation," stated Bishop David Graves. "Transformation begins with each of us. It has been conversations with people from all walks of life that has changed me. I am still a work in progress and look forward to seeing each of you at one of these trainings.”
Trainings will be 9 am – 3 pm. Dates and locations for the trainings are:
Thursday, September 12, 2019
St. James UMC
9045 Vaughn Rd.
Montgomery, AL 36117
Tuesday, September 24, 2019
Marianna First UMC
2901 Caledonia St.
Marianna, FL 32446
Thursday, September 26, 2019
6101 Grelot Rd
Mobile, AL 36609
The link to register can be found below. Deadline to register for this required training is Friday, September 6, 2019.
Click Here to Register
For questions and concerns related to registration, please contact Sarah McWilliams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For questions or more information about the training event, contact Celeste Eubanks at email@example.com.
.5 continuing education units (CEUs) will be awarded to those who participate fully in the day.
In its initial meeting on Thursday, the group began by establishing a behavioral covenant based on Julia Kuhn Wallace’s, “The Church Guide for Making Decisions Together.” The body of leaders is chaired by Dr. David Saliba, senior pastor of Perdido Bay UMC.
Although the task force is in its early stages and still in a self-defining period, the group agreed that their main goal would be to better prepare the people of the Alabama-West Florida Conference for what could come before and after General Conference 2020. This leadership group will look at the best next steps for our conference in the coming months, while still encouraging the conference to remain focused on mission and on making disciples in their corner of the world.
Conversation was centered around commonalities, non-negotiables, possible outcomes and responses/implications of General Conference 2020 related to human sexuality. The group explored what holds us together and makes the Alabama-West Florida Conference unique and also asked the difficult, yet important question many local United Methodist churches use to better define their ministry and priorities, “What would be lost if we ceased to exist?”
“These conversations are challenging yet they offer a glimpse into the many perspectives that are in our conference,” said Bishop David Graves. “I have stated before that we are not of one mind. Yet when we have honest discussions with one another, we deepen our relationships, which in turn allows us to invest in authentic dialogue. I am grateful for the servant leaders in this group.”
Necessary conversation was conducted around accountability, potential plans to be presented at GC 2020, new congregations and expressions of faith, those discerning a call into ministry, structural changes, budgetary projections and implications for general ministries, to name a few.
“I am honored that Bishop Graves asked me to chair this committee of leaders,” stated Dr. David Saliba, task force chair. “The work we are doing to better prepare the Alabama-West Florida Conference is difficult yet necessary. I look forward to working with this group and sharing more about our efforts in the coming months. More than anything, we exist to bring hope and possibilities to those in ministry in this conference.”
The committee members are:
Bishop David Graves
Mary Catherine Phillips
The committee will convene again in August to further their discussions.