Alabama Rural Ministry Spring Update

published 3/6/2012

Alabama Rural Ministry (ARM) is seeking energetic and dedicated students to run its summer youth mission camps called “Extend.” There are still a few openings for construction and day camp counselors and are in need of guys to round out our total staff. The work is hard and the hours are long but extremely rewarding as you mentor youth, serve families through vital home repair, and minister with some vibrant and energetic children! Jesus will work in your life in a powerful way! Staff receive a $1,700 scholarship, $20/week stipend, housing, and most meals. 

Still seeking a place to serve this summer? ARM’s summer mission camps, Extend, still have openings at both sites in Livingston (West Alabama) and Tuskegee (East Alabama). A flat cost covers all of your expenses and included are materials, meals, sleeping arrangements, and evening worship and discussion. Activities include some disaster response in addition to serving our elderly and disabled families. Groups can also lead the daily activities at Sonshine Kids Day Camp with children ages 5-12 in each community. For information contact Lisa Pierce at or call (334) 501-4276 and see

Cycle of Service (aka Bike Across Alabama) is now registering riders. This 3rd annual ride benefits families in Alabama needing home repair! Riders take a three-day journey beginning May 4th and ending May 6th--you can go from state line to state line! In the afternoons, riders participate in community events. Registration goes through April 27th. Not a cyclist or can’t make it? Still want to help? Consider being a virtual rider! You can still sign up and either log in cycling miles around your home OR you can sponsor a fundraiser on our behalf. Lots of ways to plug in! For more information see

A Word from the Bishop: Storm Damage Assessment

published 3/3/2012

The storms that have damaged areas across 10 states passed through our Alabama-West Florida Conference. Let us be in prayer for our congregations and families as we continue to receive news regarding the impact of these storms.

The Montgomery-Opelika District reports the storms were north of the district, although Ron Ball is checking with his district disaster coordinator as he monitors the fallout of last night's storm.

Montgomery-Prattville District reports Steve Reneau and Olivia Poole made it through the storm in Verbena. They are checking on their church members now.

Dothan District reports no damage at this time.

Marianna-Panama City District reports no damage although they are in communication with their churches.

Pensacola District is in conversation with Alan Gantzhorn, their district disaster coordinator. At this time, there is no damage to report.

Mobile District reports no damage although they continue to check with churches in their district.

Demopolis District reports all is well and they are monitoring the district process of reporting damage.

Baypines District has a report from Amelia Fletcher, our Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, saying, "Have monitored storms all afternoon. There have been no reports in the Baypines District which was under the gun this afternoon. Tim Trent in the Andalusia area, Rob Haynes in Baldwin County, and Charles Walters in the western area report an 'All Clear' as of 8:30 last night."

I have been in touch with some of the Bishops from other conferences that have been hurt by the storms and continue to receive word of the damage to churches and towns. Some ministers in areas that were damaged have not been reached. Let us remain in prayer and hope.

Almighty and Loving God, You are always present. Fulfill Your promise that You will not leave us comfortless but will come to us. Since we do not know what a day will bring forth, we place our faith in You asking that the storms of life may be calmed and we may offer ourselves in compassion and mercy to those most in need at this time. May Your mercy and Love be our light and our salvation in every difficult and overwhelming moment. Reform our compassionate service to others into obedience to You. We ask for the grace this week to be imitators of Christ as we stand firm in the Lord. Amen.

With Hope,
Paul L. Leeland

Sometimes "Thank You" Is Not Enough

published 2/29/2012

Sometimes “thank you” is not enough. It doesn’t always capture the depth of our gratitude and we don’t always recognize the sacrifice that has been made by others. However, I did think about the sacrifices made by congregations in our Alabama-West Florida Conference when I looked at the large stack of certificates awaiting my signature in gratitude for the acknowledgement of paying 100% of their Missional Giving. As United Methodists, we truly represent a Movement within the world. Thank you!

This Movement, of which we are a part, represents 340 United Methodist missionaries who share the word of God and the love of Jesus Christ in more than 60 nations. Seven of these missionaries are directly related to our Alabama-West Florida Conference. What a Movement of Christ being proclaimed throughout the world. Thank you.

As I signed the certificates of a vast majority of our local churches completing 100% of their Missional Giving, I thought about the United Methodist students attending Huntingdon College, all of whom receive a 50% reduction in their tuition. What a gift from our United Methodist churches and an investment in our future leadership representing an amazing Movement of the Holy Spirit as we prepare for the years to come. Thank you.

We could record a significant list of communities and people directly impacted by our local congregations. Such a list would include:
• Women who do not have to spend the night on the streets in Mobile, AL, because of our support for Mobile Inner City Mission
• Alleviating the fatal disease of malaria throughout the world
• Breaking the cycles of poverty because of our CIRCLES of Transformation initiative
• Creating new congregations to make disciples of Jesus Christ
• Conference staff who work with congregations of small membership churches who cannot afford additional church staff
• Offering retreats and events in our camping ministry where many of our current clergy leadership experienced the Presence of Jesus Christ in their lives.
What a movement. Thank you.

For all who completed their goal of 100%, I want to say thank you. And for those congregations who came close but did not quite make 100% this year, let me thank you as I encourage you to remain faithful to the covenant shaped by our sisters and brothers who work on our conference budget to represent these missional priorities. If we can contribute to other meaningful missional initiatives in our community and around the world while still remaining faithful to our covenant, then I say, “Thanks be to God.”

Gil Rendle, in his book, Back To Zero, acknowledges the great Movement our United Methodist Church has become and reminds us, “Ours is a church that would be a movement. We cannot dismantle our institutional side because we do, in fact, need some form of infrastructure to organize and align us. But if enough of us shift from self-interest to missional purpose, we have the capacity to birth a movement within our institutional self” (p.67). Gil Rendle acknowledges there are different types of movements and his primary question is “what kind of movement are we seeking?" I would encourage all congregational leaders to read this insightful resource in our search to rediscover the Methodist Movement. I believe the covenant set by our sisters and brothers expresses a major movement impacting our annual conference, our denomination and our world. So, I say once again, “thank you.”

Each person representing a local church can find a complete list of all churches who were faithful to the covenant set by our sisters and brothers, many who sacrificed to remain faithful, completing 100% of their apportionments, allowing us to be a presence, a witness for Jesus Christ, a United Methodist Movement throughout our world. This complete list of 2011 Missional Giving is found here

Sometimes “thank you” is never enough. It isn’t enough for the wonderful work you have accomplished this year. Still, there is no other word that captures the depth of my appreciation. Thank you.

With Appreciation,
Paul L. Leeland

Prayer Breakfast Held for State Leaders

published 2/24/2012

(Montgomery, AL) - The Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church and First United Methodist Church of Montgomery’s Work Area on Church & Society hosted a prayer breakfast on February 23 in the fellowship hall of The New Church at 301 Dexter Avenue (formerly Dexter Ave. United Methodist Church). Alabama Supreme Court Justices Tom Parker and Lyn Stuart, numerous state legislators, area United Methodist pastors and lay persons gathered to pray for our state.

Susan Hunt, Conference Director of Mission and Advocacy, welcomed the group. Guest speaker Dr. Lawson Bryan, Senior Minister at First United Methodist Church in Montgomery, encouraged those present to follow the example of Priscilla and Aquila as told in the Book of Acts and find ways to work together with mutual respect for each others’ differences.

Dr. Bryan also pointed out the similarities between the governance of the United Methodist Church and the democratic model on which the federal and state governments are based. He suggested that government officials and church leaders can benefit from each others’ counsel and explained that the eight million members of the United Methodist Church are governed by their Book of Discipline, which includes thoughtful discussion of many issues in the contemporary world. Guests were provided with a specially prepared pamphlet offering Social Principles from the Book of Discipline addressing some of the issues facing lawmakers at the present time. Montgomery-Opelika District Superintendent Rev. Ron Ball concluded the program with a benediction.

“We appreciate our elected state officials taking time from their busy schedules to join us in prayer and reflection,” said Brenda Boman, Chairperson of the Alabama-West Florida Conference Board of Church & Society. “We pray that the decisions they make for our state are grounded in the teachings of Jesus, who commanded us to love one another as ourselves.”

Boman also stated, “I would also like to express my appreciation to Rev. Tony McCullough and the congregation of The New Church for their hospitality and support of this event. Our Conference is very fortunate to have such a wonderful facility so conveniently located in downtown Montgomery.”


3.0 Missional Summer Internship Availability

published 2/20/2012

The 3.0 Missional Summer Internship (a partner of Forge America) offers young people an amazing opportunity to serve the underprivileged in Mobile, Alabama. We need your help in spreading the word! Selected interns will be challenged to grow spiritually, develop leadership skills, receive mentoring, and live in Christian-community. We will recruit up to 28 interns for the summer of 2012. An online application, reference forms, testimonies of past interns, and much more can be found at A brochure is here for you to print and share with prospective applicants. The deadline is March 18 but applications will be accepted until all positions are filled. 

The name “3.0” (three-point-O) references the history and present situation of both the Church and Methodism. Started as transformational movements (version 1.0), they have largely degenerated into declining institutions (version 2.0), and must now regain the Missional ethos necessary to reach a post-Christendom world for Christ (version 3.0). The “Quad W Foundation” ( was established in memory of Willie Tichenor who died of osteosarcoma at age 19. Their purpose is to honor Willie’s desire to make positive changes in the world around him. Please visit their website to learn more about this amazing young man and the Foundation’s amazing work!

About The Internship:

• to provide a deeply significant, potentially life-changing mission experience for college students.
• to holistically meet the needs of the poor.
• to partner with churches in troubled communities, helping them re-connect with the people of their area in the love of Jesus Christ and for the glory of his name.

Mission Site
The heart of the internship is extensive daily hands-on ministry. Interns are placed in a challenging urban ministry environment where they engage in relational community ministry focusing on both physical and spiritual needs. This aspect is a cooperative effort of area United Methodist pastors, churches, and United Methodist agencies.

Reflection time with experienced Missional leaders to process field experiences on a deeper personal level.

Equipping Sessions
These weekly sessions help interns re-evaluate what it really means to follow Jesus, move beyond a consumer spirituality, focus on the needs of the world, and prepare to launch future initiatives that contribute to the transformation of communities. Specifically this involves assigned reading and training in the areas of “Missional church,” race relations, and poverty. Equipping also takes place through weekly field trips to visit with leaders of local ministries that are dramatically impacting their communities.

Small group gatherings and activities to share stories, questions and ideas with the goal of relationships building and greater effectiveness.

Next Step Planning
Developing concrete strategies and plans for the future so that what is learned through the internships is applied in the communities to which the interns will return.

Spiritual Disciplines
Weekly worship together and at host churches, and weekly Life Transformation Groups (groups of two or threes of the same genders who meet for the purpose of accountability, Scripture reflection, and prayer).

Additional information is posted at If you have any questions, please contact Don Woolley at 251.689.4333 or, or Jean Tippit at


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