As Bishop David Graves completes his first four years of Episcopal ministry in the Alabama-West Florida Conference, he reflects on several important topics in this interview. Hear his thoughts on:
-ministry in the pandemic;
-the conference response to dismantling racism;
-how he stays encouraged during uncertain times;
-and the one thing he would change in the past four years; to name a few.
Click here to view. You may also listen to this message as an audio-only podcast by clicking here, by searching for “AWFUMC Podcasts” on iTunes or in your preferred podcast player. We invite you to subscribe to these podcasts.
We welcome shares with your congregation and on social media.
As I am sure most of you are aware, we currently have two storm systems that have the potential to be hurricanes entering into the Gulf of Mexico. As of right now, both systems seem to be tracking towards the west with one possibly landing in the western portion of our conference. It is important to remember that these are just predictions and we must stay alert and continue to monitor the trajectory.
Here are some of the things that we need to be doing now to prepare for any such eventuality:
- Back up your church and home systems (computers, databases, etc.) onto devices that can be taken with you should you need to evacuate, or to a location that will not be affected by the storms.
- Protect your electronic devices, sensitive equipment, musical instruments, organs, pianos, etc. Covering them with a tarp or plastic sheeting will protect them from leaks that might occur. Any equipment that can be elevated at least four inches off the floor will help prevent damage if waters do get into the building. Many computer towers sit on the floor under desks….put them up on the desk if you can.
- Protect your records and historical documents (technical drawings, pictures, paper files). Placing them in sealable, waterproof plastic bags within a safe or file cabinet would help if you cannot relocate them to a safe place.
- Secure your building, bringing inside loose items that could be blown around. This is especially important for church playgrounds.
- Verify that there is a contact list for all facility personnel, neighbors, family, etc. Do not rely on cell phones; land lines may be disrupted as well.
- Check on your fragile/elderly folks: are they evacuating? Where will they be going? If they are not leaving, who will check on them following the storm?
- Be aware of where shelters are in your community.
1. Make sure you and your family are ok.
2. Check on your church and congregants and report to your District Superintendent or your District Disaster Recovery Coordinator (DDRC).
- If the disaster is larger than what you can handle on your own, then reach out to your district for help.
- If the disaster is larger than your district can handle, then your DS will reach out to the Conference.
We would also like to share with you the following video that explains more about what steps your church and district leadership should take in the event of a disaster in your area. Please click on your district’s link.
Baypines District: https://vimeo.com/341846801
Demopolis District: https://vimeo.com/341852737
Dothan District: https://vimeo.com/341864328
Marianna Panama City District: https://vimeo.com/341872073
Mobile District: https://vimeo.com/341865253
Montgomery Opelika District: https://vimeo.com/341873949
Montgomery Prattville District: https://vimeo.com/341876510
Pensacola District: https://vimeo.com/341868258
Rev. Chris Ackerman
Director of Hurricane Michael Recovery
Conference Disaster Recovery Coordinator
(Susan Hunt) On a recent Monday afternoon, Ken and Brenda Smith of Montgomery First UMC each held out an arm to give a little of themselves. They, along with about 40 other people, were at the church to donate blood at a LifeSouth mobile blood drive bus.
During this time of a pandemic, Montgomery FUMC and several churches have chosen to hold blood drives as a way to be in ministry to their communities. This is an option any church can undertake. It is safe and makes a difference, especially in these days when the blood supply is critically low.
Brenda said, “I felt that during this pandemic would be a good time to give. I imagine that many people are not giving blood and I felt it was something I could do to help in some small way.” Several donors echoed Brenda’s response. Kate Wheaton, coordinator of the Montgomery FUMC drive, said, “People were so thrilled to be able to feel involved and that they could make a real difference.”
Auburn UMC has also regularly held blood drives. Joe Davis, Mission and Outreach Coordinator at AUMC, noted, “During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all experienced how important the ‘little things’ are in our lives - the phone calls, letters, and just seeing the faces of those we love. Giving blood to support our local hospitals is another one of those ‘little things’ that we take for granted that can become a vital source of hope during the pandemic. Hosting a blood drive is a great way for churches to care for their communities and get behind their healthcare workers who have sacrificed so much for us.”
Rev. Lucas Tribble, associate minister at Montgomery First UMC, said, “There’s always a need for blood, but especially right now in the circumstances in the pandemic. Also, now we don’t have as many opportunities to serve so this is a way to make a difference when our normal day-to-day ministries are affected.”
LifeSouth takes all safety precautions for participants. Ken shared, “I felt they did a pretty good job of protecting donors. The act of giving blood necessitates close contact, but the staff made sure to wear masks and provide other safety measures that made me feel secure.” Sharon Litchfield, another donor at Montgomery FUMC’s drive, said, “They were careful, and I was perfectly comfortable.”
LifeSouth is a community blood center. All blood donated through LifeSouth stays in the community where it is donated, and they provide a free test for COVID antibodies on all donated blood. Contact Melinda Hinds, email@example.com (334-260-0803) to schedule a drive at your church.
As previously announced, Annual Conference 2020 will be held in two parts in the fall of 2020. Both sessions will be held virtually through Zoom webinar.
The clergy session will be held on Sunday, September 13, 2020, at 4:00pm and the half-day annual conference session will be held on Saturday, September 26, 2020 at 1:00pm. A non-voting live stream option will be available for guests.
A working agenda for the 1/2 day annual conference is available by clicking here.
We will plan to use the theme, "At the Table" for 2021 so that we may live into the fullness of Luke 24:35.
Registration will be through Zoom. Please click on the relevant links below to obtain a unique login link. Only those participating in an official capacity (clergy, board of ordained ministry, voting lay members) need to register. Only lay members elected at charge conference and entered into the dashboard for their church will be approved. If you know there has been a change to your lay member since charge conference or that you are to attend for your church as an alternate lay member, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Clergy should register for both sessions.
Click here to register for the clergy session.
Click here to register for the 1/2 day session for clergy and lay members.
Please note that registration for both sessions will close one hour before each event. You will not be able to obtain a link for voting once registration has closed. We will be present on the Zoom webinars an hour before each session to work through any technical issues that may arise as participants log on.
More information on both sessions will be sent to registrants closer to the event dates. Should you need to edit your registration, please contact email@example.com.
If you are unfamiliar with Zoom, please consult this brief instructional sheet.
The retiring clergy will be honored in the Board of Ordained Ministry Report. The names of clergy who have died in the past year will be read as part of that same report.
The working Book of Reports will be available mid August. Should you wish to order a hard copy, that link will also be available soon. It is essential that you review this publication before logging onto annual conference.
The awards typically presented at annual conference will be given if a committee made a selection. All awards will be announced through a single presenter and complete recipient profiles will be posted online and in the daily recap.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Board of Pension and Health Benefits has agreed to waive the mandatory biometric screening for 2020. The deadline of August 31st has also been waived. However, to be a good steward over our health, we are strongly encouraging all enrolled health participants to have a physical/biometric screening in 2020 with their own healthcare provider.
The beginning of the half-day session will feature a virtual mass choir singing, "And Are We Yet Alive?" AWF choir directors in our database will receive more information soon.
The 2020 ordinands and commissionees will come before the Zoom clergy session and the annual conference to answer Wesley's historic questions and be approved. A celebration service where these persons will be ordained and commissioned will be announced at a later date.
The following elements of annual conference will not occur this year:
-Memorial Service: we will honor those who died this past year at 2021 Annual Conference.
-Missional offering: we encourage you to support a United-Methodist related ministry;
-UMCOR kit collection;
-Guide to Annual Conference, including insert advertisement (a pre-conference pdf packet will be sent to all clergy and lay members with necessary information);
-Guests and clergy spouses will need to utilize the live stream option.
We look forward to seeing you through Zoom webinar on Sunday, September 13, 2020 (clergy), and on Saturday, September 26, 2020 (the half-day annual conference session).
Mary Catherine Phillips
Director of Communications
It goes without saying that we are living in a new normal. Most of you know that one of our conference priorities relates to adaptive leadership in uncharted times. I never knew how prophetic that would be when those priorities were adopted in 2017.
By now the majority of local churches are holding online worship services; conducting committee meetings through Zoom; and offering virtual Sunday School; to name a few ways the church has adapted. It will not surprise you that the 2020 charge conference season will also look much different. Sometimes forced change can actually reveal new and more efficient ways of conducting church business while honoring the outstanding work of the local church. The cabinet and I also desire to focus more energy on celebrating ministry and discipleship.
Charge conference forms will be 100% online. The forms will be available no later than August 15 and will be due by October 5. An email with complete instructions for this new system will be sent to each pastor in charge. This will allow six weeks for you and your church to collect the requested information and also troubleshoot any technical questions you may have. Please note, all completed forms will be due by October 5, regardless of the date of your charge conference. Forms will not be accepted through mail.
Charge conferences will be held in a variety of formats as determined by your district superintendent. The vast majority of charge conferences will be done via zoom and clustered with other churches. Charge conferences will run October 15-November 30, and district superintendents will produce the charge conference schedules for their districts no later than September 15.
During the month of August I highly encourage you to spend intentional time working on your church leadership nominations. This is such an important disciplinary task that shapes the health of your church. Prayerfully consider how you can identify gifted members within your church; paying careful attention to diversity of race, gender, age and special abilities and gifts. This work should be finalized by the middle of September to meet the October 5 deadline.
Finally I would ask you to consider using Zoom or another online meeting platform for your fall church leadership meetings. Some of you are already utilizing this option. In the coming months churches will be prioritizing what is essential in person and what can be held online. Committee meetings are one area of the church that can successfully be held through a virtual format. The risk of gathering in person for these meetings is not justified.
I am grateful for your willingness to adapt to a new charge conference plan. There will be many questions along the way, but our hope is to provide a more positive experience that honors your time.
Bishop David Graves
Alabama-West Florida Conference