News

New Vital Conversation Topic and Dates Released

published 7/8/2020

In Bishop David Graves’ statement released on June 4, 2020, he charged us all to listen to one another. “I am asking all people of the Alabama-West Florida Conference to listen and stand in solidarity with people of color!” So that we may live into this charge, we will be providing several opportunities to take part in two different Vital Conversations via Zoom from July 13-25.
 
As you may remember, we offered “Vital Conversations: Meaningful Conversations on Race” during the latter part of 2019 and early 2020. These gatherings allowed people of all races to come together to have open and honest dialogue about issues around race and what hinders us from having these conversations. For those who may have missed being involved in one of these gatherings, we are again offering this topic.
 
Additionally, we are introducing a new Vital Conversation–“Vital Conversations: Deconstructing White Privilege.” This session will focus its discussions around a video in which Dr. Robin DiAngelo (author of What Does It Mean to Be White? Developing White Racial Literacy and White Fragility: Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism) discusses white privilege couched in overt and implied/unspoken prejudices–also referred to as explicit and implicit biases. Dr. DiAngelo also addresses the obvious aspects of racism and white privilege.
 
Below are the dates and times that each session will be offered. Please note that two of the sessions are specifically for young adults, which in our context is ages 18-40. Each session will be led by a facilitator and will last no longer than two hours. Once you have identified the session that you would like to attend, click on the associated time to access the Zoom registration. REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. (NOTE: While both sessions are open to all, Dr. DiAngelo’s lecture used in the “Deconstructing White Privilege” session is geared towards a white audience.)

Deconstructing White Privilege
Tuesday, July 14 - Noon    5pm (Young Adults 18-40)
Thursday, July 16 - Noon   6pm
Saturday, July 18 - 10am
Tuesday, July 21 - Noon    5pm
Thursday, July 23 - Noon   5pm   6pm
Saturday, July 25 - 10am   5pm
 
Meaningful Conversations on Race
Tuesday, July 14 - 5pm
Thursday, July 16 - 6pm
Saturday, July 18 - 10am
Tuesday, July 21 - Noon    6pm (Young Adults 18-40)
Thursday, July 23 - 6pm
Saturday, July 25 - 5pm

Should you have any questions or need to cancel or change your registration, please email Celeste Eubanks at celeste@awfumc.org.
 
Thanks to the following clergy and laity who will be serving as our facilitators:
Rev. Bill Curtin, Rev. Ashley Davis, Deaconess Celeste Eubanks, Rev. Alan Gantzhorn, Rev. Andy Gartman, Michelle Hamff, Rosaland Harrison, Rev. Cheryl Hinnen, Rev. Kelli Hitchman-Craig, Rev. Sarah Jones, Rev. Dr. Holly Morales, Rev. Audrey Rodgers, Deaconess Annette Winston, Rev. Kirsten Wright, Rev. Micah Wright, and Katy Wrona
.


Dismantling Racism Resources

published 7/1/2020

On June 4, 2020, Bishop David Graves challenged the people of the Alabama-West Florida Conference to simply listen. This came after the tragic death of George Floyd and other acts of violence against people of color

The conference collectively prayed for 24 days on various social justice issues. That initiative concluded yesterday. If you missed any of the prayers on Facebook, they are all archived here. At any time you may resource the calendar and the videos. This might also be a thoughtful way your local church could participate with your own video series by using the topics assigned to each day. 

Our next step is to provide dismantling racism resources to clergy and laity in the conference. As the news continues to unfold, we are understanding more and more that it is essential to educate ourselves about racial issues. The resources are divided into listen, read and watch to meet your preferred style of learning.

Another step the conference is taking is to provide more opportunities to participate in Vital Conversations. Dates are forthcoming and will begin in mid July. These conversations explore how we strategically understand race, culture and justice. 

"As your bishop I feel called to address racist tendancies in myself and to help our conference address a systematic issue," stated Bishop Graves. "These prayers and resources are just the beginning of a long-term priority to address the injustices against people of color. I will be launching an anti-racism task force soon and look forward to seeing where this leadership team guides us in the coming months and years. These continued steps are part of the commitment to dismantling racism in the Alabama-West Florida Conference." 

Let us continue to pray for one another that we will be agents of peace, love and bold change. 


Graves Issues Update on Worship in the Alabama-West Florida Conference

published 6/25/2020

In consultation with the cabinet, I am encouraging churches to continue virtual, drive in, and outdoor worship. These worship methods have become important outreach tools and many members cannot return to in-person worship for weeks or months. For churches who have returned to in-person worship, a significant number are reporting 25 to 30% of their previous average attendance. 
 
COVID-19 will be with us in some form for months to come. This balance of virtual and in-person worship has been demanding on pastors, staff, and church leaders. All of us have been overwhelmed the last three months. Pastors and staff, especially, have had to adapt and lead in unexpected ways. They, along with church leaders, have done great work and have demonstrated tremendous effort.
 
As we move into the next few weeks, I would ask that we all practice patience, understanding, and remember we are a people of grace. When your local church COVID-19 leadership task force deems it is appropriate to return to in-person worship and other church functions, I do request that all churches follow the in-person guidelines. Please know that I pray for the people of the Alabama-West Florida several times each day. 
 
With Gratitude,
Bishop David Graves
Alabama-West Florida Conference


Teaming with Tanzania Impact Report

published 6/14/2020
The relationships that were built in March of 2018 when Bishop Graves, as well as other lay and clergy members of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference (AWFC), visited Tanzania has sprouted into a beautiful partnership.
 
June of 2019 saw the signing of a partnership agreement by Bishop David Graves and Bishop Mande Muyombo signifying officially what was already happening through shared prayers, support, and ministry between the two conferences. 2019 has seen tremendous growth in this partnership as well as in the ministry happening in Tanzania, in part because of this partnership.
 
From the beginning it was understood that in order to succeed it would be necessary to focus in on a few key areas essential to the growth of the United Methodist Church in Tanzania, as well as giving the churches of the AWFC a road map toward engaging in mutual ministry and partnership. Therefore, it is exciting to look back on 2019 and see the progress made in each of these areas.
 
Much gratitude also needs to be shared with Annual Conference leadership in Tanzania and AWFC. A special thanks to Susan Hunt, Director of Mission and Advocacy for coordination on behalf of the AWFC. Also, many thanks to the churches in both conferences that have prayed, hosted, built relationships across the globe, and contributed to see this partnership grow.
 
Church Growth:
The Body of Christ in the form of the local church is often the heartbeat of the community in urban Tanzania. Many people have moved from their villages to the city, leaving behind family, friends, and traditions. The church has the opportunity to be the family, community, and place of spiritual support and guidance that is missing. Yet, when the lives of members are unstable in so many different ways it is important to develop local churches to be able to provide that stability and support in the community.
 
The Teaming with Tanzania partnership has provided the funds to build four church buildings:
  • Nyasaka UMC
  • Dodoma FUMC
  • Nyagesi UMC
  • Igombe UMC
In total, $122,332 has been given towards church construction in Tanzania since the partnership began in 2018. Even more special is over $30,000 of that was raised by the children of the AWF Annual Conference during VBS when Teaming with Tanzania was the mission focus for over 30 churches.
 
Capacity Development:
The ministry of the local church is the ministry of the global church incarnated in each neighborhood and community. Church growth depends on having a home for the church, but it also depends on well-trained and well-equipped leaders able to carry out the work of the church all week long. The Teaming with Tanzania partnership also wanted to ensure that the capacity of the local church grew as the church grew.
 
Since 2018, four mission teams from AWFC have traveled to Tanzania. These teams have spent important time building relationships, learning from Tanzanian leadership, listening to what the church in Tanzania has to say about their own church and the global church, and building the capacity of local leaders.
 
Teams and individual volunteers have done training and worked with the church in the following ways:
  • Children’s ministry
  • Community asset-based development
  • Pastoral leadership
  • Women’s health and ministry
  • Theological training for students at Wesley College
  • Wesleyan theology
  • English training for students and faculty at Wesley College
  • Photography and communication strategies and technology to tell the story of ministry in Tanzania
 
Education and Pastor Training:
Training is important, but there is a level of formation that is needed for leaders in the church that is hard to do on a short-term mission trip. That is why the third focus of the TWT partnership is Wesley College. Wesley College, a United Methodist institution of higher education and the only UM fully residential college in East Africa, focuses on educating first-generation college students to be servant leaders in the church and community.
 
Wesley College has graduated over 50 students in the 3 years that it has been in operation and has been blessed with support from the AWFC.
 
In 2019 alone, the following was given to support the ministry of Wesley College, much of which came through the 2019 AWFC Annual Conference Offering:
  • Wesley College choir - $3,000
  • Scholarships - $15,480
  • Bibles - $2,481
  • Construction and outfitting - $57,734
  • Total = $78,695
 
Wesley College graduates have gone on to be ordained as United Methodist pastors, taken jobs and volunteered with community-based non-profits, and been accepted to the Global Mission Fellows program of Global Ministries. The fruit is already being seen and this is just the beginning.
 
2020 and 2021 will see even more being done through this partnership. It is expected that three to four conference mission teams will be going to Tanzania in 2021. There is a need for more churches to partner with faith communities in Tanzania to see land purchased for church plants, church buildings constructed, and parsonages built. Wesley College is also looking at ways to move forward in expanding programs and starting construction on permanent facilities.
 
All of this will be possible through God’s provision and the partnership of steadfast and faithful Christians in both conferences.
 
Contact your area champion if your church wants to get involved. Click here for video
 

Bishops call on church to act to end racism

published 6/8/2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the aftermath of police killings of unarmed Black people, the bishops of The United Methodist Church today called on all United Methodists to act now by using their voices, pens, feet and hearts to end racism.
 
In a statement released by Council of Bishops President Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, the bishops are urging every United Methodist to reclaim their baptismal vows to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
 
“We ask every United Methodist to name the egregious sin of racism and white supremacy and join together to take a stand against the oppression and injustice that is killing persons of color,” the statement said.
 
The bishops said they are joining with other church leaders and boards and agencies of the United Methodist Church to add strength to the message that “we will no longer remain silent nor complicit but must act now!”   
 
As part of the that pledge, for at least the next 30 day, all United Methodists everywhere are asked to join in prayer at 8:46 a.m. and p.m. for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the time the officer held his knee on George Floyd’s neck.  “Pray for all persons of color who suffer at the hands of injustice and oppression.  Pray for our church as we take a stand against racism.”
 
Click here to read the full statement from the Council of Bishops.
 

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