Alabama Rural Ministry Hosts Works Teams Over Summer Break

published 7/13/2018
Over the past five weeks (and two more to go), Alabama Rural Ministry (ARM) has hosted several youth mission teams engaged in home repair and children’s ministry. The following churches from our Annual Conference have sent teams: Demopolis UMC, Thomasville UMC, Tallassee UMC, Trinity UMC-Fort Walton, Auburn UMC and Mary Esther UMC. ARM also had teams from our friends in North Alabama: Fayette UMC, Gracepoint from Mt. Olive (Birmingham) and Birmingham Cooperative (Highlands UMC). Out of state teams have come from Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Texas. The twelve mission interns hosting the teams are engaged in their college ministries and five are part of Wesley Foundations! The connectional system is certainly at work.

The teams have served with many families including Ms. Morris, who uses a motorized scooter for mobility. Teams remodeled her bathroom and installed a walk-in tub and removed the porcelain freestanding tub, which was unusable. Her joy and celebration as she glorified God cannot be explained enough. Ms. White shares her dream of ministering to children at the local school and is a retired educator. However, the leaks in her roof were diverting her financial resources and creating anxiety. Now she can focus on her own ministry. Ms. Johnson in Livingston loves talking with the teams and sharing her rich faith. Those groups are building a pole barn roof over her mobile home!

Another aspect of the ARM summer ministry is the day camp where several children from Tuskegee and Livingston are reached each day. They are learning how each one is God’s masterpiece and how He uses our good works for His glory. Mission teams teach Bible stories, sing/dance, do arts and crafts, read engaging stories with the kids each day and so much more. These children get heavenly doses of love, mercy, and compassion each day as they dream about how God can use them.

So far it has been an amazing summer! ARM invites you to join them in the future as they develop spiritual leaders transforming our communities as we create sustainable homes and strengthen families for God’s glory!

Students Discern Call to Ministry in HLA 2018

published 7/11/2018

Montgomery, Ala.—Twenty-one high school students from 15 regional churches participated in the Huntingdon Leadership Academy at Huntingdon College, June 24–29.  The students, from rising high school sophomores to seniors, devoted their week to vocational discernment. Most of the students expressed feeling called to ordained or lay ministry vocations. Others were considering careers in nursing, teaching, or engineering, as examples, but wanted to stay connected to their faith communities and to their call to follow Christ. 

During the six-day program, students worshiped in morning chapel and evening contemporary services, attended academic lectures led by seminary and Huntingdon College professors, explored the fullness of the Church by visiting organizations and ministries in the River Region, and discussed their experiences in small groups led by Huntingdon College student mentors. This was the third year for the program.

The following students attended HLA 2018:

  • John Farish Ard, Monroeville, Ala., First United Methodist Church-Monroeville
  • Jamie Berry, Headland, Ala., Headland United Methodist Church
  • Nikki Carswell, Eclectic, Ala., Eclectic United Methodist Church
  • Ford Chittom, Selma, Ala., First Baptist Church-Selma
  • Mary Crenshaw, Greenville, Ala., Greenville First United Methodist Church
  • Meredith Farrow, Auburn, Ala., Auburn United Methodist Church
  • Keira Gamble, Enterprise, Ala., Heritage United Methodist Church
  • Stef Grim, Enterprise, Ala., Heritage United Methodist Church
  • Gabi Houston, Anniston, Ala., Anniston First United Methodist Church
  • Laura Grace King, Monroeville, Ala., First United Methodist Church-Monroeville
  • Joya Kiwele, Eclectic, Ala., Eclectic United Methodist Church
  • Thomas LaPlante, Enterprise, Ala., Heritage United Methodist Church
  • Rhianna Lumpkin, Eclectic, Ala., Eclectic United Methodist Church
  • Brasher Miller, Montgomery, Ala., Aldersgate United Methodist Church
  • Anna Kate Moorer, Monroeville, Ala., First United Methodist Church-Monroeville
  • Reese Owen, Wetumpka, Ala., Mulder United Methodist Church
  • Hannah Sellers, Andalusia, Ala., Andalusia First United Methodist Church
  • James Streit, Pensacola, Fla., St. Luke UMC
  • Tayla Thompson, Headland, Ala., Headland United Methodist Church
  • Cassidy Tillman, Andalusia, Ala., Andalusia First United Methodist Church
  • Quay Turner, Wetumpka, Ala., Grace Baptist Church

The Rev. Macon Armistead directs the Huntingdon Leadership Academy, working with clergy and laity in the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church and with faculty and staff at  Huntingdon College. Armistead graduated from Huntingdon in 2014 with a degree in youth ministry and from Duke Divinity School in 2017 with a Master of Divinity degree. A commissioned deacon in the UMC, Armistead serves both Huntingdon and the Alabama-West Florida Conference by connecting students and churches to the program. HLA is funded almost entirely by the Lilly Endowment, Inc. Students and sponsoring churches partner to pay $100 per participant for the week-long experience. 

HLA summer staff included Huntingdon students and recent graduates: Eliza Langille, director’s assistant; Morgan Clausell, programming; Meagan Clausell, logistics; Milan Branch, programming; Miles Barnhardt, worship; Diamond Branch, logistics; Libby Varnum, programming; Chase McKoon, logistics; Colleen Collins, worship; Justala Simpson, logistics; Lucy Burch, programming; Scott Aspden, worship; Kerigan Pickett, communications; Mary Stanley, communications; and Laura Vermillion, worship.

Huntingdon faculty and staff, as well as ministers from the region, assisted with the program, including The Rev. J. Cameron West, president of the College; the Rev. Rhett Butler, Huntingdon College chaplain; Duke Divinity Theologian-in-Residence Dr. Valerie Cooper; Huntingdon College Department of Religion faculty, the Rev. Dr. C. Jason Borders, the Rev. Dr. Sarah Sours, and the Rev. Dr. Jimmy Jeffcoat; guest preachers the Rev. Robin Wilson and the Rev. Patrick Hitchman-Craig, both of Opelika First UMC, and Bishop David Graves, a Huntingdon trustee; and guest panelists the Rev. Richard Williams (Aldersgate UMC), the Rev. Tony Jeck (Auburn Wesley and QuadW), Celeste Eubanks (Conference Office), the Rev. Emily Dueitt Kincaid (Orange Beach UMC), the Rev. Audrey Rodgers (Tuskegee Wesley), and Jeff Wilson (Blue Lake Camp).

Huntingdon College is an institution with a rich liberal arts tradition that is grounded in the Judeo-Christian heritage of the United Methodist Church. The College embraces the development and growth of its students in faith, wisdom, and service, providing a solid foundation that will enable them to respond to the needs of today’s global and complex world.

A Message from Bishop Graves to all AWF Clergy and Lay Members to Annual Conference

published 7/9/2018

To the Clergy and Lay Members of the Alabama-West Florida Conference:
As we embark on a new conference year, I want to inform you of the status of the Commission on the Way Forward and Council of Bishops’ Report that was to be made public on July 8th. I have communicated this date to you months ago and at our recent Annual Conference Session. Bishops all across the world did the same. July 8th has now come and gone and we have no report. I was officially informed this past Friday, July 6th that the report would be delayed. Translating it into four different languages is the main reason being given for the delay. In our communication, we were told the delay might be in the three- to six-week time frame.
Rev. Gary Graves, General Conference Secretary for the United Methodist Church, may be releasing a news report on this matter, but I want you to know what I have been told. Transparency is very important to me and must pervade our work together in this team ministry effort. Be assured that as I know more, I will pass along the information to you. I am aware that the uncertainty of this timeline is frustrating.
In the meantime, I encourage all of us to keep focused on our mission of making disciples. What a wonderful summer we have experienced in this conference with Vacation Bible Schools, youth retreats, mission teams traveling all over the world and people coming to know Christ as their Lord and Savior.
I am looking forward to preaching a three-day revival at Adams Chapel in the Dothan District beginning this Sunday, July 15th. If you are in the area, I encourage you to join us.
I am praying for you and your ministry and appreciate all you do.

Bishop David Graves
Resident Bishop
Alabama-West Florida Conference

A Statement from Bishop David Graves

published 6/28/2018

At this time, the Alabama-West Florida Conference has received numerous complaints related to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The United Methodist Book of Discipline outlines how these complaints against a lay church member will be handled at the local church and district level in the 2700 paragraphs. While the complaint process has been time consuming for the local church, district and conference, I am diligently praying for all involved over this significant issue. I am grateful for the executive order keeping families together. May God make us all instruments of peace. 

Bishop David W. Graves
Resident Bishop
Alabama-West Florida Conference 

More Than Conquerors: Elderly outreach thrives at New Hope UMC

published 6/26/2018
(Kari Barlow for the AWF) - Facing old age can be frightening, but at New Hope UMC in Theodore, the congregation’s most senior members—and the people who serve them—have become More Than Conquerors.
That’s the name of the outreach ministry that formed in 2015 after Pastor Vann Bush enlisted the help of church member Sharron Larimer to better serve the church’s shut-ins.
“She just took the ball and ran with it, and it’s been such a blessing!” Bush said.
Like many churches today, New Hope has an increasing number of its senior members grow too old and frail to attend regularly. For years, they taught Sunday school classes, sang in choirs, decorated sanctuaries and greeted visitors at services, but they now live in nursing homes and other facilities, separate and apart from all they once knew.
But thanks to Larimer, her husband, Raliegh, and roughly a dozen other volunteers, More Than Conquerors is reconnecting these New Hope members—and many others—to God’s family.
“We are more than conquerors because God loves us that much,” Larimer said. “Every one of us. … God doesn’t want anyone to feel abandoned.”
The vibrant and self-sustaining ministry performs two concerts a month at multiple nursing homes across the Mobile area and also hosts a Restore My Soul Craft Day once a month at various other senior living facilities.
“The more you see them, the more you realize how lonely they must feel,” Larimer said. “It’s given us all a sense of purpose. We’ve got to be God’s hands and feet and eyes and ears. We are there to really look in their eyes and see what they need.”
The group, mostly comprised of retired folks, includes a guitar player, several practiced vocalists and a Christian humorist who always warms up the crowd with a few jokes. They sing old gospel hymns, lead prayers, hand out flowers and other trinkets, read to residents and sometimes simply sit quietly and keep them company.
“They really love the music at the nursing homes,” Larimer said. “They’re still singing when we leave.”
Ministering to the elderly—particularly those who are no longer able to communicate—is sometimes heartbreaking, but the work reminds Larimer that God is still very much at work in our lives—no matter our age.
“It’s just shown me that it’s not over until it’s over,” she said. “These people, even if they can’t say anything, you know a soul is in there. … They know our faces, and when they smile, that’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
Larimer said More Than Conquerors makes it clear to every facility that it’s there to share Jesus Christ with the residents, love them and make their lives more comfortable.
“We are doing this for God Almighty,” Larimer said. “Even the employees will seek us out for prayer, so we know they know that’s why we’re there.”

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