"A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more." (Jer. 31:15)
(Bishop Paul L. Leeland) - Unbelievable. Unspeakable. Shock.
Our nation prays with the families of Newtown, Connecticut, in response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The unanswerable questions of "why", "how", and "could it have been prevented", do nothing to alleviate the sudden horror unleashed upon these innocent children. No attempt on our part will help to explain the evil in our world. Once more we see the spirit of Herod and the Death of Innocents. In this moment, we know our world is broken and far outside the Love and Will of God.
Any attempt to speak of the mystery of suffering and evil will prove to be unsatisfying. Personally, I wish Jesus had said, "Come unto me and I will spare you from these things." But He didn't. Instead He said, "I am with you always." How we need the assurance of His presence now! How we need to hear him say once more, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted; Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."
My mind races to all the people impacted at this moment: parents, grandparents, family members, those who served these children lunch at school every day, bus drivers, neighbors, and the list goes on. I find myself praying for them. And I find myself praying for the young man who committed this atrocity and his family. They also need our prayers.
I can't help but hear the words of Romans 5 that keep coming to my mind: "suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces courage, and courage produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God's love has been shed into our hearts by the Holy Spirit." It is far too early to understand the words of the Apostle Paul when he reminded us, "All things work together for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose." How can this be? Can this moment be transformed by God? Perhaps it is enough to know GOD IS WITH US even in these unspeakable moments.
I certainly know God does not desire evil and hurt. Yet when it comes He knew we needed to be guided in what to do. And so I continue to think about His Sermon on the Mount – “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted; Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God; Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
I will think on these things for a long time.
But first we cry.
A woman holds a child as people line up to enter the Newtown
United Methodist Church near the scene of an elementary
school shooting on Dec. 14 in Newtown, CT.
Photo by Douglas Healey/Getty Images.
This Christmas letter is written specifically to all who, for whatever reasons, have been pushed to the periphery of life; to those who deeply desire their lives to be better - filled with more joy; to those who long for the safety and happiness of loved ones; and to those who wish to love and be loved by others.
In the stark reality of our world, the words of Psalm 96 capture our hope: The Presence of The Lord comes, God comes to rule the earth. For this reason we can "Proclaim to the nations: 'God is King.'" This is a powerful word to all the nations of our world.
With the assurance of His coming, we also have the absolute certainty of His promises:
- To show mercy to us
- To set us free from the hands of our enemies
- To be free to worship Him without fear
- To be holy and righteous in His sight all the days of our life
Perhaps our Christmas could be an expression of our daily prayer that God might come to rule the earth, that God's will be done on earth just as it is in heaven, and that our lives reflect the Kingdom of God now because we act in faithful obedience as if we were already in heaven.
In the Presence of this Divine Shepherd, Emmanuel, God with us, we "shall not want." This is the one who "restores and renews our soul." In the Presence of this One we do not fear, no matter how dark the valley. The promises and blessings are given with such love - it is as if our "cup overflows" with thanksgiving.
St. Paul pointed out, "The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all." (Phil. 4:5,6). The Psalmist also sings, "Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One." (Psalm 12:6).
These Christmas Holy days will be celebrated in many ways: some families will be together; some individuals will be alone; and some hope to connect with loved ones across long distances. There is a yearning within each of us to be connected. This internal longing reflects the same desire God has toward us - to be connected. While the days approaching Christmas are properly moments set aside to reflect on our anticipation and waiting, it is also a time when God waits for us. God waits for us to change our hurtful habits. God waits for us to offer sincere acts of contrition. God waits for us to recognize the hunger we have for the Divine, for the Words of Life, for The Word made Flesh.
Our prayer for you is that this Christmas season offer a "time out" from the busyness of our personal routines so the Mystery of God's Spirit may fill us with newfound wisdom, compassion, generosity, forgiveness and gentleness. We truly seek the kingship of God over every decision of our lives and to walk in the way of holiness.
The Prince of Peace is among us! "In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:78,79)."
"You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before The Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins." Luke 1:76
Jesus Christ is born. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God. Come! Let us adore him.
Paul and Janet Leeland
The Alabama-West Florida Conference is pleased to announce that Heidi Mitchell has been named the new controller in the fiscal office. Mitchell has already begun her work at the conference headquarters.
Ms. Mitchell’s previous work includes employment as a fiscal officer in the non-profit sector for eight years managing a $12 million annual budget. She has five years of experience in the banking industry working as both a corporate loan examiner and branch manager for Regions Bank.
“I have a love for the non- profit sector and enjoy working in a positive environment that makes a difference in peoples’ lives,” says Mitchell.
Frank Dunnewind, AWF Treasurer states, “After an extensive search and interview process, the members of the search committee of the council on finance and administration were unanimous in selecting Heidi as the new controller for the conference. We are excited that she has chosen to join the fiscal office staff and look forward to a long, productive working relationship with her.”
She is a graduate of Auburn University, Montgomery with a bachelors degree in finance and will receive a degree in accounting this month from AUM and is currently working on completing the CPA exam.
Ms. Mitchell lives in Wetumpka and has two children, Dinah and TJ, and is the proud grandmother of Sadie Grace and Myles. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with family and long walks outdoors.
Click HERE to view PowerPoint slides from the AWF Board of Trustees’ Report to the Annual Conference on January 5, 2013
Click HERE to read a FAQ document about the purchase
The Alabama-West Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church has received a request from the Conference Board of Trustees to call a special session of Annual Conference to be held on Saturday, January 5, 2013, at Blue Lake in the gym. Lay members of the 2012 Annual Conference and all clergy are required to attend this special session. The members of Annual Conference will begin to gather at 9:30 a.m. on January 5, and the Annual Conference will be called to order at 10:00 a.m. This notification is going to all clergy and lay members to annual conference but please pass this along to your 2012 lay member to ensure they receive this.
The purpose of this special session of Annual Conference is to receive a report and recommendation from the Conference Board of Trustees to purchase and renovate a building to become our Conference United Methodist Center in Montgomery, AL. Currently, the Alabama-West Florida Conference leases space in Montgomery, AL, and this proposed change would allow the AWF Conference to own the Conference facilities.
The Conference Board of Trustees will address the location, facilities, cost and renovation, seeking approval of the Annual Conference to move to a permanent location.
The Book of Discipline 2008, par. 603.5, states, “A special session of annual conference may be held at such a time and in such a place as shall have been determined by the annual conference after consultation with the bishop, or by the bishop with the concurrence of three-fourths of the district superintendents. A special session of the annual conference shall have only such powers as are stated in the call.” Bishop Leeland, with concurrence of the district superintendents, supports the request of the Conference Board of Trustees to call this special session of Annual Conference, and the only business that will be conducted will be the reception and appropriate action on the recommendation of the Conference Trustees.
Since all business is to be concluded by noon, the Annual Conference will not be providing meals.
We look forward to this gathering and appreciate all you do in the name of Christ. Should you have questions about this session, your district superintendent or Rev. Debora Bishop would be glad to assist you.
Bishop Paul Leeland
(Bradni Belcher) - Fall Break at Martin Methodist means many things to many different folks but to some students, staff and faculty it means an opportunity to serve God and God’s creation. For seven students, a faculty member and staff member it meant traveling to Pennington, Alabama to assist with rebuilding homes destroyed by the 2012 tornados. Using the UM connectional system the Disaster Relief coordinator for Alabama-West Florida Conference made the local arrangements for the nine folks from Martin. Their task for three and half days was to mud, sand, and caulk a house that was being constructed for a gentleman by the name of Tyrone.
When the team arrived at Tyrone’s home, we couldn’t believe our eyes. On the left side of the property was a three bedroom house under construction. On the right side of the property stood a trailer with massive dents where it had been picked up by a tornado, bent in several places, and placed back on the ground. This trailer was condemned from the damage; however, it is still Tyrone’s home until all construction is completed on the new house.
For the next three days, the team laid spackle on the dry wall, let it dry, sanded it down, and the repeated the process until everything was even. By the third day, the work became very monotonous and we became a little discouraged as we realized that spackling and sanding the dry wall, as well as caulking the siding, would be all that our team would accomplish. We all thought that we were going to be making a huge difference on this house, but we soon realized that the spackling process took longer than expected. Nonetheless, Tyrone greatly appreciated the work because his new home was one step closer to being finished.
Unfortunately, we learned that Tyrone’s home may not get finished as cold weather approaches. Some of the teams from Mississippi that had been traveling to Pennington to offer their time and talents have been redirected because of Hurricane Isaac to initiate relief efforts in their home towns. We took this information to heart and have returned to campus brainstorming fundraising ideas to help get Tyrone’s house finished.
All in all, this was a very heart breaking, heartwarming, and heart fulfilling fall break trip. I learned so much about all that God can do just through a simple task of laying on dry wall mud and then taking it off. However, I urge everyone to please continue and pray for Tyrone and all people who may be affected by natural disasters.