Alabama-West Florida Leads The Academy for Spiritual Formation

published 5/11/2012

(Pat Luna) - Every three years the Upper Room offers The Academy for Spiritual Formation in the Southeast Jurisdiction. Three of the six members of the leadership team are from AWF: Pat Luna (Point Washington UMC) is the Retreat Leader. Dr. Robbins Sims (FUMC-Eufaula) is the Theologian. Kathy Norberg (Gulf Breeze UMC) is the Hospitality Coordinator. Minta McDavid, Chair of the AWF Spiritual Formation team said "This is very exciting to have so many people from AWF to lead this important ministry. The Academy experience is a life transforming one and one I would hope all in our conference could have if and when they feel that deep yearning and call to attend."

The Academy is a two-year intentional journey of spiritual formation that was started nearly 30 years ago by a group of people including Danny Morris, Bishop Rueben Job, Glenn Hinson, Douglas Steere, Wendy Wright, John Mogabgab and Gerald May. The Academy is a ecumenical, covenantal community where the participants seek a deeper relationship with God as they grow in the image of Christ for the sake of others. Participants meet at Camp Sumatanga for five days each quarter for two-years. Clergy and laity are selected to be a part of the Academy from all over the country.

A typical day includes worship, meditation and reflection, covenant group meetings, and morning and afternoon curriculum sessions with faculty. During each two-year academy, a total of sixteen courses are offered. These courses, taught by outstanding scholars and leaders in today's church, offer insights into the history and practices of Christian Spirituality. Over the course of the two years, two topics per session are examined. Topics include Spirituality of the Psalms, Early Christian Spirituality, Healing and Wholeness, Prayer and many more. Faculty for Academy #34 includes Roberta Bondi, Bob Mulholland, Don Sailers, Robert Benson, Margaret Guenther, Elaine Heath, and UMC Bishop Jung.

The next Academy for Spiritual Formation begins July 31, 2012. A number of people from AWF have already been selected to participate. Space is filling fast so if you are interested in participating apply soon! For more information, visit or contact Pat Luna at or 334-262-9440.


From left to right Pat Luna (AWF), Kathy Norberg (AWF), Robbins Sims (AWF), Irene Brownlee (MS), Linda Beasley (LA) and Blake Kendrick (NC).

Furr Challenges General Conference Through Personal Testimony

published 4/25/2012

(Montgomery, AL) - The 2012 General Conference of the United Methodist reconvened this morning at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, FL by starting the day off with several challenging and energetic messages. Bishop Peter D. Weaver of the Boston Episcopal Area gave the first of five addresses and challenged the conference to focus on discipleship instead of membership in a powerful way that resonated with many. Following his address, three laity addresses were given by Betty Katiya, Dr. Steve Furr and Amory Peck.

Dr. Furr, a resident of Jackson, AL and the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church lay leader, incorporated a video presentation of his personal account of weight loss and transformation into leading a healthy lifestyle. Furr realized that when his wedding band no longer fit, it was time to make a change. Furr is a family practitioner physician in Jackson and explained that his patients were able to better follow his medical advice by him leading as an example. The video also showed his daily routine of work, family and exercise all blended in an appropriate fashion. He expressed in his address that, "Being or living a sermon is a whole different matter. A part of me had to die so the real me could live. I was desecrating the temple God has given me. I had to decide to BE a sermon." As God tells his followers our bodies are a temple, Furr said, "my personal temple was in disarray." At one point, Dr. Furr was 5'6", 236 pounds. He now proudly weighs in under 175 pounds. He concluded by saying that, "Jesus Christ is the best personal trainer ever."

Furr made a poignant statement in saying, "You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips." Rev. Rurel Ausley, a member of the Alabama-West Florida Conference delegation, commented on Dr. Furr's statement by saying, "Steve masterfully articulated his physical transformation into a spiritual parable for personal transformation in Christ. Inspiring and at times tearing up, Dr. Furr electrified the General Conference and made all of Alabama-West Florida burst with pride."

To see Dr. Furr's video testimony, click here. The full address is archived here

After the three laity addresses were given, Krin Ali delivered an impressive young people's address using the words, "Charged, Rooted and United" as his theme.

General Conference is the top policy-making body of the international United Methodist Church and is the only body that officially speaks for the denomination. It meets on a "quadrennial basis," or ever four years. During the session, delegates (half clergy, half laity) elected by their annual conferences and specialized bodies, will revise the Book of Discipline, which is the law and doctrine of the United Methodist Church.

The Alabama-West Florida Conference includes the geographical area of south and central Alabama and northwest Florida. There are over eight million United Methodists residing in the United States. More than 146,000 United Methodists reside in the Alabama-West Florida Conference.

For additional information on General Conference, visit For Alabama-West Florida Conference information, visit



 Photo by UMNS Photographer, Mike DuBose

United Methodist Children's Home Announces New President/CEO

published 4/18/2012

The board of directors of the United Methodist Children’s Home is announcing the appointment of Dr. K. Blake Horne as the agency’s new President/CEO effective May 16th, 2012.

“I am truly humbled to have the privilege of serving the children and families of Alabama and northwest Florida through the United Methodist Children’s Home,” said Horne. “My first counseling-related position was with the Methodist Home for Children and Youth of the South Georgia Conference. Leaving to further my education was a very difficult decision, as I don’t believe I have ever felt the presence of Christ more in my work. The United Methodist Children’s Home has a rich history of following the example of Christ by caring for all God’s children, and an even more promising future. I look forward to traveling extensively throughout these great conferences of United Methodism to tell the compelling story of a ministry that stole my heart many years ago.”

A native of Hawkinsville, GA, Dr. Horne has served as the Executive Director of The Samaritan Counseling Center since it was founded in 1999 by First United Methodist Church of Montgomery. Under his leadership, The Samaritan Counseling Center has grown from its very beginnings into one of the largest private providers of mental health services in Alabama, extending the ministries of congregations by providing approximately 8,000 hours of counseling, mediation, and educational services to children, adolescents, adults, and families on an annual basis. Under Horne the center also developed and holds the River Region Ethics in Business and Public Service Awards in cooperation with Auburn University Montgomery.

UMCH Board Chair Terry McCartney stated, "The Board is pleased and excited to have Dr. Horne serve as our President/CEO. Dr. Horne exceeds the criteria set for this position and has the skill set and personal traits to be an inspirational leader in this ministry’s efforts to continue to meet the needs of children and families in Alabama and northwest Florida."

Horne holds degrees from Mercer University (B.A. – Christianity), Mercer University School of Medicine (Master of Family Therapy), and Florida State University (Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy). He also completed a three year course of post-doctoral study at the Georgetown Family Center in Washington, D.C., from 2004-2007.

He is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery and First United Methodist Church of Montgomery where he serves on the Stewardship Leadership Team. He currently serves on the board of directors for Hospice of Montgomery and the Alabama Board of Examiners in Marriage and Family Therapy. He has been married since 1998 to the former Tracy Prudames of Atlanta, GA, who is a Sr. Financial Advisor with Merrill Lynch of Montgomery. The Hornes have two daughters, Brooke (9) and Arden (5).

The United Methodist Children’s Home has helped to transform thousands of lives since 1890. Abused, neglected, and traumatized children, young mothers, and struggling families find comfort and safety through our residential group homes, foster care programs, and family preservation services.
Our mission: To follow the example of Christ by embracing all God’s children… one child, one family at a time.



Dothan First Grocery Shops for Community

published 4/16/2012

(Rev. Rudy Heintzelman, Executive Pastor of First UMC of Dothan) - As gas prices continue on the rise, many of the working poor in our community have to make the hard decision to buy food or put fuel in their auto to get to work. If they do not go to work, they get no money. It certainly is a Catch-22 situation for them. Of course, we also know that the price of groceries has gone up dramatically over the last few months.

Because of this there has been a marked increase in the number of people who literally need to supplement the food resources for their families. A lay person in the church came up with an idea to simply put a paper grocery sack with a list of non-perishable items needed to be distributed to our community. Our members could then go out to the grocery store, purchase items that were requested and bring it back to the church the following Sunday and place behind their cars (yes, we did pray for nice weather). A team from our Community Outreach Ministry Team would then collect the groceries.

On Palm Sunday we placed approximately 600 bags on the windshields of our members. On Easter Sunday the parking lot was just lined with bags behind cars filled with groceries to be distributed to those in need in our community. There were approximately 400 bags returned. Those cars that did not have a bag behind it were given another bag to be brought back the following Sunday.

Many families, especially families with small children, shared how appreciative they were for the opportunity to use this as a teaching opportunity for their children to serve those in need.


Is There a Difference Between Mission and Ministry?

published 4/12/2012

(Susan Hunt) - I hear a lot of people in churches use these terms – Mission and Ministry – interchangeably. However, after years of Mission work and church work, these have come to be two different things for me. There is not truly a black-and-white distinction between what is “ministry” and what is “Mission;” it’s more on a graduated scale. But the concepts of the two – and how we practice them within the church – are different.

Mission, in my understanding, is really God’s Mission: The redemption of the world. We were created to be in perfect relationship with him, but we do fall short. The Church is to be God’s partners in that Mission by proclaiming the Kingdom of God in both word and deed. We are to follow Jesus’ example of healing, feeding, teaching and preaching, especially to those who are not already within the church.

Ministry, on the other hand, is the work of the church – the activities that keep us going. Ministries provide a very important function within the church, but more for those who are already there or visiting. These are very necessary for the church to function through worship, administration, programming, maintenance, teaching and more.

The fine line between the two comes into play when we think of the people who are not yet followers of Jesus Christ but do visit or attend church. Some of our church ministries can be instrumental for helping people to become disciples. That nuance is not really where I am focusing my thoughts for this piece. Ministries of a church are certainly necessary and good, so please keep doing them.

Where the distinction is important, however, is when churches believe that their ministries (Bible studies, Sunday School, etc) are all that the church needs to be doing. Instead, if we follow both the example of Jesus and John Wesley, we are to be out in the world reaching out to those who do not know the loving presence of Jesus Christ in their lives.

The difference between mission and ministry reflects an internally focused church and an externally focused church. Where does your church focus your time and efforts? For the people who are already there, or on the people who still need to find their place there? If it’s only on the people who are already there, your church is missing out on a huge part of what discipleship means.

When we become disciples, our calling does not end there. Part of being a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ is making new disciples. And making new disciples requires going outside the church. Even John Wesley went to where the people were – he preached in the fields and factories where the masses were, just as Jesus did. Just see the example in Mark 6:30-44, where Jesus fed the 5,000. He had been spending time with just his 12 disciples, but when he saw the masses he had compassion on them and fed them all. Jesus met their physical needs in that miracle; through it he was also able to demonstrate the Glory of God.

I heard of a small church that started off with a ministry inside their church, but through God’s Grace it became a Mission, even if by accident. There were one or two young single mothers in this church, and the women’s group noticed that these young mothers needed help. Not completely with all the right motivations, the women’s group started a ministry in which the older women became “surrogate grandmothers.” The women cooked weekly meals, helped out with fun activities for the children, and held a Sunday school day a week that allowed the young moms to have a few hours away. Essentially, each young mom had a church “grandmother.” The grandmothers would also meet weekly to pray for the families and once a month, all the kids, moms and grandmothers would gather for a meal and Bible study.

Before long, another single mom who lived not far from the church – who had never attended there or any church – heard about what the church was doing for these moms in the church. She became a part of this program, too. It didn’t take too much longer for the ministry to grow and transform to include even more mothers from the neighborhood. It transformed the church and became a Mission because they came to realize that this was an opportunity for the church to share the love and hope of Jesus Christ with many people in their community. It was no longer a ministry within the church for themselves only. Instead, they poured themselves out to others for the sake of the Gospel. This surrogate grandmothers mission brought several new families into the church and, more importantly, into the Kingdom of God.

Take a moment to reflect on your own church’s programming. Who are the main beneficiaries? Your own members? Or those who are not yet members or may never be members? There are always more people who need to know the loving grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What are you doing to reach out to them?


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