Know Your DS: Rev. Sara Shaver

published 7/24/2014

Many of you will remember the spotlight on our eight district superintendents. The next six editions of the NewsCONNECTION will feature a district superintendent that has not yet been featured before. This edition's spotlight is on Rev. Sara Shaver, Dothan District Superintendent. 

What Brought You to the Ministry?
I began my journey to the ordained ministry by working at Dalraida UMC as the Director of Christian Education. During that time is when God called me to move toward ordination.

The Best Book I’ve Read About Methodism Is:
I’m assuming you mean other than the church cookbooks. Maddox’s book Responsible Grace is probably the one that I would recommend.

Favorite Vacation Destination:
I must confess I am not a big Disney World fan. Living away from family most vacations are spent visiting them but I do like time on the beach.

Instead of being a minister, I almost was...
A Special Education teacher

One of the goals for my district is to:
Find my way around and eat at every restaurant in Dothan. Living in Monroeville for four years I have been restaurant challenged. Seriously, I hope and pray that as I get to know the clergy and laity we will find ways to worship and study together as well as provide a support network for the clergy.

What is one challenge you see for your district:
Besides dealing with me? Seriously, I haven’t been here long enough to answer this but so far I have been delighted at the joy and genuine warmth I have experienced.

What do you like best about serving the AWF Conference?
While I still sing Rocky Top in the fall, AWF has become home for me. I like serving with my family.

What do you do in your free time.........the little there is?
I do a little quilting

Most people don’t know that I can:
I wish I had a hidden talent.

The most important thing I’ve learned since my first appointment is:
The old saying “you can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time but you cannot please all of the people all of the time” is very, very true.


Strong Support Moves Alabama-West Florida Toward Imagine No Malaria Goal

published 7/17/2014

United Methodists in Alabama-West Florida had cause to celebrate at their annual gathering this year: An outpouring of grass-roots support has put them at almost 60 percent of a $1 million goal for Imagine No Malaria.

Earlier this year, Bishop Paul L. Leeland had announced an initiative to save 100,000 lives through Imagine No Malaria, The United Methodist Church’s campaign to help eradicate deaths in Africa from the mosquito-borne disease.

At the annual gathering in June in Montgomery, Ala., members set a record for the opening worship missional offering, contributing $322,600. The Alabama-West Florida Conference estimates that it will have saved 57,000 lives so far through its support of the campaign.

Bishop Leeland noted the impact of raising $10 to save a life in an Easter message to members.

“This $10 aids education, health clinics, and nets to eliminate malaria,” he said. “It is not difficult to find members of our congregations that can still remember when malaria was a serious threat in the United States in the 1940s and 1950s. We eliminated malaria here and we can do something mighty in our world by eliminating malaria elsewhere.”

For the campaign, each local church was provided a goal based on membership, and larger district goals were also set. The eight districts formed teams to lead a variety of efforts.

The Montgomery-Prattville District challenged its members to consider a Lenten fast in which they would give up something routine (a meal, coffee, etc.) that would cost around $10. The district also held Shoot for Malaria events for children and youth at area churches, and the young people collected pledges based on the number of free-throw baskets shot.

The Baypines District held a golf tournament in which one participant shot a hole in one. He gave the reward back to the Imagine No Malaria offering.

Local churches came up with hundreds of ways to reach their members. Children got involved by setting up lemonade stands and donating their piggybanks. A man sold his late wife's artwork and gave the proceeds to Imagine No Malaria. One church set up a crib in the sanctuary with netting over it, and gave each member a card with netting material tied to it. Other churches held cookouts and pancake suppers.

During the middle of the initiative, extreme flooding hit the Baypines and Pensacola districts, and the conference shifted its focus to respond to those in need. As a result, Alabama-West Florida has extended its timeline for reaching the goal of saving 100,000 lives to the end of the year.

To follow progress as it continues, visit

*Phillips is director of communations for the Alabama-West Florida Conference.


Texas Bishops Respond to Border Crisis in Joint Letter to all Texas Methodists

published 7/17/2014

The bishops of the five Texas Annual Conferences have issued a letter to all Texas Methodists in response to the humanitarian crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Bishops’ prayer is that the letter be shared with local churches throughout the state in myriad ways – such as
  1. included in local church newsletters and on websites and social media pages;
  2. incorporated  into sermons and/or worship liturgy; and
  3. offered up to small groups and Bible studies to focus on the cited texts.
There is also the hope that church mission teams will find it helpful in planning a faithful response to the needs of these children at our doorstep. All churches and members of the Central Texas Conference are invited to share this pastoral letter and engage in holy conferencing with your church and community. A digital version of the letter is available here.

To learn more about the ongoing crisis along our southern border, visit and/or see Bishop Lowry’s July 11 blog post, A Christian Response to the Border Crisis.

The  Exccutive Committee of the Council of Bishops has also issued a statement calling for compassion and prayer in response to the border crisis. You can access the Council of Bishops' statement here.

June 18, 2014, Flood Update

published 6/19/2014

Below is a recap from Amelia Fletcher, AWF Conference Disaster Response Coordinator.  


Baldwin County has set up a Long Term Recovery operation with officers. An office has been set up at Prodisee Pantry in Spanish Fort. Assessment and evaluation of information is currently being done. Lutheran Disaster has loaned us an office/volunteer manager for three to four weeks. 

Case management will be handled by the current service agencies. ALVOAD has sent information on the opening of the CAN (coordinated assistance network) portal.

Have interviewed a volunteer management person, Kathyrn Giles from the Spanish Fort UMC. She would begin in late July or August. Depending on number of homes and funding, this might be a part-time position.

I am seeking a construction supervisor/site manager and I will manage the oversite of the Alabama piece.

Four churches in Baldwin Co have offered to host volunteers: Fairhope, Foley, Rosinton, Gulf Shores.

Next LTR meeting June 24.

  • FEMA reported numbers in Baldwin:  $1,048,028, 987 in unmet needs (includes, home repair, rental, replacement and person property award to 1,237 home owners, 616 renters, 622 mobile homes, 987 homes.
  • 1,826 are SBA ineligible
  • 29 inspected homeowners –not insured

I'll be requesting grant money for Baldwin after definitive number of homes and scope of work established.


We are currently working in partnership with a five-county committee: Escambia, Jackson, Okaloosa, Walton, Santa Rosa. In the Pensacola area we are communicating with BRACE (Be Ready Alliance), and on the state level the FLVOAD.

FEMA registrations received as June 18:

Registrations Received as of June 18, 2014                                                                           13,571           

Disbursed Eligible Housing Program Assistance                                                                     $25,612,621

Disbursed Other Needs Assistance                                                                                             $5,015,101

Small Business Administration Home Load Applications Returned                                      1,804

Small Business Administration Home Loan Applications Approved                                      692

Small Business Administration Home Loans Approved                                                          $29,706,000



Cumulative Applications

HA Amount

ONA Amount

Maximum Grant

Escambia (County)





Jackson (County)





Okaloosa (County)





Santa Rosa (County)





Walton (County)











Gulf Breeze UMC has offered office space to the Conference to use as a hub for our operations. A construction supervisor has been interviewed as well as a case manager. Both look promising. Actively seeking an executive supervisor and volunteer manager. Will meet with Gulf Breeze again after the 4th.

Greg Forrester (Assistant General Secretary, UMCOR US Disaster Response) and I attended the first regional meeting of agencies in Milton and then visited Gulf Breeze. We  spent a couple of hours in discussion with Pastor Shawn York who has managed the response in GB. It was a timely and productive visit.

Volunteer hosts sites are currently Gulf Breeze and Warrington. Contact with other district churches will be conducted by email first, then phone. It is probable that the shower trailer will go to the Pensacola District at the end of the summer. Currently it is committed to Dauphin Way in Mobile for two weeks and to ARM through August. This should be just the right timing for need. Warrington has agreed to place the trailer and host.

A request for volunteers has been issued to the Florida Conference and to SEJ UMVIM for Washington and Walton Counties. Pam Garrison of the Florida Conference has been a wonderful resource and has volunteers who want to serve in state. We are working with Gabe Tishcler (Catholic Disaster) and Hammers and Hearts. Housing and coordination is being done through these groups established with the area floods of 2013. I will incorporate funding and a case manager for this area so that our support is not localized to Pensacola area.

I have been in conversation with UMCOR about case management  training (tentatively July 7-9) and I will be working on the grant proposal with Cathy Earl of UMCOR on Friday morning. 

I welcome your input on any of these items and plans.


Poll: Making disciples tops United Methodists priorities; sexuality ranks low

published 6/5/2014

June 4, 2014

Poll: Making disciples tops United Methodists’ priorities; sexuality ranks low
More than 90 percent of members say church shouldn’t split over issue

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—A new poll of United Methodists in the United States shows that issues related to human sexuality rank significantly lower than other concerns, and members want the church to engage on this issue and bring a positive perspective to the discussion.  

Creating disciples of Christ, spiritual growth and youth involvement are among the top priorities for U.S. church members, according to the survey, commissioned by United Methodist Communications. The research is based on a May 30-June 1 survey of United Methodist members in the United States. The research was conducted by Corporate Research of Greensboro, N.C., and Research Now of Dallas. It had a 4.4 percent margin of error.

“We found that regardless of a person’s position on homosexuality, members felt strongly that the church could offer a positive and different voice to the broader conversation occurring in society today,” said John Deuterman, president of Corporate Research. “They overwhelmingly reject the idea that the disagreements over this issue were justification for splitting the church.”

Seventy-six percent of members said the church “should engage and bring positive perspective” to society’s discussion of issues related to sexuality.

More than 90 percent of respondents said The United Methodist Church should not split over issues related to human sexuality. Sixty-three percent said the issue of sexual orientation and same-gender marriage is “diverting the church from more important things.” They ranked it 8th in importance among issues facing the church today.

The most important issues, according to members, are creating disciples of Christ (39 percent of respondents ranked it as first or second in importance); youth involvement (27 percent); members’ spiritual growth (24 percent); decline in membership (19 percent); poverty (17 percent); children at risk (17 percent); and social injustice (16 percent). Sexual orientation and same-gender marriage drew 11 percent.

“This poll shows what really matters to the members of The United Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, general secretary of United Methodist Communications. “It also clarifies that the people in the pews are more concerned about faithful living and changing lives for Christ than they are about some of the other issues that we hear so much about.”

The poll is helpful as The United Methodist Church looks ahead to its legislative assembly in 2016, Hollon said. “As the church wrestles with issues related to human sexuality leading up to 2016, this is a hopeful reminder that our connection is strong and that people in the pews are neither ignoring this discussion nor letting it distract from our effort to answer Christ’s call.”


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