(Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon) - The Cabinet of the Alabama-West Florida Conference met recently in Montgomery. The session was devoted primarily to reviewing the overall mission and ministry of the conference. Bishop Leeland and the district superintendents were apprised of the ongoing work to develop spiritual directors to work with individual clergy and laity, as well as congregations, in areas of spiritual formation and disciplines. Reverend Dan Pezet, the Director of Congregational Vitality, shared with the gathering about his work with congregations to assess their current context in ministry in an effort to determine what steps are necessary in order to help the church take the next best step for their particular situation. Martha Rovira, Director of Hispanic Ministries, updated the superintendents on the work of our pastors who are working with our Hispanic brothers and sisters throughout our area, highlighting the increasing growth of the number of Hispanic persons in the conference as a tremendous opportunity for ministry.
Susan Hunt, Director of Mission & Advocacy, shared of the tremendous response to the "Imagine No Malaria" campaign. The goal of the conference is to save 100,000 lives on the continent of Africa. To date, the people of Alabama-West Florida have raised the funds necessary to save the lives of over 63,000 people! We are closing in on our goal and we will be identifying ways through the rest of this year to encourage individuals and congregations to support this effort in the ongoing work to eradicate malaria.
Reverend Neil McDavid, Director of Connectional Ministries, provided an update on the flood recovery in the Florida panhandle and Baldwin Co., AL following the April event. UMCOR provided a $100,000 emergency grant request and we anticipate additional resources being used to help rebuild lives and homes over the next 18 months. We continue to live into the Comprehensive Plan of Inclusiveness, seeking to start a new African American congregation each year, as well as looking for ways to begin new faith communities, either through developing campuses of existing congregations or new church starts, as these efforts prove most fruitful in helping to reach new persons.
Support for the conference connectional giving is up 1.8% year to date over 2013, continuing a trend that we have seen now for several years. This is encouraging and we are grateful to the pastors and congregations that are fully participating in the budgetary covenant set by our brothers and sisters of the annual conference. Thank you!
The Academy for Congregational Excellence, directed by Reverend Ron Ball, is planning another year of learning opportunities for clergy in the areas of preaching and leadership. Catapult will be held next month and we look forward to welcoming Dr. Jorge Acevedo as the presenter.
The Cabinet also outlined their work for the coming year, which will include training for all superintendents and extended cabinet members as coaches to work with clergy and laity in their respective congregations. This year-long process will enable us to better connect with our districts and guide leaders in our communities to help them see opportunities to connect the church with the world around them.
Additionally, the Cabinet has attended the Five Day Academy at Camp Sumatanga, devoting time to their own formation and development, seeking to model spiritual leadership for the annual conference. This was a timely gathering as there was opportunity to welcome the four new district superintendents: Dr. Larry Bryars, Reverend Sara Shaver, Reverend John Brooks, and Dr. Chris Eckert to the Cabinet who began their work on July 1st.
This new conference year is a source of hope and opportunity for our churches in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. We pray that God will bless our efforts to be faithful witnesses from the Gulf Coast to central Alabama, from the Georgia line to the Mississippi line and beyond, wherever our people go to serve throughout the world. Thank you for your leadership in your respective communities and for making a difference in the lives of those who live and call our area home!