(Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon) - Bishop Paul Leeland and members of the Cabinet met in a regularly scheduled session recently in Montgomery, Alabama. We celebrate the work of our congregations and conference ministries in the efforts to seek disciples of Jesus Christ throughout our geographic area and beyond. Together, we see the collective ministry of the Annual Conference moving forward in many areas. As part of our work, we reflected on the various groups providing leadership in their particular context of the overall Ministry Action Plan for Alabama-West Florida. We noted that there is an increased effort to tell stories of vital ministry occurring in our churches. We see the development of the Academy for Congregational Excellence, efforts on New Church Development and Revitalization, a number of Incubator Groups focusing on areas such as discipleship, prayer, and intervention in distressed congregations all contributing to an emphasis on helping local congregations fulfill the mission of the church. We are grateful for the call of the church to be in mission through expressions such as Catapult. We are also focusing intently on particular regions of the Annual Conference in an effort to "turn around" congregations and increase our United Methodist presence in places like Geneva Co., AL., among others.
In order to create an environment conducive to allowing the work of ministry to flourish, the Cabinet reaffirmed its desire to operate with the greatest consistency, transparency, and communication possible. With Wesley's "Three Simple Rules" guiding our work, we desire to continue in the on-going "right-sizing" and reallocation of resources that have become necessary following the economic difficulties of recent years, striving for greater alignment and fruitfulness, taking steps to close churches where mission has been lost, starting new faith communities, and moving toward merger and / or revitalization where appropriate.
The Cabinet embraced the work of the Task Force on Inclusiveness, particularly for African-American congregations but for all racial / ethnic communities as a Cabinet policy that seeks for congregations to reflect the neighborhoods they serve.
We also spent time in conversation about the particularities of the geographic bounds of the conference noting cultural and social differences found in various regions of central and south Alabama, as well as northwest Florida and the implications these differences have on the ministry we seek to practice across the conference. Initial discussions were also held about ways we might be able to coordinate our work around congregational affinity, rather than strictly on geography, as technology and electronic communication have made significant changes in the ways we relate to one another.
Overall, we celebrate that the financial environment for our congregations and the annual conference continues to show improvement. We know this has been a tepid recovery fraught with challenges at every level of the church and we are grateful to the congregations across Alabama-West Florida that have kept faith with the covenant set by our brothers and sisters across the conference through the contributions toward missional giving. We also are encouraged by those congregations that continue to show improvement year-over-year toward full participation in the covenant. We know this effort has not been easy and we are so appreciative of your leadership.
In a season of Thanksgiving, we have so much to be thankful for as the people called Methodists of the Alabama-West Florida Conference! Our prayers are for you and your congregations as you prepare to enter the season of Advent. May it be a time of holy waiting and in our waiting, may God reveal to us the fullness of His glory in whom we find hope, joy, life, and salvation! Come, thou long expected Jesus!