Opening Worship: After two years of virtual conference, clergy and lay members and their guests attended the Opening Worship Service of the 2022 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference session in the Dunn-Oliver Acadome on the campus of Alabama State University on Sunday evening, June 12. To begin the service, Dr. Jeff Wilson, host district superintendent, welcomed those in attendance. Rev. Sara Shaver led the call to worship. Bishop David Graves, presiding over his sixth annual conference as resident bishop of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, provided opening remarks and a prayer. He welcomed tonight's guest, Bishop R. Lawson Bryan and his wife, Sherrill. Rev. Darren Isaac and Celeste Eubanks presented the soulful anthem, "I Don't Feel No Way Tired." Isaac will also lead music for the remainder of the event. The conference welcomed back Bishop Bryan, who was elected a bishop out of the AWF Conference in 2016. He served as bishop in the South Georgia Conference of the UMC until his retirement in 2021. He preached a sermon titled, "In This Season" based on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. The scripture was read by Notalsia Whiting of Christ UMC in Mobile. In his sermon Bryan mentioned his fascination with tonight's scripture because, "It is so radically different from chapters one and two." Bryan continued by saying that this is a witness to someone who knows what's it's like to be in chapter one and two while also saying they were able to move to chapter three. He said, "It's the learning of the soul." He continued by saying, "This is a book best understood by those who come together and they have lived through Hurricane Michael, and they have lived through a global pandemic and political polarization, and the way it bleeds into the church and racial reckoning....and school shootings and denominational matters. And what if they come together? And what if it were to be Trinity Sunday? But what if they came together on June 12, 2022, and what if someone remembered that Trinity Sunday was hard for some folks because you learn about God! What if someone remembers that the meaning is 'tri-unity.' What if someone remembered God is already unity? God isn't hoping for unity, God is unity! Within that unity there is individuality." He told the story of Martin Luther King, Jr., just steps away from the place of opening worship at his home in his late 20s, received a life-threatening phone call yet he called out to God for help to pick him up and to stand up. Bryan exclaimed, "What if we heard the Lord say, 'Stand up, Alabama-West Florida Conference!'" He concluded with inviting all in attendance to join in reciting the Apostles Creed.
For the sixth year, communion was served as a part of this service. The AWF Annual Conference Planning Committee organized this service and liturgies were written by Dr. Sam Parkes. Rev. Dana Brady and Rev. Jake Brady prepared the beautiful altar reflecting many worship elements and complementing the theme of conference. Jarvis Wilson, professional musician from Atlanta, joined us again to provide spirit-filled music on the organ and piano.
AWF Missional Offering: To celebrate this year's theme of, “In this Season” from Ecclesiastes 3:1, each day has a specific focus and missional giving recipient.
Sunday, June 12: In this season of learning. Offering will go towards cohorts and Ministerial Education Fund.
Monday, June 13: In this season of reflection. Offering will go towards restoration in the Boy Scouts of America settlement and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in our conference: Tuskegee University Wesley Foundation and Alabama State University Wesley Foundation.
Tuesday, June 14: In this season of hope. Offering will go towards AWF New Church Starts.
Wednesday, June 15: In this season of courage. Offering will go towards clergy health.
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Opening Worship, Sunday June, 12, 2022
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