Bishop's Day Apart Draws Clergy from Around Conference

February 25, 2016
Bishop Paul L. Leeland, resident bishop of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, invited all clergy to the annual Bishop’s Day Apart on Monday, February 22, 2016. Dr. Tom Long, Bandy Professor Emeritus of Preaching and Director of the Early Career Pastoral Leadership Program at Candler School of Theology led morning and afternoon sessions. 

The praise band at Aldersgate UMC played worshipful music as the group gathered for the day. Dr. Brian Miller, senior pastor at Aldersgate, offered a welcome to those who had gathered. He beautifully noted that many in the group had not gathered at Aldersgate since the passing of Rev. Glen Pugh, who was appointed to Aldersgate prior to Miller. Pugh passed away on Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in a tragic car accident. His son, Rev. Hunter Pugh, a provisional elder in the Alabama-West Florida Conference and pastor at Verbena UMC, was in attendance on Monday at the day apart. Miller and his staff exemplified outstanding hospitality. This was the first year Aldersgate hosted the annual event. Bishop Leeland gave a warm welcome to Long and started the session with prayer. 

Dr. Long is not a stranger to our conference as many seminary graduates from Alabama-West Florida were students under him at Candler School of Theology. Whether you had sat in his classroom of heard him for the first time, his message was relevant. "Dr. Long challenged us in our preaching to be prepared to bring the Good News in creative ways to increasingly varied constituencies in our congregations," said Rev. Brennan Peacock, pastor at Wetumpka FUMC. Rev. Sam Persons Parkes, pastor at Cloverdale UMC in Dothan, AL, expressed, "Dr. Long reminded us of the need to both deeply understand the culture in which we live without accommodating the Good News about God to the latest trends. He asked us to understand the effects of digital communication and imagery without giving up on story, testimony, and staying close to the biblical text. He really helped us think about preaching biblically in a digital age."

Rev. Emily Kincaid, a deacon in the Alabama-West Florida Conference and executive minister at Orange Beach UMC, noted, "Dr. Long challenged us as preachers to remember that, 'If grace is what you expect, it's no longer grace.' In other words, we have the difficult but infinitely important task of helping our people be surprised by the grace of the gospel message! He asked us to think how our preaching would be different if the first sentence of our sermons was, 'Something has happened and everything has changed!' I'm thankful to have these reminders as I seek to proclaim the gospel message in a faithful and relevant way."

For the morning session, Long spoke about the changed context of preaching. He said, “Enthusiasm for preaching rises and falls…..with the clergy. It never goes out of season with the lay people. Lay people never lose excitement for good preaching.” For the afternoon session his theme was putting together a sermon that parishioners that can appreciate and hear. He gave practical tips for preaching and kept the group engaged with humor. A brief question and answer session concluded the day. 

To see photos from the day by Luke Lucas, click here. Click here to download audio files from the sessions