(Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon) - The Cabinet of the Alabama-West Florida Conference met in a regularly scheduled session on October 14-15 at the Conference Office in Montgomery. A significant portion of this meeting was devoted to reviewing the ministry program of the conference, in a continued effort to align offerings with the SEND (Seek, Engage, Nurture, and Deploy) model for leadership throughout our churches. Following the Seed Cast event, conversation continued to focus on the development of new faith communities, the implementation of healthy "systems" in our congregation around missions, evangelism, disciple-making, and assimilation of persons into the life of the church. Worship, small group ministry, and service were also considered as a basis for increasing the vitality of our congregations.
The Academy for Congregational Excellence (ACE), under the direction of Rev. Ron Ball, seeks to aid clergy and churches in the effort to be fruitful congregations. This relatively new ministry of the conference continues to expand and increase its presence. Rev. Ball updated the Cabinet on the work of the ACE team. Whereas initial efforts focused on elevating clergy leadership through various initiatives, ACE is now embarking on ways to work specifically with congregations as well to help identify leaders for our churches and the conference.
Because United Methodists share in a "partnership" ministry - that of both clergy and laity - substantial discussion was held regarding the possibility of creating a Director of Lay Ministries position for the conference. A task force was named that will explore this concept further in the upcoming months.
Administrative matters were reviewed, particularly the need for churches to remember to use the new conference address when remitting connectional giving funds. This will be especially important at the end of the year as churches seek to be credited for apportionment paid in 2013. Checks sent to the old address may not be forwarded to the Conference Office in time before the books close for the year, so please update this information as soon as possible (4719 Woodmere Boulevard, Montgomery, AL, 36106).
A task force brought back a proposal making slight changes to the annual evaluation / appointment preference forms. These forms are being finalized and will be made available on the conference website beginning January 2nd.
Opportunities for ministry in the Jurisdiction and the General Church continue to take shape. We anticipate a partnership developing with the Red Bird Missionary Conference in the coming year. The Red Bird Missionary Conference has 24 congregations, serving along the Kentucky / Tennessee border. This rural area suffers from high degrees of poverty, illiteracy, drug / alcohol abuse, high unemployment, and has many broken families. Given many of our own rural areas face similar challenges, there is the belief that our congregations can form relationships with our Red Bird sisters and brothers and find mutual ways forward in ministry. Likewise, we continue to develop teams in our districts as we join with our sister annual conferences in the "Imagine No Malaria" campaign. Our goal is to save 100,000 lives on the continent of Africa as an annual conference. District Superintendents, District Mission Coordinators, District Lay Leaders, and local church leaders are developing strategies that will be used in the new year to help us reach this goal as we help persons acquire nets that can protect them from the mosquitoes that transmit the deadly malaria disease.
We continue to celebrate the support of the connection and connectional giving. Our conference continues to improve in this area of our shared ministry and we are grateful for the leadership of clergy, lay leaders, and other laity in this effort. As we move toward the fall of the year, many of our rural areas are reaping the harvest. Likewise, we have an abundance of blessings to celebrate and to share here in the Alabama-West Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church. Thanks be to God for the gifts we receive and for the privilege of living and serving together!