On Friday evening, June 4, clergy gathered for the Clergy Executive Session and Laity gathered for the Laity Session. The laity session focused on the Annual Conference theme and featured members of the Adult Discipleship Team offering information on discipleship and spiritual formation resources available to individuals and congregations.
Saturday morning, June 5, began with the Service of Ordination, Commissioning and Licensing. Bishop Wallace-Padgett preached a sermon based on the Conference's theme verses from Acts 11. During the message, she noted that disciples do indeed build disciples and that each generation of Christians passes the faith to a new generation of Christians. She encouraged worshippers, and especially the newly credentialed clergy, to seek to have both an encourager in their faith and also others they are mentoring in the faith. Retired Bishop B. Michael Watson assisted in the service during which the Conference ordained four elders, two deacons and commissioned one provisional elder and one provisional deacon with the average age of 38. The Conference also celebrated the licensing of 27 new local pastors.
During the service the Conference also celebrated the commissioning of Deaconess Latorria Turner and Global Mission Fellow Precious Kufarimai. Deaconesses and Home Missioners are laywomen and laymen who are called by God to be in a lifetime relationship in The United Methodist Church for engagement with a full-time vocation in ministries of love, justice, and service. Global Mission Fellows are young adults, ages 20-30, who are committed to work in social justice ministries for two years. They serve outside of their home communities, either in the United States or overseas.
The Conference also recognized the 28 clergy entering a retired relationship.
After worship, the Conference turned toward business. During the Business Plenary the Conference accomplished the following:
• The Conference heard a presentation of Nine Principles for Holy Conferencing by General Conference parliamentarian Len Young.
• The Conference approved a total budget for 2022 of $9,647,931 and updated the Conference Safe Sanctuary Policy.
• The Adult Discipleship Team shared resources to assist churches and individuals in spiritual formation.
• Embrace Alabama Kids, previously known as the United Methodist Children's Home, presented an update on their ministry to children and families throughout Alabama and Northwest Florida.
• COSROW presented a motion, which was approved, to postpone the consideration of the salary study being undertaken by COSROW in accordance with a 2018 Resolution on Parity in Appointments until the Conference can gather together in person.
• Voted to close six churches.
• Birmingham-Southern College President Daniel Coleman presented an update from the United Methodist-related college.
• Conference Lay Leader Lisa-Key Mathews presented the Laity Address.
• Director of Multicultural Ministries Rev. Donald Smith gave an update on the Conference's efforts to dismantle racism.
• Celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Order of Deacons through a video featuring North Alabama Deacons and their ministries.
On Saturday afternoon, the Conference heard from guest teachers Tony Morgan, Amy Anderson and Mark Meyer of The Unstuck Group. They noted that in their consulting work one of the top reasons they encounter for a congregation being "stuck" is that the church does not have a clear discipleship system. They encouraged North Alabama congregations to find a way to shift from programs to a path for discipleship.
During the afternoon, Bishop Wallace-Padgett also addressed the Conference and thank them for the creative and sacrificial ways in which they continue to be the church during this time of a global pandemic. She acknowledged the uncertainty about what the future holds in the United Methodist Church. She also encouraged North Alabama United Methodists to focus on being Christ's hands and feet in the lives of others and to be extra attentive to their own soul care over the next 15 months until the postponed General Conference is scheduled to meet.
The Conference concluded with the annual Celebration of Life Service. Dr. Alan Weatherly preached a message based on 1 Corinthians 13. During the Service 23 clergy and 16 clergy spouses who have died since the last Annual Conference gathering were remembered.
The Conference closed with the annual fixing of clergy appointments that will take effect on July 1.
• Membership stands at 122,962, down 1,700 from the previous year.
• Worship attendance stands at 71,948, only down by 15 despite the pandemic thanks to so many congregations offering online worship experiences.
• Church school attendance stands at 14,510, down 6,559.
• Despite the pandemic, the Conference celebrated 674 professions or reaffirmations of faith during 2020. This number was down from 2019 by 1,006.
• Adults and young adults in small groups for 2020, 30,864 was down from 2019 by 9,954.
• Worshippers engaged in mission for 2020, 28,770 was down from 2019 by 10,575.
— Danette Clifton, director of communication, North Alabama Conference
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