Message from Bishop Wallace-Padgett: New Communities of Faith

February 14, 2023

Dear Friends,

When serving as a pastor, I was sometimes asked to describe my favorite part of ministry. The answer was easy for me. I love growing the church. My joy in doing this is rooted in a commitment to The Great Commission as described in Matthew 28:16-20.

So, you can imagine how painful it has been to oversee the disaffiliation process in our annual conference this past year. Granted, disaffiliated churches are still a part of the Christian movement, but they are no longer connected to this annual conference I lead and love. I have shed many tears and grieved deeply throughout this experience.

On Sunday, February 12, though, I had the opportunity to witness firsthand the United Methodist Church growing in North Alabama again. Twice on the same Sunday.

My day started at Hammer’s Hall in Albertville where a new faith community has been meeting. This group first gathered in late November. I knew this was a special community of faith from the moment I walked through the doors. Breakfast food, round tables, a piano, a beautiful altar display, smiles, hugs and conversations filled the room. Then, promptly at 9 a.m., the worship service began. Gail Hiett provided beautiful music. District Developer Rev. Carol Gullatt led announcements with humor, and prayers and liturgy with grace. Following my sermon, participants lingered to visit and enjoy one another before beginning their weekly Bible study. It was a balm to my soul to witness firsthand this new United Methodist Community of Faith in the North Alabama Conference.

From Albertville, I traveled 35 minutes to Oneonta United Methodist Community which began meeting on Christmas Eve. They have already outgrown their first meeting space and will soon move into a third one to accommodate increasing numbers. Coordinated by Mitchell Hastings, Bob Bentley and Richard Phillips, this intergenerational community currently meets in a lovely art gallery called The Makers. Again, my heart was encouraged as I watched this new part of the Body of Christ in action.

Yes, this season of disaffiliation has been difficult. How encouraging it is to turn our eyes from disaffiliations to new communities of faith that are beginning to emerge across our annual conference. In coming weeks you will hear about additional ones forming. (Currently, we have five new fresh expressions with more in the works, especially in areas where members of disaffiliated churches decide to join together to continue to provide a United Methodist presence). If interested in being a part of growing the United Methodist Church in North Alabama by participating in a new faith community, reach out to your District Developer or Director of New and Renewing Churches Rev. Suzanne Katschke.

Thanks for your leadership and service in the North Alabama Conference. As always, it is a privilege to serve as your bishop.

Debra Wallace-Padgett
Resident Bishop
Holston and North Alabama Conferences

Discover, Develop and Deploy Spiritual Leaders to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.