Discernment Information

This page is designed to keep the congregation updated on our church's discernment process. You'll find resources at the bottom of the page to click on and research for yourself. The most recent communication from the discernment team will be first and then links from previous communication will be posted below. 

Discernment Update 12/28/22

Helena Church Family,

Here is the latest update regarding our discernment process. 

Please make plans to join us for one or both of our dialogue sessions on Wednesday evening, January 4, at 6:30 pm and Sunday afternoon, January 8, at 3:00 pm. This time has been set aside to allow the team to hear input from members of the congregation. These conversations are a vital part of the team’s work in preparation for a recommendation to our Church Council. Each member of the team has had, and will continue to have, conversations with individuals in small groups and other encounters, but these larger sessions will give the entire team a chance to hear from a variety of members as well as let members hear from one another. Please also bring your questions so that we can continue to gather and share information about the issues most important to you. Your voice strongly impacts the future direction of our church so we hope you will make time to join us and participate in these important conversations.

The North Alabama Conference required us to submit a model for our discernment process. We submitted a model based on Ignatian Discernment and it was approved by our DS at the beginning of our process. This model is one of several options recommended by our bishop and has been used by other churches  The link is at the bottom of this email. I encourage you to read through this document and let it guide you as you continue your personal time of prayer and discernment. While we are experiencing this time together as a congregation, this is truly a personal process for each of us, and not a corporate one.

The discernment model was accompanied by our tentative timeline, which was sent out in a  previous email. Dates on this timeline will be updated as we begin nearing the end of our required 3-month period and solidify our meeting schedules. The earliest date for our team to make its recommendation to the Church Council would be February 6. 

Members of the team are also hearing questions about what would happen next if we do choose to disaffiliate from the UMC. There are several options to consider.  The team will continue to research options and we invite you do to the same. There is information available online regarding a variety of branches of Methodism. All of the options being considered are still Methodist churches, rooted in Wesleyan theology and practice. I will attach a chart to this email that outlines some key considerations. This chart was prepared by a writer at Good News Magazine, not our team. All of the options have websites where you can go for more information. I can also share speaker videos in a future email. Again, this decision is only necessary if there is a vote to disaffiliate. Spend time on this when/if you feel it applies to you.

Our church webpage has been updated to include a tab for information related to discernment. You will find it by clicking on “menu” and scrolling to “discernment”. This email, as well as previous emails and other resources will be found there. To get started, you may also click 

There is much to consider during this time. The approach of a new year seems a fitting time for each of us to engage in this process. I’m sure some of you may feel as if your personal discernment has been completed, but as you will see in the Ignatian process, one step is to rest in your decision to gain confidence that you are at peace with it. For others, you may feel overwhelmed by the task. As you begin to more fully engage in the process, I pray you will also find peace.

Pam Hand


11 Steps for Making a Decision Following the Ignatian Method

Discernment Update 12/21/22

Greetings friends,

I want to share a brief update and make you aware of 2 important upcoming dates regarding our process.

First, I’d like to thank everyone who participated in our discussion with our District Superintendent at our Charge Conference last week. This was the second time he has visited with us to address concerns and questions regarding the discernment process. We had very good participation and the session was informative.  

In accordance with the discernment process, we will now move to a different type of meeting format. In order for our discernment team to represent our church, our team needs to hear from as many members of our congregation as possible, and members need opportunities to share with one another as well. The team will be hosting 2 sessions which might best be described as “discernment dialogues”. During these sessions, members need to share openly what is on their heart and mind as they have continued to pray and discern during this time. The team needs to hear from as many people as possible, regardless of your position on the issue(s). The DS will not be present at this meeting. Members may also ask questions, as needed, in order to help the team determine what other information and resources we need to provide. 

Please make plans to join us for at least one if not both sessions which will be held in the sanctuary. There will be no presentation by the team so that we reserve as much time as possible for the team to hear from members.

Session 1: Wednesday, January 4 at 6:30 pm

Session 2: Sunday, January 8 at 3:00 pm

You will receive  a reminder email along with more information about the discernment process next week.

Blessings to you all during this special season,

Pam Hand

Your Discernment Team includes:
Pam Hand - Lay Leader
Henry Long - Church Council Chair (outgoing)
Bruce Dooley - Church Council Chair (incoming)
Marty Box - former SPRC Chair and current Vice-Chair
Gifford Usher - Finance Chair
Jared Cartee - Incoming Chair of Trustees
Susan Little - Lay Delegate to Annual Conference
Rusty Tate - Senior Pastor (non-voting advisory position)

Helena UMC Discernment Plans 12/7/2022


11 Steps for Making a Decision Following the Ignatian Method


Vestavia Hills Methodist Link Sources