Time in a Bottle ~ DeepStep UMC

As luck would have it my husband attended the Georgia Falconry Association meet in Sandersville, Georgia this past weekend and I was scheduled to be at Deep Step UMC in Sandersville on Sunday afternoon to present a Safe Sanctuaries training – so we enjoyed an incredible long weekend together doing what we both love! I even ate the famous Dairy Lane and managed to eat a chili cheese dog without getting anything on my white shirt!

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Sunday morning I had the privilege to attend DeepStep UMC for worship and when they were without a musician, jumped in to play the piano for the service as it began! So meaningful. This church is proud of their history and records it well! They have an entire room in the basement that is a historical room. It is amazing!

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When I was there last February, I was given the grand tour and down below you will find this treasure – a time capsule that is scheduled to be opened in 2025! I may have to make a point to go back for that and what a great Advocate story that would be. I am not sure when it was created – I need to find the answer to that question. Preserving history and telling the stories of our faith is truly a legacy!

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As I headed home, I took the opportunity to capture several more of our churches – Sandersville is a beautiful traditional red brick church in the heart of the historic district and then neighboring Tennille – boasts Tennille UMC as well as Piney Mount tucked off Highway 15 along a dirt road.

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Then thanks to Google maps I stumbled upon a few more on the way home! Wrightsville UMC which I will be going to in March and Boiling Springs off the beaten path with a large cemetery located in front of the church.

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The only thing that stopped me from tackling Dublin and more was the lack of daylight – so for another day. Six more down and we are just getting started!

Working on Island Time~

This week I was working in our Connectional Ministries office on St. Simons Island and took the long way around to Epworth as I came on to the island to add these next two amazing churches~

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St. Simons UMC located right past the village and close to the beach is a beautiful church. I have worshipped there in the past and loved it. So a neat thing happened.. this week “connections” collided…. I was honored to play for the Blue Christmas service at Lone Hill UMC and on a bulletin board filled with historical moments I spotted this treasure:

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Rev. Marcia Cochran who now serves St. Simon UMC was featured in this article from 1979 highlighting her accomplishment as the first woman to be ordained an elder in the South Georgia Conference in June of 1978. Awesome! She truly is a pioneer and has paved the way for many. I enjoyed learning from her when she coordinated License to Preach School and I attended.

Taking the scenic route all the way to the other side of the island, I ended up in one of my favorite areas. Nestled into a good bit of Methodist history sits Wesley United Methodist Church at Frederica across from Fort Frederica and by Christ Church (the cemetery here is incredible to spend time in). This tabby church is simply breath-taking with all the wood and windows giving the sanctuary a very open feel. I have also taken advantage of opportunities to worship here when on the island and have taught the SHAPE workshop.

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Next time I am on the island I will feature Lovely Lane Chapel at Epworth By the Sea! You can tell from the pictures it was a beautiful day, unseasonably warm and the sun was shining bright. I wish I could bottle up those mid 70’s degree temps year around. If you ever find yourself “vacationing” on St. Simons “Island Time”, you have 2 wonderful places from which to choose to worship – you can’t go wrong!

“I was glad when they said unto me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord” – Psalm 122:1

Triple in Tifton

I squeezed in three churches in Tifton recently and wish that I had been able to see Herring Memorial— that will be on my next stop. I felt like the postal carrier motto when it says —“Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” – Herodotus, 503 B.C. (Inscribed on the General Post Office facility on 33rd Street and 8th Avenue in New York City.) (Source: USPS). It was a gloomy day, but I was determined and excited to add to the blog.

First up.. on this dreary day ~ Tifton First United Methodist Church. Tifton FUMC is where it truly all began for me!

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This is the first Methodist church that I joined upon moving to Georgia after being raised in another denomination. I fell in love with the theology, the liturgy and the symbolism in worship following the Christian year…  they also had a fantastic children’s ministry and preschool. So, my first ministry role in the local church began here – drumroll please – Rev Sam Rogers, now retired, hired me part-time as the Pastoral Assistant for Evangelism. That title alone could scare many away, but bottomline… I was the “Welcome Wagon” for the church and loved every minute of it. I loved the church and it’s ministries so it was easy to share that with visitors and others in the community! I love the connections that I have maintained over the years with friends and members of this wonderful congregation and looking back I can now see how God used my time and service there to prepare me for the doors He was yet to open!  I am excited to be back in Tifton for Annual Conference in 2015!

Next up~ Trinity United Methodist Church. Not far from Tifton FUMC and somewhat similar with its columns and traditional red brick exterior – I was lucky enough to get the full tour and was amazed at the facility.

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From this church an incredible ministry feeding those in need is having impact and being the hands and feet of Jesus. As I arrived, the 450 brown paper lunch sacks were being set up in preparation to being filled by volunteers and delivered in surrounding neighborhoods in the community. These 450 meals are provided weekly and faithful volunteers operate a food pantry on a referral  basis from the church. Inspiring!

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Last but not least~ Grace United Methodist Church rests on a huge corner lot off of Tift Avenue. Grace UMC had a great group of youth that attended ENCOUNTER the past 2 years, our Conference youth retreat-  and I was blown away at all the different things they did to “unite” and raise the funds to participate. What fun to build those relationships as church groups come each year and you see children and youth “grow up” in/through our Conference programming.

Tifton will always have a special connection for me- “In the beginning…”. Although there was no sunshine or “(let there be) light” on this visit to Tifton, I drove home with a smile on my face from the memories and extremely uplifted from what I witnessed this day!

Excelsior UMC

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Going back out to this little church in “Snipesville, Unincorporated” on the outskirts of Denton, Georgia brought a smile to my face! Excelsior UMC, on the charge with Lone Hill UMC (11/23/2014), was founded in 1936 (according to the sign above the entrance to the church). I began to wonder what might be behind the name “Excelsior”. In looking at this word, I found it to be a Latin adjective meaning “higher” or “loftier”, used in English as an interjection with a poetic meaning of “ever upward”. Someone might know the actual history behind the naming of this church – but I love this idea as a fellowship of believers: “ever upward”! Thank you God for your Sanctifying Grace – may we be ever moving upward!

If you read the post for St. Mark’s UMC (11/26/2014), you might recall that Rev. Bill Hinson served St Mark’s. He was a respected, nationally known preacher serving First United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. Believe it or not…. he was from Snipesville and grew up in Excelsior UMC- wow!

When I spoke at Lone Hill the Sunday this past August, I also filled the pulpit at Excelsior that morning and what a blessing for me. I love churches that are handcrafted and the wood beautifully displayed and this church had so much character. Rev. Mary Ann Braswell, their pastor, told me that the church used a tape player for the hymns, but they had a piano and I was welcome to play if I wanted. So – as they gathered that morning I had another powerful reminder of Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered in My name, I am in their midst.”

As we began the service, they were so gracious and so excited to have the piano in worship and I gave them the opportunity to pick hymns they liked. I know it had something to do with the acoustics but when the few gathered began singing with the piano it sounded like there were 150 people in the pews that day! It made me sit up straighter on the piano bench – talk about JOY! Still gives me chills thinking back and makes me smile. Do you remember how John Wesley instructed us to sing in our United Methodist Hymnbook? His directions include:

Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, then when you sung the songs of Satan.

Oh, that we would all sing and make a joyful noise unto the Lord! (I guess songs of Satan means secular songs…ha!… legend does tell that Charles Wesley wrote the words to some of his hymns to bar tunes – but my research says it is not true?!)  Some may sing loud and proud with the radio and our favorite artists, but how do we worship our amazing God?!

A wonderful reminder that day – God is always teaching me incredible things through the opportunities He puts in my path! So this church is one I treasure a unique connection to!

As we continue through Advent~ “Gloria in Excelsis Deo”!

Two by Two!

Tonight I am featuring some “2-pointers” – (two point charges that is)! Part of our “connection” is our structure – local churches are grouped into charges (a charge could have 1, 2, 3 or more churches), charges are grouped into districts, districts are grouped into Conferences, Conferences into Jurisdictions – Jurisdictions into the General UMC…. and so we build from the bottom to the top! I admire those serving charges with multiple churches – sometimes very spread out and each church very unique. I will share at some point along the journey about the time I spoke at a 3 point charge… whew!

This weekend I found myself once again headed down Highway 32 between Douglas and I-75. My travels take me along this route frequently so I cannot tell you the countless times I have have passed right by this little “charge” admiring these two churches! One of our highlights today is Ocilla UMC and Irwinville UMC both right along Highway 32.

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Ocilla United Methodist Church’s large columns give this church quite an amazing presence right on the corner in the downtown area. You can’t miss the large cross and flame marking the church’s prayer garden which sits right across the street with an invitation for all. (Sidenote: There are also some neat shops and places to eat in this little town… along with the Sweet Potato Festival each year.)

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Irwinville United Methodist Church keeps the women in the church and community busy every Monday – QUILTING! Sharing their labor of love and this vibrant ministry, most of these quilts are given to the Methodist Children’s Home.. I heard these women are a top producer! Each child when arriving at the home picks a quilt of their very own. Makes me think of a great big hug and a child wrapped up in love! A powerful lesson in the love of God!

Today– once again — along this route – I took a side tour on the west side of I-75 off of Highway 32 and tracked down Ashburn FUMC along with Sycamore UMC. Here’s to another 2-point charge! ~

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Ashburn UMC just looks like a postcard! Beautiful architecture and below the church sign rests a smaller sign which reads “Historic Tour” – I might need to take that one day! The first thing that came to mind when rounding the corner and catching sight of this church was the scripture in Matthew 5:14 where Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount of the parable involving Salt and Light. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”  Ashburn UMC sits at a higher elevation in this community and just captured my attention and drew me in immediately! (I mentioned the festival in Ocilla- well, Ashburn has one all its own too~ the Fire Ant Festival!)

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Also in the Ashburn Charge is Sycamore UMC. I love this “side steeple” – you might have noticed that Irwinville UMC has the same handiwork. This church is nestled into a Sycamore neighborhood right off the main road and over the railroad tracks (thank you Google maps!). All ready for the Advent Season as the wreaths adorn the door!

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus! Today is the first Sunday of Advent and I experienced some very meaningful worship today. In lifting up the connection, I paused to remember my sisters and brothers in Christ all over the world lighting the candle of HOPE on the Advent wreath – O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. I love this season of the Christian year!

*Lone Hill UMC which I highlighted earlier is also part of a 2 point charge – so not to leave them out! Next up… their other half – Excelsior UMC, Denton, Georgia.

St. Marks UMC, Douglas

Sticking close to home for the Thanksgiving Holidays will keep me nestled in the South Central district. The sun is out today after 3 solid days of rain – so I do hope to venture out later – there is a church that is closed now, Roxie Mae, which I have driven by the directional sign hundreds of times that I want to see up close and personal! Today features: St Marks UMC, Douglas, GA (there is more than one St. Marks in the South Georgia Conference).

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I understand that there was a trend within the United Methodist Church many, many, many years ago to establish churches in the heart of a community’s neighborhoods. This might partially explain the location of St. Mark’s UMC as it is less than a mile from Douglas FUMC.

St Mark was a church plant out of Douglas First in 1954- so this year marked 60 years in ministry. Charter members began meeting in a house in the College Avenue area as this was the neighborhood targeted for a church plant, but someone donated the land where the church sits now and the church was built at the corner of Gaskin and Walker Street.

One of St Mark’s former pastors was the nationally known preacher, Rev. Bill Hinson who for 18 years pastored First United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. He presided over the growth of a dwindling congregation in what became a 12,500 member mega-church. Rev. Hinson came from the South Georgia Conference and I had the privilege of hearing him preach a revival at Douglas First just a year before his unexpected passing in 2004.

This is one church I have had a unique connection to and enjoy worshipping with the congregation. Not long ago, their pastor was killed in a tragic single car accident and after attending the service on a Saturday, I was asked to bring the message to them the following morning. To date, probably the most challenging invitation I have ever received. Using the text found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, we remembered and looked ahead – “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” That was a very difficult time.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 : “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ,so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” 

There were several from Douglas FUMC along with the DS who rotated to fill the pulpit during that time without an appointed pastor and the members stepped up to keep ministry alive. It is exciting to now see the energy and ministry flowing from this wonderfully diverse congregation under their pastor Rev. Chris Calhoun! I love attending their evening 5th Sunday Prayer and Praise service – yay for 5th Sundays!

If you are traveling for the Thanksgiving holidays, be safe and be on the lookout for the cross and flame near you (that might make for an interesting car game)! Kelly Roberson and her husband Brian sent me a picture of Hopewell UMC as they traveled up near Callaway Gardens. This little church is in the North Georgia Conference as well – we had to look that one up as the lines officially dividing our Conferences run through this area. It’s fun that this project has others “looking”. Beautiful church – Thank you Kelly!

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I spoke about being on the lookout for the cross and flame! St. Marks has an amazing one next to their sign – can’t miss it!

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#sgachurches #connectional #cross&flame