OVERFLOW in worship
FROM THE BISHOP R. LAWSON BRYAN Even before moving to the South Georgia Conference I heard of a most inspiring moment at last year’s annual conference session. The delegates ...
Lessons from small-membership congregations
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON How many of us have experience worshipping or attending a small church? Over the last few months, I have met and experienced church with some ...
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Focus on the Vision

Lessons from small-membership congregations

February 20, 2017
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON How many of us have experience worshipping or attending a small church? Over the last few months, I have met and experienced church with some very faithful Christians and all of them attend a small church. One person volunteers to cut the grass and care for the lawn. He’s been doing this ministry for several years and speaks about it with a sense of joy. Then there are the two sets of sisters who take turns cleaning the church each week. Everything is always ...

God’s grace and mercy

January 23, 2017
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON When natural disasters strike there may be few words to express our deep sense of exposure with things beyond our control and gratitude as communities rally together expressing love and care. In these indescribable moments, the Book of Psalms helps one to express comfort, joy, and sorrow. Psalm 121 NKJV I will lift up my eyes to the hills - From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be ...

Celebrating the gift of diversity

December 19, 2016
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 ESV The South Georgia Conference’s Advocacy Team is pleased to announce the inaugural Multicultural Luncheon to be held ...

Celebrating Christ as King

November 21, 2016
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON In honor of Christ the King Sunday, I invite you to reflect on Colossians 1:11-20 presented to us in the form of a hymn. There is a larger discussion which we will not engage related to the historical nature of the text and its implications for earthly and heavenly kingship. Instead, the focus is simply to consider this hymn of the early church as it speaks to the kingship of Christ. I have chosen to stay with this text over the next week as we embrace Advent....

Celebrating the power of connection and community

October 17, 2016
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12 (NIV) Emily Skinner serves as Administrative Assistant for the Office of Connectional Ministries. She has a vital role in assisting team members with projects, providing professional hospitality, and resourcing persons who contact our office. As Hurricane Matthew approached the area, Emily and several friends evacuated to Valdosta. Upon returning to her home, she noted all was well, and she ...

2016 Local Church Toolkit: South Georgia Annual Conference

September 19, 2016
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON This week the General Council on Finance and Administration released the compiled results of the statistical data for the South Georgia Conference. The information contains an analysis based on worship attendance of trends between larger and small congregations, unique patterns based on statistical data, and the ranking of South Georgia Conference among U.S. based United Methodists congregations. Below you will find statements from Moses Kumar, General ...

Children’s ministry and the mission of the Church

August 15, 2016
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON How many of you remember the classic children’s book, “The Lorax,” a picture book by Dr. Seuss, first published in 1971? The book has a strong moral story about the care of the environment. The story follows the Lorax, the character who speaks for nature, and the Once-ler, the character who represents greed. Here’s a classic line from the book where the Once-ler reflects on the aftermath of a series of acts related to greed and growing bigger without ...

Prayer and persistence

July 18, 2016
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10 The summer has quickly come and (almost) gone, children will soon return to school, and the fall will take its rightful place among us. It seems that the seasons, like the events of the world, are moving at ...

Testify and Multiply

June 13, 2016
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20) Recently, I informally approached clergy and laity across the annual conference and asked, “What will you remember most about the leadership of Bishop James King?”...

Remember the Mission

May 23, 2016
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON Psalm 96, The Message Sing God a brand-new song! Earth and everyone in it, sing! Sing to God – worship God! Shout the news of his victory from sea to sea, Take the news of his glory to the lost, News of his wonders to one and all! For God is great, and worth a thousand Hallelujahs.  Psalm 96 is commonly known as a royal psalm. The psalm’s command to take the news to all reminds the reader of the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 12:1-3. In addition, the psalm ...

Discipleship and The Book of Discipline

April 18, 2016
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church provides both law and doctrine. This week the relational passage of scripture in John 13:34-35 speaks to discipleship and the new commandment given to love others as Christ loves.  As we grow in our discipleship another...

Dare to be countercultural and take Sabbath time

March 21, 2016
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON “The Sabbath,” by Abraham Joshua Heschel, describes Sabbath practices such as a regular weekly rhythm of rest, time for reconnecting with the sacred, festive meals with loved ones, the nurturing of community life, study of holy wisdom and sacred text, attention to beauty, and honoring intimacy.  Here are a few questions for your consideration:  As you consider the matter of time, what does it mean to be countercultural?  As a disciple of Jesus Christ, are you...

The gift of Sabbath time

February 15, 2016
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON As we embrace the Lenten Season with a sense of expectation and hope, consider the gift of Sabbath in your spiritual journey. Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the leading Jewish theologians and philosophers of the 20th century, urged readers to consider their spiritual journey. The author encourages one to consider that time and space are interrelated. Time spent with God is also a very necessary gift in one's spiritual life.   “Spiritual life begins to decay ...

Let the Work of Christmas Begin

January 18, 2016
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON By Dr. Howard Thurman When the song of the angels is stilled, When the star in the sky is gone, When the kings and the princes are home, When the shepherds are back with their flocks, The work of Christmas begins: To find the lost, To heal the broken, To feed the hungry, To release the prisoner, To rebuild the nations, To bring peace among people, To make music in the heart. Taken from “The Work of Christmas” in The Mood of Christmas & Other Celebrations ...

Finding a moment of joy and hope

December 21, 2015
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON I recently read an article entitled, “Is it too much pressure to be merry at Christmas?” The author, Lyda K. Hawkes, through her transparent struggles, encourages the reader to remain open to moments when the true meaning of Advent breaks through this season.  The Season of Advent is a time of awe, wonder, and expectant waiting. As Christians, we look back at the birth of the Christ and we look forward in anticipation of His second coming. There is hope, love,...

Spiritual disciplines and the Christian faith

November 16, 2015
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON Have you taken the time to read any good books lately that might encourage you in ministry and leadership? Over the Advent season, let’s be encouraged to be in prayer for the church and world. I would also invite you to read at least one book that would increase your understanding of the spiritual practices within the Christian faith. Here are a few examples of books that I have found to be helpful on the subject of Spiritual Disciplines. You are invited to ...

What do we believe?

October 19, 2015
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON The Apostles’ Creed is the affirmation of faith most widely used by United Methodists. The Apostles’ Creed derives its name from its use in the Christian church from as early as A.D. 150 and the early belief that it was used by the apostles. Beginning in the third century, this creed was used at baptisms by the Roman Catholic Church. Through the years it has been used widely by both Roman Catholics and Protestants as the formative statement of the faith into ...

Are we there yet?

September 21, 2015
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON The Office of Connectional Ministries seeks to advance the kingdom of God by utilizing the tools of communication in diverse and creative ways. The conference website; individual consults with clergy and laity; local church, district and conference trainings; webinars; social media; promotional program materials; conference calls; and video conferencing represent a sample of the annual conference tools of communication. We are constantly working to communicate ...

Abuelita's Faith

August 17, 2015
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON  In the book “Christ our Companion: Toward a Theological Aesthetics of Liberation” there is a compelling story of the author’s grandmother and her faith in God. Roberto S. Goizueta describes the impact that his abuelita (grandmother) had on his life and faith journey. My own life has been forever changed by the holy lives that Christ used to draw and attract me. As with many Latino and Latinas, for example, my abuelita (grandmother) was the spiritual heart of ...

How deep is your love?

July 20, 2015
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON  It is the ninth Sunday of the Season after Pentecost and the lectionary readings speak toward accountable living as disciples of Jesus Christ. As disciples we are urged to not remain in our present state but to endeavor continuous growth through the love of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. The world and the church are deeply rooted in division and separateness. However, God’s preferred future for humanity speaks of unity, peace, justice, forgiveness ...

Lord in Your mercy ...hear our prayer

June 21, 2015
The following prayers have been adapted from The United Methodist Book of Worship, pages 568-580. The Book of Worship recommends the use of this material as individual or groups engage in daily prayers. CALL TO PRAYER AND PRAISE   Psalm 51:15 O Lord, open my lips And my mouth shall declare your praise. HYMN Sing or read a favorite or familiar hymn. OPENING PRAYER In the morning: New every morning is your love, Great God of light, and all day long you are working for good in the world. Stir up in...

Iron sharpens iron

May 17, 2015
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON Take a moment to consider the cast of characters you are privileged to call friends. How do those friendships add or detract from your Christian journey of faith? Recently, a dear friend of more than 30 years shared the devotional book “Experiencing God Day-by-Day” by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby. The authors speak often about the need for Christian friendship as support and accountability. “The Christian life is a pilgrimage. At times the road is ...

Living the Ten Timeless Values

March 17, 2015
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON A few years ago, Bishop James King introduced the ten timeless values as the basis for personal and congregational plans of discipleship. Recently I was asked to name them. It was very easy to name nine but I continued to get stuck on the last value. The exercise reminded me that we often engage in the ten timeless values but we may not be conscious of the effort. The Lord’s Supper, Sabbath, Scripture, Stewardship, Baptism, Fasting, Fellowship, Justice, ...

Leadership Growth and Development

February 16, 2015
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON In his book “Servant Leadership,” Robert Greenleaf defines two kinds of leaders. Strong natural leaders are those who try to take control, make decisions, and give orders in any situation in which the find themselves; they have a need to be in charge. Strong natural servants, on the other hand, will assume leadership only if they see it as a way in which they can serve. Ken Blanchard, in his book “The Heart of a Leader,” states, "I want to be led by strong ...

Growing in God's love

January 20, 2015
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON During the next week, the Revised Common Lectionary draws the church into the biblical theme of discipleship. The third week after the Epiphany provides scriptural text from Jonah, 1 Corinthians, Psalms, and Mark. A common message throughout the text points the church to the call of God and a life of discipleship that continues to grow and invite others into a life of discipleship. In addition, this week was also the observance of a national holiday in honor of...

Are We There Yet?

December 15, 2014
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON Have you ever experienced a long car ride with small children? If so, you may be familiar with the oft-repeated question hurled from the back seat – “Are we there yet?” Whether excited, upset or just bored, the question seems to be repeated many times before the final destination is reached. Advent is the season in which we prepare for the coming of Christ. A common understanding describes Advent as proclamation of Christ’s anticipated coming again, as well as ...

Grace and Mercy

November 18, 2014
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON Recently, I had the unique opportunity to attend leadership training with two episcopal leaders. The topic of discussion was standards of excellence in clergy leadership. During the panel discussion, one episcopal leader was asked, “If you could begin again, what would you do differently?” You can imagine that many were listening intently to hear some very practical words of wisdoms. Here was the response: “Realizing that we live our lives between the grace ...

Where do you see God at work?

October 20, 2014
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON How often do we take a moment to stop and acknowledge all that God is doing among us? I recently invited the Office of Connectional Ministries to consider the ways in which God is working within their areas of ministry. Here are a few responses: I see God at work all around the South Georgia Conference. He’s working through faithful congregations, individuals, and pastors who hear His call and respond by saying, “Here I am. Send me.” Through backpack food ...

A minute of margin

September 15, 2014
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON On a scale of one to 10, how busy are you these days? One represents being not busy and 10 represents insanely busy and completely overloaded with schedule demands. The answer to this question can be fairly simple or really complex depending on your day-to-day circumstances. There is a biblical mandate for all of us to engage in Sabbath rest. However, this is not a theological conversation but a mere practical inquiry. If your life is out of balance with the ...

Are You Lost?

August 18, 2014
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON It was a clear sign in bold letters near the airport that asked a direct question: “Are you lost?” The sign then directed the pedestrian or driver to call a number for airport information. The reader was given a direct question with the option for a response that included a clear sense of direction. However, in order to gain access to the new directions one had to first admit that one was lost and in need of help. For many clergy and laity in the church there is...

Celebrating Children and Youth Ministries

July 21, 2014
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON A young man rushed into the Connectional Ministries Office with his grandfather a few steps behind and asked, “Where do I register for camp?” With a smile and a warm welcome we let this young man know that registration would begin in a couple of hours in the building next door. Camp brings a sense of joy and excitement. Children and youth have a way of walking in a spirit of joy and anticipation that can be quite contagious. Over the past eight weeks, the South ...

New Beginnings

June 23, 2014
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON Thus says the Lord who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters … “Remember not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; even now it is springing to light, do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:16; 18-19 Theologian Paul Tillich wrote, “Behold, I am doing a new thing.” “I” points to the source of the really new, to that which is always old and always new, the Eternal. On June 11, 2014, the South ...

Part 1: A Year in Review

May 17, 2014
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON The 2012 Book of Disciple defines the purpose of Connectional Ministries within each annual conference. Each annual conference is responsible to focus and guide the mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church within its boundaries by: envisioning the ministries necessary to live out the mission of the church in and through the annual conference; creating and nurturing relationships and connections among the local, district, annual conference, and ...

Focused on the Call of God

March 17, 2014
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON As you reflect on your relationship with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, can you identify times when you felt really close to God and sensed in your heart that God had something for you to do? In his book, “Hearing God’s Call,” author Ben Campbell Johnson writes: God has always called human beings to share in the divine mission in the world – and he still does. God calls men and women to ordained ministry and he calls other followers of Jesus ...

Growing Forward

February 03, 2014
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON Several years ago I read Ken Callahan's book, "A New Beginning for Pastors and Congregations". Callahan offers suggestions on how pastors and congregations can have a healthy future together, whether they are new or beginning again. Callahan challenged the long taught and accepted approach to ministry that pastors must not change anything in the first year. On the contrary, Callahan offers the premise that the first three days, weeks, and months set the tone for...

Leadership development in the local church

January 18, 2014
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON Greetings to you all and Happy New Year! On Tuesday, Jan. 7, the Office of Connectional Ministries launched the new Leadership Webinar Series. Our goal is to empower leaders within the local church and increase their knowledge base to become more effective in their current leadership role. So far this month, we’ve hosted a general leadership training session (Leadership Toolkit), a webinar focusing on change and transition within the local church (Leading ...

Vision and Patience - "Do you see what I see?"

December 16, 2013
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! James 5:7-10 The third Sunday in Advent within the Revised Common Lectionary...

Dare To Ask - Where Is God At Work Among Us?

November 18, 2013
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON “As Christian disciples, we are not passive spectators but energetic participants in God's activity in the world.” The United Methodist Church provides a clear understanding regarding the theology of discipleship that includes God's relationship to the world and the human response to God's activity in the world. Theology is not just about God. It is also about us. We live out our understanding of who we are in relationship to God, to one another, and to the ...

Discipleship: What about the children?

October 21, 2013
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Over the years, I have become deeply interested in discipleship within the system of the church. How do we organize ourselves in the kingdom of God to live out the command to go and make disciples? The birth of my granddaughter accelerated my level of ...

One Mission - Many Voices

September 16, 2013
The Office of Connectional Ministries recently held a staff retreat to review its mission and vision, the conference district reduction, and invite visionary thinking regarding future programming and conference support.  We utilized the book “A Door Set Open: Grounding Change in Mission and Ministry” by Peter Steinke to open the staff retreat and center our thoughts. The result was a rich discussion incorporating the voices of the entire staff. The following is an excerpt from the book from each...

The Leader's Presence

August 19, 2013
FOCUS ON THE VISION DENISE WALTON I recently traveled to Dallas, Texas and returned on a Delta flight. The weather was inclement somewhere and caused flights to be delayed. A cartoon caricature would show me rushing through the airport with my countenance moving through various shades of green. My medication for motion sickness was a true blessing. My plan was to board the flight, settle down, stay perfectly still, and then sleep. Sometimes when we least want or expect it, God has another plan. ...

Transformed by Hope

July 22, 2013
In my first column, we examined the concepts of change and placed it within the theology of hope. Today let’s take a moment to wrestle with the idea of transformation and the theology of hope.  Background At the 2013 South Georgia Annual Conference session, the Conference voted to reduce the number of districts within the bounds of the Annual Conference from nine to six. As we move into the summer and the early stages of transition, the Office of Connectional Ministries (OCM), in prayerful ...

Where is the finish line?

May 17, 2013
LIVING THE VISION BRAD BRADY This is the last in a series of articles about the book of Nehemiah. Bishop King is inviting all South Georgia United Methodists to join him in studying this book. To view all of Dr. Brady’s Nehemiah articles, visit www.sgaumc.org/nehemiah.    It all started with Nehemiah hearing about the distress of his spiritual family back in Jerusalem.  He prayed about their plight and God gave Nehemiah a vision of restoration. God opened the King’s heart and many other avenues ...

Nehemiah: Visions Face Resistance

March 15, 2013
LIVING THE VISION BRAD BRADY This is the sixth in a series of articles about the book of Nehemiah.  Bishop King is inviting all South Georgia United Methodists to join him in studying this book. Nehemiah 6 begins with Nehemiah’s chief opposition receiving a report that the construction project is nearly completed. The walls of Jerusalem are fully built and security measures around the gates are on the final “punch list” (verse 1). Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem constantly resisted the rebuilding...

Nehemiah: Interruptions

February 18, 2013
LIVING THE VISION BRAD BRADY This is the fifth in a series of articles about the book of Nehemiah. Bishop King has invited all South Georgia United Methodists to join him in studying this book. Nehemiah received a God-inspired vision to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The vision was cast and widely received by the people. An enthusiastic group was repairing the walls. However, real life constantly made the rebuilding project a test for everyone. Nehemiah had to do more than one thing at a ...

Nehemiah: Leaders mobilize people

December 29, 2012
LIVING THE VISION BRAD BRADY This is the third in a series of articles about the book of Nehemiah. Bishop King is inviting all South Georgia United Methodists to join him in studying this book. Reading Nehemiah 3 feels as though we have entered the footnote zone. Footnotes are something important the writer wants you to know, but footnotes are not known as the most invigorating reading. Reading this chapter calls forth the same low level of warm-fuzzy feelings you experience when reading the ...

Nehemiah: God works in the delay

November 15, 2012
LIVING THE VISION BRAD BRADY This is the second in a series of articles about the book of Nehemiah.  Bishop King is inviting all South Georgia United Methodists to join him in studying this book. Sometimes we read the Bible without full appreciation of the timeline of events because we are unfamiliar with the calendar of the day.  The transition to Nehemiah 2 is a perfect example.  The first words give us a time stamp that is important to the story for several reasons. What catches my eye is ...

Beginner, novice, apprentice and then...

January 20, 2012
By Dr. Brad Brady It will not surprise those of you who know me to read this confession:  I am not a plumber or electrician or mechanically inclined in any way!  I have several hilarious stories about previous attempts of trying the most routine projects only to end up with extra parts and non-functioning equipment. Recently, I tried another project.  This time, I went to YouTube and searched for a video intended to guide a first-time “self-helper” to do a basic plumbing repair.  I watched two ...

A Disciple Is...

September 16, 2011
By Dr. Brad Brady We church folks are notorious for using words that we think everyone understands.  This is not a new phenomenon. I remember the interview I had with the Staff-Parish Relations Committee as I was seeking to enter the ministry in the late 1970s.  One of the committee members asked me a question using a religious term.  My mind raced to recall where I had heard that word and what I could deduce about its meaning from what I had previously heard or observed. I was not remembering ...

Yes, but How?

March 18, 2011
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Engaging in justice ministries to grow a Christlike world

January 21, 2011
I hope you have been reading the South Georgia Advocate over the last year.  Many things impress me about the tremendous product, but one overwhelming impression from reading last year’s editions is how our local churches and conference ministries are faithfully and creatively engaged in justice ministries.     Justice ministries encompass everything that intentionally expresses God’s love and mercy to a broken world.  For many of us, we have thought of these ministries as “missions,” “...

Our Contact Information

Episcopal Office: P.O. Box 7227 - Macon, GA 31209 478-475-9286

Administrative Office: P.O. Box 13145 - Macon, GA 31208 800-535-4224

Connectional Ministries: P.O. Box 20408 - St. Simons Island, GA 31522 888-266-7642

Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.