ConneXion Church consecrated, dedicated

2/6/2017

Savannah church is focused on connection, unity

By Kara Witherow, Editor

Sunday morning at 11 a.m. has been called “the most segregated hour in this nation.”

More than 53 years ago Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke those words, and even today, decades later, many pastors grapple with that same issue and still say that churches are among the most divided institutions in American society.

One new South Georgia United Methodist Church, however, is trying to break down those barriers and be an intentionally multiracial and multigenerational congregation.

ConneXion Church, which officially launched Jan. 8 and was consecrated and dedicated Jan. 29, is a new congregation birthed out of Savannah’s Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Cokesbury United Methodist Church, and Speedwell United Methodist Church.

“All persons from any background are welcome to be a part of the church,” said Rev. Michael Culbreth, ConneXion Church’s senior pastor. “It’s our hope that we can strive to break down barriers that have existed before. We want to be intentional about that. The Church is for everyone.”

Blending three historic and distinct congregations – one predominantly African-American, one predominantly Caucasian, and one that had become fairly multiracial in recent years – has been challenging, but the focus has remained on kingdom growth and reaching people for Christ.

“God loves diversity,” Rev. Culbreth said. “He made everyone different, and as people of God we should appreciate diversity.”

The church’s appreciation for and focus on a diverse group of worshipers was evident during its consecration and dedication service. Nearly 200 people gathered in the former Cokesbury UMC sanctuary, which recently underwent a nearly $500,000 renovation. In the same pew sat youth, adults, seniors, African-American, Asians, and Caucasians.

It was a picture of the kingdom of God right there on the corner of DeRenne Ave. and Skidaway Road, church leaders say.

They’re not striving for diversity just for diversity’s sake, though. The church’s mission is to connect the disconnected with Jesus Christ, to rebuild lives, and rebuild the city. That can only be done together, unified.

People of all ages and ethnicities serve in leadership and are involved in worship services. Beloved hymns and modern praise songs were interspersed throughout Sunday morning’s service, and this month Rev. Culbreth will preach a sermon series on building bridges. He will highlight scriptures that focus on how Jesus broke down barriers and will remind the congregation that Jesus brought people together and destroyed barriers that kept people apart.

Bishop R. Lawson Bryan, South Georgia’s episcopal leader, took part in the special service and preached a message focused on unity in Jesus Christ. 

“This is a great day to be together,” he said before reading from Ephesians chapter 1, verses 9 and 10. “The Church exists to be together … with all kinds of people. And worship is where transformation and unity happens. It’s where dividing walls come down.”

Bishop Bryan encouraged the congregation to connect with neighbors, to say hello to one another, and to bring peace into the world.

“It’s a great thing when we stop watching the news and start making the news,” he said. “You are the news in Savannah, Georgia.”

As the Savannah State University Wesleyan Gospel Choir presented a rousing a cappella song of praise, Bishop Bryan and Rev. Culbreth gave the congregation an opportunity to sign covenant cards to become charter members of ConneXion Church.

“This is what we needed to do,” said Craig Hughes, a former member of Cokesbury UMC and now a charter member of ConneXion Church, of the merger and new church start. “I’ve come to know and love these people, and I see us doing great things.”