More than 1,200 United Methodists felt God’s presence during the 2011 South Georgia Annual Conference session, held June 5-9 in Tifton, Ga.

Whether it was through warm greetings and friendly smiles, in the bright sun and blistering heat, or through the blinding dust storm and power outage, one thing was for certain: they were never alone.

“In God’s kingdom, no one is alone,” said Bishop James R. King, Jr., episcopal leader of the South Georgia area.  “In God’s Kingdom everyone deserves to be loved.”

With a theme of “Never Alone,” Bishop King proclaimed that there is “no place to hide in the Kingdom of God; there is no place to hide in true fellowship.”

Bishop King challenged clergy and laity alike to “recommit yourselves to Jesus being the Lord of your life.  And recommit yourselves to true fellowship so that as the world grows more Christlike no one will ever be alone.”

Even the visuals on stage reminded conference members of the importance of fellowship. The stage set was reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting ‘The Last Supper,’ with a live portrayal of Jesus and his disciples in every worship service.

One of the highlights of conference was an intentional time set aside to focus on living a healthier lifestyle.  During “A Healthier Me: Body, Mind & Soul” members ran and walked, participated in aerobics, body prayer, a healing prayer walk and wellness workshops, all in an effort to enhance the well being of their lives. 

In other actions, members:

·      gave over $75,000 to Imagine No Malaria for this year’s special offering. 

·      were moved in a powerful way as they sat in a cloak of darkness as Bishop Thomas Bickerton continued to preach with a flashlight shining on his face during a power outage at the Ordination Service.  The light of cell phones helped Bishop King preside over the ordinal rites of the 14 persons being ordained.

·      heard a moving message by Dr. Hal Brady in the Memorial Service.

·      were led by Dr. Steven Manskar, director of Wesleyan Leadership at the General Board of Discipleship, in three Bible studies focusing on the importance and role of small groups in spiritual formation.

·      heard about exciting ministry taking place with new congregations, revitalized congregations and Hispanic ministries during the New and Revitalized Congregational Development report.

·      passed several notable motions: a motion to study the feasibility and cost-saving implications of reducing the number of districts by at lease one; a motion to look into reducing the Annual Conference session by one day; and a motion to study the feasibility of providing conference delegates with the option of receiving all possible conference materials electronically in lieu of paper materials.

·      approved an amended church professional misconduct policy.

·      approved an $11.75 million budget – which is a reduction from 2011 – for mission and ministry for the next year and also approved a reduction in the remaining 2011 budget.

Six people were commissioned as provisional elders, one person was commissioned as provisional deacon, and four persons were recognized as associate members.  Thirteen person were ordained into the Order of Elders, and one person ordained into the Order of Deacons.  The average age of those ordained is 42.  Eighteen pastors retired, and eight were recognized for achieving their 50th anniversary in ministry.  Twenty-seven clergy and clergy spouses who died in the past year were remembered during the memorial service.

Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Larry Price, Albany; Carl Childs, Fort Gaines; Bill Hatcher, Statesboro; Kelly Roberson, Brunswick; and Allison Eastin, Douglas.  Clergy delegates:  Robert Beckum (head of delegation), Columbus; Bob Moon, Valdosta; Ben Martin, Statesboro; Jim Cowart, Warner Robins; and Denise Walton, Dublin.

Lay delegates elected to Jurisdictional Conference: J. Taylor Phillips, Macon; Miriam Hagan, Macon; Sunshine Bird, Statesboro; Richard Shinhoster, Savannah; and Marianne Wright, Valdosta. Alternate delegates: Gloria Morgan, Dublin and Charlene Black, Sylvania.

Clergy delegates elected to Jurisdictional Conference: Buddy Cooper, Columbus; Don Adams, Albany; Hal Brady, Atlanta; Marcia Cochran, St. Simons Island; and Brad Brady, St. Simons Island.  Alternate delegates: Shane Green, Columbus and Jimmy Cason, Statesboro.

Membership stands at 130,906, down 2,451 from the previous year.  Worship attendance stands at 51,777, down 834.