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What a year!

August 07, 2017

What? Has it really been a whole year since I received the good news of my assignment to serve in South Georgia? Yes, it has. Sherrill and I thank you for the radical hospitality we have received from the more than 600 churches and well over 100,000 members of our wonderful conference, laity and clergy. Thank you for going out of your way to make our first year together such a tremendous experience.

Our quadrennial theme, Alive Together in Christ, is the best way I know to summarize the past year. Everything we have done has been focused on discovering what it means to be Alive Together in Christ. Here is a brief review of the year:
  • we held an OnBoarding event last August with the appointive cabinet and the laity and clergy on the extended cabinet;
  • to be certain we followed up on the insights that were shared at that event I asked that same group to meet monthly as the Strategic Initiatives Team;
  • Peg Aldridge, an Innovation Coach, has led the Strategic Initiatives Team in a planning process known as Appreciative Inquiry, focusing on assets rather than scarcity;
  • last spring the Connectional Ministries staff was asked to join the Strategic Initiatives Team in the monthly meetings;
  • laity and clergy gatherings were held in each district from September to November; I have preached in several churches in each district and look forward to being in even more of our churches during my second year;
  • my faith finds fresh inspiration when I have a chance to connect with those who serve in extension ministries;
  • we were Alive Together in disaster response;
  • I have enjoyed our amazing retreats and camps for children, youth, and adults at Epworth By The Sea, including Winter Conference and Georgia Pastors School;
  • from February to April the appointment making process taught me how well the district superintendents know and care for their churches and clergy;
  • in June the laity and clergy delegates to annual conference demonstrated the spiritual vitality that is ours when we are Alive Together in Christ.
At annual conference Lovett Weems provided practical resources to help reach our goal of a 10 percent increase in average worship attendance. Each delegate took home a Vital Signs Toolkit with specific steps to take to be Alive Together in Worship.

Worship is one of the chief answers to the question, “What does it mean to be Alive Together in Christ?” It means to be Alive Together in Worship. That is why the goal of increasing average worship attendance is right on target. Worship that is “alive” will have a positive influence on every other aspect of our own lives and on our churches. Our focus for this conference year is Alive Together in Worship.

Have you identified your 10 highest attended services between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017? What plans are you making to increase attendance at those 10 services between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018? Remember to include Christmas Eve if that is one of your top 10 services of the year. Please share with your district superintendent the top 10 services of the past 12 months and how you are approaching those services over the next year.  

Our conference can bring hope to the entire denomination as we take the lead in increasing average worship attendance. I am already rejoicing as I anticipate how the Spirit will move in South Georgia because we are Alive Together in Worship.

Another major emphasis of this conference year will be the work of the Commission on a Way Forward and the recommendations that group will make to the Council of Bishops. The goal is to find a way forward beyond the current impasse over human sexuality. I will soon announce plans for providing information and direction to our annual conference as we prepare for the special session on General Conference in 2019.

Alive Together in Christ,

R. Lawson Bryan

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