Covid-19 Update from the Bishop & Cabinet: Watching carefully the rise in COVID infection rates


2021 Leadership Opportunities: Maximizing Hybrid Worship, Local Church Trainings & Grants, Strengths Coaching

published 1/5/2021
Your South Georgia Conference staff is working hard this new year to bring even more helpful resources to you and your local church. Was 2020 a hard year? Yes! Did it provide opportunities for local churches to evaluate their local church ministries? Yes! The pandemic has presented an opportunity for innovation, exploration, and experimentation - in lots of areas. The following opportunities will help equip and empower pastors, church staff, and church leadership to learn and grow together as ...

2021: a look ahead with Bishop Bryan

published 1/4/2021
By Kara Witherow, Editor Hope. It’s the message of Christmas and the promise of a new year. But after a year like 2020, where can one find hope? As 2021 begins, Bishop R. Lawson Bryan is hopeful despite the uncertainties and unknowns. He looks to the Bible – Matthew 2, specifically – to guide him into 2021. The story he turns to often gets overlooked in the transition from Christmas to Epiphany, but it helps him remember there is hope, and sometimes just one thing needs to change for greater...

Annual Confirmation Retreat reimagined

published 1/4/2021
The 20th annual Confirmation Retreat may not look like it has the last 19 years, but the focus remains the same: to complement what a church is or will be doing for each Confirmation class and to bring a sense of connectedness to our churches. Since 2002, the South Georgia Conference has sponsored an annual Confirmation Retreat at Epworth By The Sea for students in the fifth grade and above. This event provides churches of all sizes an opportunity to connect with others through worship, study, ...

Bikers deliver gifts, cheer to Wesley Glen residents

published 1/4/2021
By Kara Witherow, Editor It was more rumbling and revving than prancing and pawing when a group of Macon-area bikers played Santa and delivered Christmas gifts to Wesley Glen Ministries’ residents. And instead of reindeer, the group rode in on Harley-Davidsons, Hondas, and Indian Motorcycles. “You could hear (the bikes) before you could see them!” said Dr. Tyler Plaxico, president and CEO of Wesley Glen Ministries. Located in Macon, Wesley Glen is an agency of the South Georgia Conference ...

Bishop Bryan: We need each other!

published 1/4/2021
FROM THE BISHOP R. LAWSON BRYAN As Bishop Bryan looks toward a new year with hope and optimism, we asked him what words of inspiration he has for the laity and clergy of South Georgia as we begin 2021. Watch this brief video and be encouraged!

A John Wesley Moment (More about the Germans)

published 1/3/2021
JOHN WESLEY MOMENTS DAVE HANSON The small group of Germans who traveled with John Wesley and General Oglethorpe to Georgia had a powerful influence on the young pastor. Wesley wrote in his diary, “There is something special about these Germans. They are so happy and they do the menial jobs on this ship without complaining. They say it helps them with their humility.” Have you noticed how we all sit up and pay attention to someone who rolls up their sleeves and pleasantly serves? My friend, ...

Welcome 2021: Better than normal

published 1/3/2021
GROWING IN GRACE BEN GOSDEN It’s hard to believe the decade known as the year 2020 is finally coming to an end. I was listening to all of the different ways people aired grievances for this year. “The year we all want to forget,” one commentator said. “Good riddance once and for all, 2020” another remarked. We can all relate. None of us imagined 2020 would turn out this way. We all have one thing or another, in varying degrees, to grieve at the end of this unforgettable year. Add to it all the...

Bishop Bryan: Recognizing our need for one another this Christmas

published 12/21/2020
Dear South Georgia Conference family, Sherrill and I are preparing to celebrate our fifth Christmas here in the South Georgia Conference, and we are thankful for the opportunity to serve Christ with you. This advent season I have been contemplating Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, which may be one of the most overlooked parts of the Christmas story. The angel Gabriel tells Mary of the son she will bear and then adds, “And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this...

What an important time to be the Church

published 12/18/2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the South Georgia Conference,  We write to thank you for being the Church in the difficult and disruptive time in which we are living. This is a heavy time to be the Church: a global pandemic, reckoning with race, and political division. And yet what an important time to be the Church. It was into a divided and fearful world that God sent His only Son. Christmas reveals the power of God’s vulnerable and invincible love. Thank you for the many ways you are expressing...

2020: a look back with Bishop Bryan

published 12/14/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor 2020 usually refers to vision, clarity, and focus. We have unquestionably not had those things this year. But while 2020 hasn’t brought what was expected, it has created opportunities to grow, learn, and see God in fresh, new ways, said Bishop R. Lawson Bryan. As he reflected on a year marked by a global pandemic, racial unrest, economic woes, and more, Bishop Bryan said the word that comes to mind is “endurance.” “I’ve seen endurance on superhuman levels, a divine ...

Darien UMC’s food program feeds hundreds of at-risk neighbors

published 12/14/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor Every two to three weeks, nearly 300 McIntosh County residents receive a knock on their door. When they open it, a bag full of food sits on the porch. Since March, Darien United Methodist Church has delivered bags of non-perishable food items to older and vulnerable residents of the community. It’s an effort to help keep those most at risk of contracting COVID-19 at home and out of grocery stores, said Ad Poppell, who heads Darien UMC’s Emergency Food Distribution ...

First South Georgia UM commissioned as an EarthKeeper

published 12/13/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor During a virtual service held Tuesday, Dec. 9, Global Ministries commissioned 24 new EarthKeepers from 14 annual conferences and all five jurisdictions. The service affirmed the EarthKeepers in their call to the ministry of creation care and blessed their work in their communities. Pat Homer, a member of Pittman Park United Methodist Church in Statesboro, is the first South Georgia Conference member to complete the training and be commissioned. Growing up on a farm, ...

Advent 2020

published 12/11/2020
FROM THE BISHOP R. LAWSON BRYAN I admit it, I got carried away. It was the early 1980s. The new thing was pizza delivered to your door. Wow! Of course, we ordered one – family size. And it worked. The doorbell rang and there was our large pizza. Picture this: as I enjoyed that pepperoni pizza, I looked around the room and felt a rush of satisfaction. There was Sherrill, strikingly beautiful, and 5-year-old Philip, contentedly playing with his favorite toys. Overcome by the simple joy of family ...

God makes the impossible possible

published 12/11/2020
PATHWAY TO HIS PRESENCE B.J. FUNK When Gabriel told Mary about Elizabeth’s pregnancy, he said, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:36) Those words are also for you today. Whatever you are facing, God has an answer that seems impossible to you on earth, but in the heavenly realm God sees things another way. He sees your brokenness, your loneliness, your heartache, and your pain with great possibilities. God sees that out of the ashes of your hurt, new life will rise again. There...

Looking back and moving forward

published 12/11/2020
OUR CONNECTION MATTERS ALLISON LINDSEY “Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” Hal Borland Recently I have heard people speak of putting 2020 behind us as if the striking of the clock at midnight on December 31 (for those who are able to stay awake to witness this) will somehow flip a switch and everything will be different, new, and better. If only it were that easy! We recognize our world is weary with all the ...

LaGrange College offers virtual Lessons and Carols to UMCs

published 12/9/2020
United Methodist-related LaGrange College is sharing the school's musical gifts with our South Georgia Conference connection. On December 6, LaGrange presented “Lessons & Carols” to the community. Following that performance, the school is digitally sharing the individual components of the 60-minute production for churches to use in virtual worship. Please note that you can use individual selections and/or the entire Lessons & Carols.  "It is our desire to help supply beautiful musical content ...

2020 Conference Journal now available for ordering, download

published 12/7/2020
Journal includes conference business, directories, reports, appointments, and statistical tables The 2020 Journal of the South Georgia Annual Conference is now available for purchase. Those wishing to purchase a Conference Journal will order their copy(ies) online directly from the printer. The cost of the Journal is $25 each plus tax and shipping. Click here to order your copy of the 2020 Journal of the South Georgia Annual Conference.*  The Journal is also available as a free PDF download ...

In midst of pandemic, Asbury UMC learns, adjusts, develops

published 11/30/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor Asbury United Methodist Church has learned a lot this year. While 2020 has had its challenges, the downtown Savannah congregation has grown and developed during this unprecedented time. Like several other churches, Asbury UMC underwent a pastoral transition this summer, but unlike past years, the change was in the midst of a global pandemic. The church also celebrated its 151st anniversary. Through it all, the congregation has pushed themselves beyond what they ...

Virtual or in person, this year’s charge conferences look different

published 11/30/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor In a year where nearly everything has had to be re-evaluated, reimagined, and revamped, not much is exempt. Not even the oh-so-Methodist of meetings, the charge conference. Charge conferences are annual meetings with church leaders and their district superintendent to review the business and mission of the local church. They review the previous year of ministry, complete essential church business, and affirm goals for the coming year. While essential business ...

How is Christ strengthening you?

published 11/29/2020
FROM THE BISHOP R. LAWSON BRYAN  With all the uncertainties and complications of this pandemic year, I am struck by the testimony of laity and clergy concerning how Philippians 4:11-13 is being fulfilled in their lives. Writing from prison, thanking the Philippians for the financial gift they have sent to him, the Apostle Paul says: Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have ...

John Wesley and the Germans, part 2

published 11/29/2020
JOHN WESLEY MOMENTS DAVE HANSON When John Wesley boarded the “Simmons” at Gravesend Harbor in the port of London on November 14, 1735, for his move to Georgia, he met a group of Germans who strongly influenced his life and faith. There were two groups of Germans on the small vessel. One group, numbering “two and thirty,” were Moravians. The other group, numbering around 17, were Salzburgers, Lutheran Christians. Both groups were coming to Georgia as a part of General Oglethorpe’s colony in ...

What you believe shapes how you behave

published 11/29/2020
LEADERSHIP REALLY MATTERS ANNE BOSARGE REV. JAY HANSON People ask us how the church where we serve is different than other churches. They are usually looking for “the thing we do” that sets us apart. Rather than give them a list of activities we try to explain that what you believe shapes how you behave. In fact, the connection between belief and behavior is so strong, you can tell what someone really believes by looking at how they behave. You might even say behavior reveals our beliefs. Here ...

Virtual Thanksgiving Agape Meal planned for Nov. 22

published 11/21/2020
Bishop Lawson and Mrs. Sherrill Bryan invite the South Georgia Conference to join them in a virtual Thanksgiving Agape Meal at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 22. Intended to be a time of Christian fellowship and an opportunity to gather together virtually, the Thanksgiving Agape Meal will include music, guided prayer, time for contemplation, and personal witness.  “We held a conference-wide Agape Meal last spring and I was thrilled at the overwhelming response of our annual conference,” Bishop Bryan ...

Brooklet UMC’s music ministry gets creative to encourage community

published 11/16/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor If you drive through downtown Brooklet, you may catch an impromptu porch concert put on by Marjorie and John Frazier. In mid-October, John, playing guitar, and Marjorie, both members of Brooklet United Methodist Church, surprised neighbors and passers-by with a stirring and heartfelt rendition of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” The Fraziers, Brooklet UMC choir members, also filmed themselves and sent the video to music director Mandy Mitchell. Mitchell used the Frazier...

Hunters keep Vienna UMC’s pantry stocked with venison

published 11/16/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor Deer are a big deal in Dooly County. They’re a big deal at Vienna United Methodist Church, too. The church’s three freezers are packed full of ground venison, and its food pantry’s two freezers are also fully stocked with the meat. Venison is a vital part of the church’s food ministry, which serves between 40 and 75 families each month. Every third Tuesday, cars line up to receive groceries, toiletries, and a few pounds of venison. Locals appreciate having the lean,...

Join me this week for a virtual play and a virtual Agape Meal

published 11/16/2020
FROM THE BISHOP R. LAWSON BRYAN I hope you will take advantage of two virtual opportunities this week. First, you can attend an excellent virtual play based on C. S. Lewis’ book, “The Great Divorce.” Second, I hope you will join me for a South Georgia Thanksgiving Agape Meal.     The Great Divorce The virtual play is presented by the Fellowship for Performing Arts, a non-profit New York-based company producing theater from a Christian worldview. They are offering free presentations of “The ...

Moore Methodist Museum celebrates the season with nativity collection

published 11/16/2020
By Anne Packard The Moore Methodist Museum, known for its extensive, international nativity collection usually on display Thanksgiving weekend through January, will this year celebrate the season with an even larger collection, thanks to the generous donation of more than 100 nativities by The Upper Room Museum in Nashville, Tenn., which closed in January, 2020. Anne Packard, curator, and Cindy Angelich, assistant curator, have been busy cataloging and photographing the new additions and are ...


published 11/16/2020
WHAT’S OLD IS NEW AGAIN ANNE PACKARD The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia. Historians believe that from 300-500 AD, advent was a time to prepare new Christians with fasting, prayer, and penance for baptism which would take place during the feast of Epiphany in January. Later, Roman Christians used advent as a time to prepare for Christ’s arrival, but not his original arrival in a manger in Bethlehem. ...

Sacred Rhythms, Part 2: Being Sent

published 11/16/2020
OUR CONNECTION MATTERS ALLISON LINDSEY “The call of Jesus is a call to a two-beat rhythm of life: being with him and being sent from him.” – Sheridan Voysey Last month we began thinking about rhythms and how foundational they are within our everyday lives – as well as how easily they can be disrupted. Using the Voysey quote as a springboard, we explored the first part of the two-beat rhythm: “being with him,” discovering that developing intentional sacred rhythms (using spiritual practices) ...

That Different Spirit

published 11/16/2020
By Dr. Hal Brady Not long ago a man audited a doctoral seminar on leadership. One day the professor asked each of the 16 participants in his class to tell the one thing at which they excelled. The man said he dreaded questions like that because he still was not sure of what he did best. And besides, it sounded to him like bragging. But when his turn came all he could think to say was this, “I am best at not quitting.” Now, at first, that answer sounds a little strange, but when you consider ...

Crossroads UMC to serve as Conference’s disaster storehouse

published 11/2/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor Constructed during the church building boom of the early 1990s, Crossroads United Methodist Church’s Family Activities Building – a sprawling 3,750 square foot building that once hosted community gatherings, large meals, youth events, and more – now sits virtually empty. Because of the coronavirus crisis, these large gatherings have, for now, ceased, but the church’s leadership didn’t want the building to go totally unused. So when they heard of the Conference’s need ...

Election inspires 21-day prayer effort

published 11/2/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor In the pre-dawn hours of Monday morning, Oct. 19, 115 people poured into Park Avenue United Methodist Church’s sanctuary to pray. Another 160 or so watched via livestream, worshiping and praying from their homes. More came the next day. And the next. And every day since. They’re taking part in the church’s 21-day prayer initiative, “Talk. Listen. Move,” which began Oct. 19 and runs through Nov. 8. The timing was purposeful, said Rev. Jimmy Towson, senior pastor at ...

How to avoid using bad online metrics

published 11/2/2020
GROWING IN GRACE BEN GOSDEN There’s not a lot we can agree on in such a hectic year. But surely we can agree on the fact that COVID-19 has called into question lots of ways we’ve always understood how to be the church. From an over-emphasis on buildings to how we embody the gospel in socially distanced ways, this year has been a year where the learning curve has been high for pastors and lay people alike. Among the many things called into question is the validity or effectiveness of measuring ...

Let us help each other survive

published 11/2/2020
FROM THE BISHOP R. LAWSON BRYAN This is a good year to remember that Thanksgiving, at its core, is about helping others survive. At least that’s the example of the Native Americans in 1620 and 1621. When they came ashore in North America, the Pilgrims actually landed more than 200 miles north of their intended destination. The captain tried to get back on course, but the weather was so bad they had no choice but to come ashore. The harvest season was over so there was no way they could plant ...

A John Wesley Moment about voting

published 10/31/2020
JOHN WESLEY MOMENTS DAVE HANSON  On October 6, 1774, John Wesley wrote in his journal: “I met with those who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them:  To vote without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy  To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and  To take care that their spirits were not sharpened against those who voted on the other side.” The Rev. Dave Hanson is a retired pastor and John Wesley scholar.  

2021 Annual Conference dates, Post-General Conference gathering announced

published 10/23/2020
The 2021 Annual Conference Session is set for June 6-8 at The Columbus Georgia Convention & Trade Center. The Annual Conference Session program committee met this week to discuss both the June session and other potential gatherings needed later in 2021. The 155th session of the South Georgia Annual Conference will meet in Columbus, Ga. beginning Sunday evening, June 6 and concluding on Tuesday, June 8. In addition to our time together in June, Bishop Lawson Bryan, in consultation with the ...

Bishop Bryan: Vote - it’s our right and responsibility

published 10/19/2020
With the November 3 Election Day only one week away, I encourage all eligible voters to cast their ballot either in person or by absentee ballot. Each time I vote in an election, I find myself remembering what Teddy Roosevelt said more than 100 years ago: “The Methodist Church is the most American of all denominations.”  He was not saying that we are more patriotic than others. Rather, he was referring to the fact that Methodism in America grew up alongside the developing nation. Our governing ...

Christ UMC gives away hundreds of free pumpkins at reimagined fall event

published 10/19/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor For 25 years, Christ United Methodist Church in Warner Robins has been known as “the Pumpkin Patch church.” The annual fall event has raised nearly $125,000 for local ministry groups and mission agencies like Wesley Glen Ministries, Habitat for Humanity, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the local food pantry, and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). But this year, because of the global coronavirus pandemic, church leaders didn’t think it wise to host a community ...

Congregations honor law enforcement during Faith and Blue Weekend

published 10/19/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor Across the South Georgia Conference, congregations recognized and thanked law enforcement officers for their service, prayed alongside police officers, and showed their support for those who protect and serve. During the inaugural 2020 National Faith & Blue Weekend, held Sept. 10-11, nearly 1,000 events aimed at helping promote dialogue between places of worship, community organizations, and law enforcement were held across the country. Here in South Georgia, several ...

From the Bishop & Cabinet: Church Matters

published 10/19/2020
Dear South Georgia Conference Family, The Cabinet and I write to you with gratitude and respect for the way you have navigated the past eight months. The global pandemic, reckoning with racial justice, and the rolling restart of local churches - any one of those alone would be a huge challenge. Yet, you have faced them all with a perseverance and passion that comes from Christ our Lord.  While we continue to pray for a successful vaccine, we also recognize that we must plan for several more ...

Sacred Rhythms

published 10/19/2020
OUR CONNECTION MATTERS ALLISON LINDSEY “The call of Jesus is a call to a two-beat rhythm of life: being with him and being sent from him.” - Sheridan Voysey Have you ever stopped for a moment to think about the rhythms God places into the fabric of our lives and throughout creation? I think about the ebb and flow of the tides, the phases of the moon, our sleep cycle, the need for sabbath, and our very heartbeat and breath. From sunrise to sunset we are surrounded by rhythm. Webster’s ...

Longest-serving Conference employee celebrates 30th anniversary

published 10/18/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor This month we celebrate Eleanor Dickson’s 30th anniversary as part of the South Georgia Conference staff. We are grateful to Eleanor for her faithful service over the years and for the impact her ministry has had on our clergy, their families, our lay staff, and our entire Conference. While it’s impossible to encapsulate 30 years of ministry into one article, we want to celebrate Eleanor and thank her for her three decades of ministry and service. Capable. Highly ...

Fraud Alert: Spoofing texts & emails being sent from fake number/address

published 10/5/2020
The conference office has been notified of a spoofing email as well as a text making the rounds to various South Georgia United Methodists appearing as a message from Bishop Bryan. This most recent email is from a fake, spoofed email account that has NO ties to Bishop Bryan. Please know that the Bishop will never ask for a donation, gift cards, or any kind of transfer of money via email. We recommend that you don't open attachments or give your personal information to anyone unless you are ...

Getting ready for a creative COVID Christmas

published 10/5/2020
LEADERSHIP REALLY MATTERS ANNE BOSARGE REV. JAY HANSON Did you know there are only 81 days until Christmas? When you think of Christmas, what comes to mind first? Does your mind wander to small groups caroling in a nursing home, sing-alongs in church, Christmas cantatas, kids’ programs, buffets of cookies and carafes of hot chocolate with melting marshmallows? What if those beloved traditions aren’t accessible to us this year? What will we do to ensure our congregations are safe, yet still ...

Howard Chapel UMC stays connected with unlikely combination

published 10/5/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor The unlikely combination of fruit and technology are helping one South Georgia pastor stay connected to her congregation in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Like other churches, Howard Chapel United Methodist Church in Dublin suspended all in-person activities in March. But with a mostly older and vulnerable congregation, Rev. Cleo Gilchrist hasn’t yet felt comfortable re-starting in-person worship services. It’s been hard being away from one another for nearly ...

In midst of 2020 hurricane season, caseworkers wrap up Irma, Michael repairs

published 10/5/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor When Hurricane Michael swept through southwest Georgia in October 2018, its strong winds toppled trees throughout the region. In Brinson, about 10 miles from hard-hit Donalsonville, a large Live Oak limb slammed into Gloria Singleton’s roof. A large Sweetgum tree hit the back of the house so hard it cracked the kitchen’s ceiling.           More than a year after the hurricane, Singleton was still living with tarps on her roof, waiting for repairs. Mold was starting to...

Lessons I’ve learned

published 10/5/2020
FROM THE BISHOP R. LAWSON BRYAN What lessons are you learning as we navigate through the global pandemic? I want to share three lessons I have learned from the witness of our laity and clergy. I do so with gratitude as I join you in celebrating Pastor Appreciation Month in October and Laity Sunday on October 18. First, we place a high value on “the connectional system.” Our members take seriously the New Testament pictures of the early church: sharing their resources (Acts 2:42-47), laying on ...

October is Pastor Appreciation Month

published 10/5/2020
By J. F. Knapp, III, Conference Lay Leader Encourage one another and build up each other. (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NRSV) While our response to this pandemic has been hard on communities and congregations across the country, we cannot overlook the fact that this has been particularly difficult for our pastors. These are individuals whose calling is to minister to people, especially in times of difficulty. COVID-19’s Rules of Engagement have closed sanctuaries, and social distancing has prevented...

GSU Wesley Foundation spreads love – not germs – with COVID Care Packages

published 9/14/2020
By Kara Witherow, Editor These days, a knock on the door usually means one of about two things: dinner has arrived via DoorDash or Uber Eats or an Amazon package has been delivered. But in Statesboro, the knock may mean the Georgia Southern University Wesley Foundation has deposited a COVID Care Package on your doorstep. According to a report from the New York Times, Statesboro has become a COVID-19 hotspot. Several hundred students have been diagnosed with the virus or are quarantined ...

Hispanic Heritage Month

published 9/14/2020
OUR CONNECTION MATTERS ALLISON LINDSEY “Today is the day God embraces all hues of humanity Delights in diversity and difference, Favors solidarity transforming strangers into friends. And so shall we” (From a Companion Litany to our Social Creed)  I’m just three short months into this expanded role as Director of Connectional Ministries, and a new world has opened up before me. A world from which I am learning, asking questions, immersing myself in, building relationships, and embracing the ...

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