For the first time in 40 years, Bishop R. Lawson Bryan wasn’t in Montgomery, Ala. for the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference’s Annual Conference session.
Not only was he not sitting in a pew in Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church’s sanctuary, he was sitting on stage, looking over a crowd of nearly 1,000 South Georgia United Methodists at the Jekyll Island Convention Center.
Presiding over his first annual conference session since becoming South Georgia’s resident bishop, Bishop Bryan led four days of plenary and worship sessions with the poise, grace, and wisdom of a seasoned bishop, conference leaders say.
“I think he handled things really well and everything went as smoothly as it could go for an annual conference. I was very impressed,” said Gloria Morgan, conference lay leader and member of Pine Forest United Methodist Church in Dublin. “He set the bar really high.”
Delivering a powerful first episcopal address nine months into his episcopacy, Bishop Bryan reminded those gathered that cultivating relationships is of primary importance.
He and his wife, Sherrill, have visited all six districts and met hundreds of laity and clergy since arriving in South Georgia.
“We’ve had a great time getting into the districts,” he said. “Relationships matter!”
He introduced the conference to Appreciative Inquiry, which uses the Four-D process – discover, dream, design, deliver – to focus on strengths and alignment.
“We are alive together in Christ,” Bishop Bryan said. “The more we know about that the more we can have it with others.”
Returning to the conference that gave him his first church home, Bishop Bryan has come full circle and “home” to South Georgia. During one session, he had a photo of his newborn grandson, John Philip Bryan, Jr., born May 25, sitting on the table to inspire and remind him.
Since receiving its own Bishop in 1988, South Georgia has been served by Bishops Looney, Watson, King, and now Bryan.
Ever the faithful helpmate, Sherrill Bryan served alongside conference staff and volunteers all week. She even created the stunning floral arrangements that adorned the stage and altars.
“When I met (Bishop Bryan), he told me that he and Sherrill are in ministry together. I saw that this week,” Morgan said. “She worked as hard as anybody to help us put this on. They are a team and are in ministry together.”
Each episcopal leader brings their own unique gifts, graces, and leadership style that enriches the Annual Conference in which they serve.
“Bishop Bryan is very energetic in everything he does,” Morgan said. “He is alive together in Christ!”