In the oldest Methodist church in Georgia, on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, Bishop R. Lawson Bryan and his wife, Sherrill, were officially welcomed to the South Georgia Conference and Bishop Bryan was installed as resident bishop.
Mulberry Street United Methodist Church’s historic sanctuary was filled with clergy and laity from around the conference who came to welcome the episcopal couple, worship together, and offer warm hospitality.
The service was a joyous occasion featuring majestic music, a moving presentation of signs of episcopal ministry, and an inspiring sermon preached by Bishop Bryan.
After a welcome from Rev. Jimmy Towson, senior pastor of Mulberry Street UMC, and a greeting and prayer from Dr. Rick Lanford, Dean of the Cabinet and Superintendent of the North Central District, Mulberry Street UMC’s Ainsworth Choir performed “How Firm a Foundation.”
A highlight of the service included the presentation of the eight signs for episcopal ministry. The presenters were lay and clergy chairs of conference boards. Each read a statement and gave a symbol to the bishop, representing shepherding, the prophetic Word, baptism, communion, service, teaching, supervision and appointments.
Other conference leaders offered prayers and read various scripture passages.
Bishop Bryan’s message was personal and passionate.
“South Georgia gave me my first church home,” he said, speaking fondly of his early, formative years at Bainbridge First United Methodist Church. “Thank you for the many ways you have blessed my life.”
He spoke passionately about purpose and joining God in His kingdom work.
“God has a great purpose,” said Bishop Bryan, after quoting Ephesians 1:9-10. “He is uniting all things in Christ, and we get to be a part of that! He has made us alive together in Jesus Christ. So I only have one purpose – to cooperate with what God is doing around the world and in my own area to bring the world together, all people, all places.”
He invited South Georgia United Methodists to look in their neighborhoods, their communities, and around the world and see where God is moving and join in.
“The world needs what The United Methodist Church is uniquely equipped to provide. We cannot ask others to do what we are uniquely equipped to provide. So I ask us to stop watching the news and start making the news.”
He concluded by calling on everyone to embrace God’s purpose and to live lives each day that reflect that purpose.
“We know what God’s will is – to unite all things together in heaven and on earth in Jesus Christ. We can align ourselves, our language, our thinking, our churches, with that purpose, and then we can act immediately.
“Align with God’s purpose – act, day in and day out, aligned with that purpose – because that’s how we’re alive together in Christ.”
Following the service, a reception was held in Mulberry Street UMC’s fellowship hall.