By Kelly Roberson
Annual Conference is a special time to celebrate ministry milestones and achievements, from those just entering the ministry to those taking the next step of their journey into retirement.
During the Board of Ordained Ministry report Monday afternoon, individuals were recognized for achieving milestones and achievements.
Received into their new relationship with the conference as Elders and Full Conference Members were Joseph Isaac Carter, Mark Jeffrey Miller, and Matthew Steven Stout.
“The Board of Ordained Ministry is charged with walking with people as they hear and respond to God’s call to ordination as elders in our church,” said the Rev. Dr. Nita Crump, acting chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry. “An elder is ordained to preach the word, lead worship, perform baptisms, serve communion, lead the church in serving the community, and order the daily business of the church. Joining the Board in this responsibility are the district committees and the local church SPR committees.
"If you believe that God is calling you to ministry, please talk to your pastor or a member of your SPRC. Church members, if someone in your church is considering a call to ministry, please pray for them and offer words of encouragement and support as they consider answering God’s call. Together, clergy and laity, we become the body of Christ working to build God's kingdom across south Georgia,” said Dr. Crump.
Others highlighted during the report on Monday afternoon were South Georgia’s newest graduates who completed all 20 classes of the Basic Course of Study: Jeff Alligood and Michael Jones.
Another source of celebration is a new incoming Chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry, Rev. Michael Culbreth, pastor at ConneXion UMC in Savannah, and a new incoming Chair of the Order of Elders, Rev. Stephanie Smith, associate pastor at Pittman Park UMC in Statesboro.
"Celebrating these milestones provides another way of celebrating our connection,” said the Rev. Dr. Jay Harris, Assistant to the Bishop and Director of Clergy and District Services.
The Conference gathered Monday evening in the sanctuary of Tifton First United Methodist Church for the Service of Ordination to celebrate the ordination of Joseph Carter, Mark Miller, and Matthew Stouth. Bishop Sharma Lewis, episcopal leader for the Mississippi Annual Conference, was the preacher for this service.
In her sermon focused on Acts 13, Bishop Lewis challenged the ordinands to be set apart for ministry as servants of God and to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit.
“Ordinands, you should desire to be set apart for the work of ministry,” said Bishop Lewis. “You shouldn't desire to blend in with this world, but to recognize that God has gifted and called you. For such a time as this you are to make a difference in The United Methodist Church. My prayer for you is that you recognize that there is no limit to what God can and will do through you in this unusual season.”
Then reading from Ephesians 4:11, Bishop Lewis reminded those being ordained of all they are being commissioned for as believers of the faith called to go out and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
“You are commissioned to the task of loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. You are commissioned to help the downtrodden by improving their lives in their communities. You are commissioned to utilize your spiritual gifts and talents within the body of Christ. You are commissioned to stand up and fight the injustices of poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity. You are commissioned to be an ambassador for Christ and not only to read and study the word but to embody the word of Jesus Christ. You are commissioned to bring sight to the blind and to set the captives free. You are commissioned to go to the highways and to the hedges and prepare folks to come into the house of the Lord so the Lord's house will be filled,” Bishop Lewis said as she spoke to the three ordinands. “You are commissioned tonight by the Holy Spirit, and will be confirmed by the church through praying, fasting, and laying on of hands to be an instrument to carry the name of Jesus Christ. You are commissioned to go out and make disciples for the transformation of the world.”
Bishop David Graves, episcopal leader of the South Georgia Conference, presided over the ordinal rites and was assisted by Mr. J. Knapp, Conference Lay Leader, representing the laity, and Dr. Nita Crump, acting chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry, observed the ordinal rites.
“What a holy moment it was to celebrate these three individuals who have said ‘yes’ to the call of God to be ordained to the ministry to which they have been called,” said Bishop Graves.
The Board of Ordained Ministry processed with the ordinands as a sign of the covenant community into which these newly ordained persons are entering. Rev. Stephanie Smith represented the Orders of Elder. Rev. Grace Guyton represented the Order of Deacon.
Earlier that day, the South Georgia Annual Conference celebrated with those clergy who have served in ministry for 50 years and those who are entering into a retired relationship with the Annual Conference.
Clergy recognized for having served 50 years in ministry include Wayne B. Anthony and David C. Seyle.
Clergy honored for retiring this year: Kevin Baker, Sandi Conley, Hal Grimmett, John Haney, Brenda Johnson, Derek McAleer, Steve Meguiar, Steve Patton, Ivelisse Quinones, and Gerald Reppert, Jr.
Before those gathered were dismissed, Bishop Graves and Conference members prayed a closing blessing that read, in part:
“Go into the world and respond to the love of Christ in all you do. Live out the vision God has given you. May God's mercy, grace, and peace be with you. May you be channels for God's mercy, grace, and peace to the world wherever you may be!”