2022 Annual Conference: Agenda, Special Offering, Resolutions, Disaffiliation Info.

Conference’s Confirmation Retreat at Epworth is “the best weekend”


By Kara Witherow, Editor

Epworth By The Sea is quiet no more.

The serene, peaceful campus along the Mackay River was once again filled with laughter, activity, and music as the 21st annual Join the Journey Confirmation Retreat returned after a one-year hiatus.

More than 400 youth and their adult volunteers gathered to worship, learn, and play together during the March 4-6 weekend retreat that teaches confirmands about prevenient grace, justifying grace, and sanctifying grace as well as their United Methodist heritage in a high-energy, exciting atmosphere. 

During confirmation, those who have been baptized declare their faith in Christ and are strengthened by the Holy Spirit for continuing discipleship. South Georgia’s Confirmation Retreat is meant to complement what local churches are doing to help children respond to the grace of God in their lives and live as people of faith. 

It was an answer to prayer and a scene that hadn’t been witnessed in nearly two years as the pandemic and a wrecked cargo ship off St. Simons Island’s coast had Epworth By The Sea closed to outside visitors.

The South Georgia Conference’s Confirmation Retreat – the first large event hosted at Epworth By The Sea since March 2020 – was a welcome return to normalcy, leaders said. 

“After one full year without in-person events and another year hosting events at an alternate location while Epworth was closed, it felt good to be ‘home,’” said Suzanne Akins, Director of Camping and Retreats. “We enjoyed the improvements Epworth has made during the last two years and mostly, the 33 participating churches enjoyed just being together again - worshiping and learning about our journeys of faith.” 

For church leaders and youth, it was a much-anticipated and needed time to get away and connect with Christ and one another.

“We had a great time,” said Emily Reaves, Valdosta First United Methodist Church’s youth director. “This is one of my favorite things to do every year with our kids.”

Reaves and her group of 18 youth and four adults were excited to return to a beloved event at one of their favorite locations, she said. Epworth By The Sea is a special place for them and the retreat is well planned and executed. 

The sessions reinforced what her students had learned in their confirmation classes at Valdosta First UMC, the worship was deep and rich, and the group strengthened their connections and friendships during the weekend. 

“There’s something exciting about getting to learn about your journey with Jesus with hundreds of other people,” she said. 

Epworth By The Sea was thrilled to once again be able to host the Conference’s Confirmation Retreat, said Joel Willis, president and CEO of Epworth By The Sea.

“More than 400 confirmands and counselors graced our campus as they learned more about Jesus Christ and becoming a member of their local church. All of our staff are very happy that we are getting ‘back to normal!’”  

This was Reaves’ ninth year taking students to the Confirmation Retreat, and she and her students look forward to future events.

“It’s a tradition. It’s what we do and we love it. It’s the best weekend.”

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