From the Heart of the Connection
Rev. Dr. Matt Woodbery, Director of Connectional Ministries
“I thank my God every time I mention you in my prayers. I’m thankful for all of you every time I pray, and it’s always a prayer full of joy. I’m glad because of the way you have been my partners in the ministry of the gospel from the time you first believed it until now. I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus. I have good reason to think this way about all of you because I keep you in my heart. You are all my partners in God’s grace… in the defense and support of the gospel. God is my witness that I feel affection for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.
“This is my prayer: that your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ. I pray that you will then be filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes from Jesus Christ, in order to give glory and praise to God.” (Philippians 1:3-11, CEB.)
In the Army, there is a tradition known as the “Hail and Farewell” where organizations say goodbye to outgoing members of a staff or team and welcome incoming members to the team. It is a usually conducted over a meal with much revelry where “war stories” (literal and figurative) are recounted and the “10% rule” is often invoked – that is, only 10% of the story is true!
Although it may seem like a required office party to some, it actually has the potential to be a very healthy practice for the unit at large. It tells those leaving that their contributions are valued while communicating to the new team members, “we take care of and appreciate our team – and now you are on it!”
This is the season of transitions and moves across Methodism, and that includes me as well! So, in the spirit of the Army’s “Hail and Farewell,” allow me to publicly welcome Dr. Nita Crump to the Connectional Ministries team. Dr. Crump will assume her role as Director of Connectional Ministries after Annual Conference. Nita is currently the District Superintendent of the Southwest District where she has demonstrated professional excellence in caring for the clergy and family members of the district as well as wise counsel and thoughtful equipping of those clergy. She has truly been a pastor to pastors. Dr. Crump has also demonstrated a passion for matching the love of Christ alive in the churches in the district with innovative and relevant models for ministry, enhancing those churches’ ability to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world. Now she will be responsible for leading the OCM team in continuing that good work for the whole Conference. Welcome, Nita!
Now a few words of personal farewell to the South Georgia Connection:
First, I want to thank God for God’s faithfulness in hearing my prayer for wisdom and discernment as I navigated the transition from military to civilian ministry. I must thank my wife, Carol, who always encourages me towards excellence while inspiring me with her courage and graciousness while making difficult transitions, none more so than this past year.
I want to thank my OCM teammates: Allison Lindsey, Rev. Earnestine Campbell, Rev. Daniel Medina, Rev. Stacy Harwell-Dye, and Suzanne Akins; and my former OCM teammates, Kelly Roberson, Kara Witherow, and Meredyth Earnest. Your kindness and patience with me have been humbling; you truly are sisters and brothers in Christ. I’ve enjoyed sharing with you this part of our journey of life and faith together. For my laity teammates, know that you are exemplary in your discipleship and are making lasting impressions of service and servanthood that you cannot measure – although you may feel like it has been just one long string of meetings, phone conversations, WebX meetings, and gatherings! For my clergy colleagues: your example of professionalism and aspiring for excellence as you live out your vocation is inspiring. All the work of OCM is staggering: you’ve conducted dozens of small group sessions and classes for hundreds of hours, traveling hundreds (thousands?) of miles across South Georgia; you’ve literally and figuratively joined people in the midst of the storms of life offering hope, encouragement and cup of cool water; you’ve advocated for those without voices and those whose voices are in need of encouragement and strength; you’ve marched, organized, written volumes, designed and executed standard-setting events; you’ve welcomed hundreds of children and youth from across the Conference and Jurisdiction practicing the highest forms of Christian hospitality; you’ve developed future and current leaders by both pedagogy and example. If only all United Methodists in South Georgia could see what I get to see every day, they would be amazed and even more proud of how strong the Connection is and how God’s kingdom is being served and ushered into South Georgia by men and women like you! I’m proud to have served on your team – and that’s 100% factual!
I also want to thank Bishop Bryan and my Compass Group colleagues: Dr. Derek McAleer, Dr. Jay Harris, Rev. Jay Hanson, and Mrs. Kelly Roberson. You also have extended the hand of Christian collegiality and have been patient with my military acronyms and jargon all the while teaching me how to be South Georgian. I thank God for your leadership examples and friendships.
To all the those lay brothers and sisters who selflessly give time, experience, wisdom as you serve on the numerous committees and boards – all on a voluntary basis – I’ve had the privilege with which to serve, I thank you for your kind encouragement and partnership. I’d like to say I will miss all the meetings, but I know that it will really be YOU I miss – not the meetings!
To all of the South Georgia Connection, your welcome and encouragement of me has been life-bringing. As I make this transition, know that I will continue to pray for the people of the Conference and you as leaders in the months to come. “For such times as these….”
I’m eager to join my new team at Mulberry Street UMC and look forward to see what God has prepared for us there, as I know God is already at work and blessing there in mighty ways!
The apostle Paul said it best: “I’m thankful for all of you every time I pray, and it’s always a prayer full of joy. I’m glad because of the way you have been my partners in the ministry of the gospel from the time you first believed it until now.”
Signing off from…
…the Heart of the Connection,