New annual conference venue offers beautiful views, opportunities for outdoor fun


Alfredo Bocanegra, Faustino Peres, and Jaime Gallaga, members of Casa de Vida y Paz, part of the Bainbridge Hispanic Mission, enjoyed the oceanfront location of the 2017 Annual Conference session.

Breathtaking ocean vistas greeted conference attendees as they arrived at the Jekyll Island Convention Center for the 2017 South Georgia Annual Conference session.

The only oceanfront convention center on the east coast south of New Jersey, the convention center’s remarkable views of the Atlantic Ocean were certainly a draw as the conference held its annual meeting at a new site for the first time in seven years.

Conference planners hoped that the new location and venue, which opened in 2012, would be a relaxing setting where clergy and lay delegates and their families could fellowship and have fun in the midst of worship and business.

Members of the Circuit Riders S3 group, of which Rev. Jim Morrow, pastor of Lyons First United Methodist Church, is a part, rented two homes on Jekyll Island. The two homes were just two doors down from one another and the families got together daily for meals and conversation.

“We’re not confined to a hotel room, which is our norm, so that’s been nice,” Rev. Morrow said, noting that the children were able to play in the playroom, outside, or on the beach. “The whole point was to get everyone together, and we were able to do that.”

Some in the group chose to arrive a day or two before Annual Conference began and others extended their stay beyond the close of conference. Spouses played board games and spent time on the beach, children had fun, and memories were made.

“People from both houses were visiting in the living room and kids were playing together,” Rev. Morrow said. “This is different than Daddy being gone all week. Our families engaged in some conferencing with other families while we engaged in conferencing on behalf of the church. It’s super cool.”

Karen Forrester was initially apprehensive about the new location, but she quickly acclimated to the new environment.

“It seemed to be a more relaxed atmosphere this year,” she said. “It’s been fresh and I’ve enjoyed the newness of it.”

Familiar with St. Simons Island and Epworth By The Sea, Forrester, who has attended 18 Annual Conference sessions, chose to stay at Epworth. The drive to Jekyll Island wasn’t bad, she said, taking between 20 and 30 minutes, and gave her time to prepare for the day or unwind.

“Epworth is just home to me,” said Forrester, a lay delegate from Bainbridge First United Methodist Church. “I wanted to be somewhere where I was comfortable … and I just love it here.”

Jaime Gallaga had a great experience at his second annual conference session.

“It’s a beautiful place. Wow,” said Gallaga, a lay leader at Casa de Vida y Paz, part of the Bainbridge Hispanic Mission, and a Southwest District at-large delegate. “I don’t have words to explain this place. It’s great.”

Gallaga stayed in a hotel on Jekyll Island and was able to enjoy the beach and take a nighttime dip in the ocean Monday night. The overall experience of being on Jekyll Island was wonderful, he says.

“I am thankful that the South Georgia Conference opened their arms to Hispanic Ministries and to be here,” he said. “It’s peaceful and we have more time to be with people.”

The 2018 Annual Conference session will again be held on Jekyll Island, June 3-6, 2018.

“The newness and beauty of the facility, with everything on one level, with ample restrooms, spacious hallways, and large meeting spaces, made the Jekyll Island Convention Center more than adequate for our needs,” said Conference Secretary Dr. Jay Harris. “Being at the beach made this venue the most family friendly location we have had.”

Members of the Circuit Riders S3 group rented two Jekyll Island homes so they could spend time together during the 2017 Annual Conference session.