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Piney Mount UMC opens doors to neighbors, focuses on community


By Rev. Abra Lattany-Reed
Last month, the members of Piney Mount United Methodist Church in Tennille, Ga. gathered to participate in an intentional time of worship to pray for the needs of their community. They invited friends, family, and community neighbors to come and celebrate the unfailing grace of God.  
Under the pastoral leadership of Rev. Gary Griffin, he and his congregants boldly declare that love is the answer, and that love can be found at Piney Mount UMC. 
Since 1847, Piney Mount UMC has been celebrating 176 years of loving and serving Jesus Christ. But on a Sunday in August, the church hosted its first friends and family day.  
Rev. Griffin acknowledges that the church is a welcoming congregation, but he believes that God is leading them to something more. He began asking his members an intentional question, “Have we ever hosted a friends and family worship celebration?” Most churches in their community celebrate Homecoming, but Rev. Griffin wanted to know when was the last time the members of Piney Mount UMC invited their neighbors to come to their church and worship with them, to join them in prayer, and to break bread together? 
Friends and family celebrations are often observed in many southern, faith traditions. Since the pandemic and recent challenges within their communities, however, members of Piney Mount UMC recognized that their church, especially being a small membership church, must be intentional about everything. Therefore, members decided it was a perfect time to reset, refresh, and revive worship by sponsoring a friends and family worship service. 
Church members went to work inviting everyone to come to their church and experience God’s grace and the love of neighbors. This congregation recognized and began talking about one important thing: we are all neighbors, regardless of our walks of life, our difference, or our faith.
As members began to extend the invitation to come and worship, Rev. Griffin decided to invite a few of his friends as well. He reached out to Rev. Abra Lattany-Reed, Director of Diversity and Justice Ministries for the South Georgia Conference, to come and be the guest preacher for this occasion. Rev. Lattany-Reed preached a sermon that reflected on God’s divine law and love that asks an intentional question - “Who is our neighbor?” - as noted in the gospel story about the good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37).  
The results of intentional prayer leading up to the service and personal invitations to friends and neighbors in the community was a day of faith-affirming worship where nearly 100 individuals gathered at the church. The morning saw an altar response – from members and neighbors alike – of those committed to prayer, one another, and to Jesus! 
While Piney Mount UMC usually has a worship attendance around 50 people, Rev. Griffin believes God honored their intentionality. He believes it’s because the congregation recognized and celebrated the fact that we are all neighbors. 
“At Piney Mount, prayer is our priority and love is our best gift,” said Rev. Griffin. “Our doors are open; ‘who so ever will, let them come.’”
Rev. Abra Lattany-Reed is the Director of Diversity and Justice Ministries for the South Georgia Conference and can be reached at

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