United Methodist Women gather for 45th annual meeting


Past United Methodist Women gathered at the annual meeting. Pictured, left to right, are Mary Exley, Sara Bankhead, Margaret Creech, Eugenia Yawn, Gloria Morgan, and Charlene Black.
After plans for a 2016 annual meeting were thwarted by Hurricane Matthew, the South Georgia United Methodist Women gathered Saturday, Oct. 21 for their 45th annual meeting.

“What a wonderful day God has made for us to gather,” South Georgia United Methodist Women president Mary Exley said to the women and handful of men gathered in Statesboro First United Methodist Church’s downtown sanctuary.

Meeting under the theme, “Building Community,” UMW from each South Georgia district met to celebrate 148 years of mission and ministry.

During her address, Exley celebrated the accomplishments and service work of South Georgia United Methodist Women and spoke about the purpose of the organization.

“I don’t know what the future holds for United Methodist Women,” she said, “but my prayer is that we will grow in mission, faith, and love.”

She outlined the ways United Methodist Women in South Georgia are learning about, fighting for, and advocating for social justice issues and growing as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Exley, having served four years as president, retired after this year’s annual meeting and was succeeded by Carol Banks, a member of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Milan.

“Will we be a tumbling tumbleweed or the staunch and secure sagebrush?” Exley asked. “We must keep our roots deep in our source.”

During their business session, South Georgia United Methodist Women pledged $150,000 to missions giving in 2018 and approved a $99,706 budget for the coming year.

During the installation of officers led by past president Gloria Morgan, six were installed into leadership positions: Carol Banks, president; Elaine Shierling, secretary; Sylvia Copp, secretary of program resource; Barbara Morris, social action coordinator; Agnes McKinney, communications coordinator; and Becky Britton, chair of nominations.

Love and appreciation were expressed to outgoing officers Mary Exley, Charlcie Jones, Margaret Wheeler, and Nell Calhoun.

Directors of three mission agencies of United Methodist Women were introduced and each shared with attendees the mission of their agency.

Kim Jenkins, executive director of Open Door Community House in Columbus, shared how Open Door builds intentional relationships with women, children, and families within the Columbus community, and told of the 37 children who were learning to play instruments through Open Door’s new orchestral music program.

Susan O’Neal, director of development for The Vashti Center in Thomasville, said Vashti helped 350 children during the past year, including 35 in residence.

“We are a safe haven for them,” she said. “You are holding a banner of love over these missions. You are an extension of God. Hold tight to that.”

Wesley Community Center Executive Director Tammy Mixon-Calderon thanked United Methodist Women for serving children, women, and families.

“Thank you for responding to the need. Thank you for engaging with our children and families. Thank you for delivering the resources, funds, prayers, and presence,” she said. “That’s what you are to us. We can’t do what we do without you. You are the backbone of Wesley Community Centers.”

During the day’s worship service, attendees sang hymns and were treated to special music sung by Statesboro First UMC’s choir.

Rev. Jimmy Cason, senior pastor of Statesboro First UMC; Dr. Nita Crump, superintendent of the Southwest District; Rev. Chris Ramsey, superintendent of the Northeast District; and Sandra Simpson led worshippers in a service of Holy Communion.

In her final address as United Methodist Women president, Exley urged the women to continue to serve and love.

“I believe United Methodist Women is blessed to be a blessing.”

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