United Methodist Women gather for their 40th annual meeting


By Kara Witherow, Editor

More than 260 women from across the South Georgia Annual Conference gathered together for the 40th annual meeting of the South Georgia United Methodist Women.

Meeting under the theme “That All May Have Life,” on Saturday, October 20, UMW from across the conference celebrated 143 years of mission and ministry at Savannah’s White Bluff United Methodist Church.

“You are a mighty force for God,” said keynote speaker Bishop James R. King, Jr., episcopal leader of the South Georgia Conference. “Show your love.” 

Referencing John 13, where Jesus washes His disciples’ feet, Bishop King said that in order to best serve God believers must humble themselves and serve their fellow man.

Paraphrasing what Jesus said, Bishop King preached, “You can’t serve me (Jesus) unless you have your feet washed, and ultimately you can’t follow me (Jesus) unless you wash the feet of others.”

Serving and loving others makes the world a more Christlike place, he said, but believers must be humble in order to serve.

“There are still women who need you to come into their lives,” Bishop King said. “Beautiful people, there is a power that is greater than you and you need to believe so that you will humble yourself. If you will humble yourself, you will serve. Service is the ship that carries love. When you serve you are loving others and the world will become more Christlike.”

Since Jesus loves, His followers should also love, he said.

“One of the purposes of the United Methodist Women is to bring people in and love them up in fellowship. Live out your mission statement as United Methodist Women. If you do, you will show your love.”

UMW president Sara Bankhead reminded the group that, though there have been recent changes within the structure of the UMW, the purpose remains the same.

“We are women who put our faith, hope and love into action every day,” she said. “We transform the lives of women, children and youth around the world, and as we serve, we are transformed ourselves!”

She outlined the ways that United Methodist Women in South Georgia are learning about, fighting for, and advocating for social justice issues. 

“We are women organized for mission,” Bankhead said. 

Bankhead highlighted the ministries that, because of involvement by United Methodist Women, are taking place in the South Georgia Conference. 

So far this year, the 8,287 members in the 253 UMW units across the South Georgia Conference have been busy with 217 mission studies, have had 334 participants in their reading programs and have given $211,035.01 in total mission giving through the third quarter of this year. 

During their business session, South Georgia UMW again pledged $235,000 to missions giving in 2013 and approved an $117,575 budget for the coming year, a $2,185 reduction from the 2012 budget.

She celebrated that, “Women are meeting together to study God’s word, supporting each other in times of need, (and) providing opportunities to be in service to women, children  and youth.” 

During the installation of officers led by Joyce Dent, five were installed into leadership positions:  Nancy Hudson, vice president; Diann Beasley, secretary; Nancy Wilkes, mission coordinator for spiritual growth; Nicole Walker, mission coordinator for membership nurture and outreach; Charlcie Jones, chairperson-committee on nominations.

Love and appreciation were expressed to outgoing officers Mary Exley, Janice Ramsey, Tammy Hauser, Laurie Jo Upchurch and Chub Charles.

During the day’s worship service, attendees sang hymns and were treated to special music by Susan Roberson, Suzanne Woodrum and the Speedwell United Methodist Church choir.

Bishop James King; Rev. John Haney, pastor of White Bluff UMC; Rev. Mike Huling, Savannah District Superintendent; and Rev. Diane Shedd, associate pastor of Valdosta First United Methodist Church, led worshippers in a service of Holy Communion.

“We are women living God’s mission by seeking mercy and justice for all,” Bankhead said. “We are United Methodist Women – doing what we’re called to do. Praise God!”