Vanna News: October 2014

Excerpts from Snapshot: North Georgia Conference News at a Glance

October 2014, Issue No. 9

 Notice of Called Session, October 25:  Bishop B. Michael Watson has announced that he is calling a special Annual Conference session at 10 a.m, Saturday, October 25, 2014 at the Classic Center in Athens, Georgia. The purpose of the session will be to receive a report from the Conference Board of Trustees regarding offers for the Simpsonwood property.


Serving Together: United Methodist Connection is Strong in Athens by Rev. David Wofford

“How good it is when God’s people live together in unity!” -Psalm 133:1

On April 15, 2013, the Oconee Street UMC building caught fire and burned to the ground. It is said that before the old church bell fell to the ground beneath that hillside steeple, it rang and rang while being pelted by firehoses dousing the incineration. The entire city could hear her bell tolling alarmingly. Though the fire has been surely difficult for the people of Oconee Street UMC, they have become an inspiration to United Methodists across this region. The fire and their calamity have perhaps also marked the beginning of some wonderful connectional developments in the Athens-Elberton District.

Without a place to worship, Tuckston UMC immediately offered its chapel for the Oconee Street UMC congregation to worship. The other critical piece was that Oconee Street UMC was the host-site for Our Daily Bread, led by Action Ministries. Action Ministries’ offices and the daily services offered were also forced to find a new home. Athens First UMC stepped in immediately, offering them new office space. Young Harris Memorial UMC was able to offer green space to consecrate a new community garden. As a result, there exists a renewed and loving spirit to worship and minister together in Athens.

Outside our churches, the Athens community has seen an uptick in the demand for recreation space for sports leagues. Led by Athens First UMC, a multi-congregational effort has begun to collaborate in an Athens area United Methodist youth recreation league, including basketball, volleyball, and indoor soccer. As the need for courts has increased in the city, the UMC congregations have connected to meet this need within the community. Most recently, a Latino men’s basketball league moved to Young Harris Memorial UMC. Center UMC is helping to engage the participants via the district’s Missio Latino initiative.

 Gateway UMC and St. James UMC - Athens are presently collaborating with healing prayer services every other month, with many coming to worship and receive prayer.  God is up to something in Athens! These examples only scratch the surface of what is happening here! Oconee Street UMC is continuing to rebuild their facilities. When construction is complete, there will surely be great rejoicing across the United Methodist connection here in Athens. It is so good to serve God and His people in connection and collaboration. The Oconee Street UMC church bell will ring proudly very soon. May we celebrate the way God has used the bell’s temporary silence to gather the Church.

Where can your connection of congregations work together in service to Christ?


Explore the “I AM” Sayings of Jesus

The Upper Room is offering a new book “The God We Can Know: Exploring the ‘I Am’ Sayings of Jesus.” Written by Rob Fuquay, senior pastor at St. Luke’s UMC in Indianapolis, this seven-week worship and bible study series guides participants towards answering Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” Designed to be functional church wide, “The God We Can Know” is a perfect tool for the Lent season, complete with sermon guides, small group resources and more. North Georgia’s own Jasmine Smothers contributed to the creation of the study with words of meditation for the “I am the Good Shepherd” week focus. Other features in this study include group sessions on DVD and filmed in the Holy Land, online sermon guides, worship media and promotional tools, daily devotional e-mails sent to participants, and links to The Upper Room’s daily devotional guide. Order this book on the Amazon, Upper Room, or Cokesbury websites.


125 Years of Methodism in Russia

Gathering in Russia in August, United Methodists from throughout Eurasia as well as the United States, England, Germany, Switzerland and Korea honored the 125th anniversary of the arrival of the first Methodist missionaries in St. Petersburg, Russia. Among those gathered were Russell Davis and Rev. Scott Parrish representing the North Georgia Conference. The event celebrated the history and looked to the future of the United Methodist movement in Eurasia.

 The early Methodist missions and churches were shut down in the 1930s under Communist leader Joseph Stalin. The Methodist movement was reborn in the 1990s, and, in the past two decades, new churches have been planted throughout the Eurasia Episcopal Area, which includes Estonia, the Ukraine, Russia, Belorussia (Belarus), Moldova, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kirgizstan and Tajikistan. Although it still needs support from partner churches around the world, The United Methodist Church in Eurasia is working towards self-sufficiency.

 “Preserving traditions, we transform the future” was the theme for the festival at Camp Crystal near Voronezh, about 350 miles south of Moscow. A highlight was the presentation of “The Last Room Left,” an original musical by Oleg Pozharsky. Another was the baptism of a new member from the Bishkek United Methodist Church in a local river. Worship, Bible studies, sporting events, music, workshops and photo exhibits were also part of the celebration.

The festival meant a great deal to Bishop Hans Växby, former episcopal leader of the Eurasia Area. “I rejoiced seeing the spiritual maturity and my heart rejoiced because I saw how dedicated these people are, especially (to) making the worship experience diverse in order to help people grow spiritually.”

 For the Rev. Dr. Üllas Tankler, Global Ministries Executive Secretary for Europe & Eurasia, Mission Relationships, the festival was important because it helped United Methodists there celebrate their unique identity while building relationships with other United Methodist churches in Eurasia and throughout the world.

 The focus on both the past and the future meant that the Eurasian “United Methodist Church is willing to make a difference in their culture. They started small, and they started with a lot of help spiritually, culturally and financially from the West, but they are becoming an indigenous church,” he said. “This event was a very strong sign of their maturity as a church and their understanding that we are being called by God to be here and to carry the Methodist values into this society.”                


Holy Home Improvements: 100 Little Things to Improve Church Appearance

by Rachel Reiff Ellis

 A little change can go a long way; a hundred days of little changes can make a difference. When Rev. Steve Thomas arrived at John Wesley UMC of Norcross in June, he began to consider affordable ways to freshen up the church. The 100 Days, 100 Things challenge began on August 1st. The goal of the next couple of months is to find small, simple ways to improve the look and feel of the church, and also provide current members with a feeling of church ownership. Every Sunday morning Thomas announces the weekly projects during service and encourages members to sign up to contribute or stay after service to pitch in. Here are some improvements that John Wesley UMC has been making that churches of all sizes can tackle to make their building more appealing to visitors:

Declutter: The first morning of 100 Days, 100 Things started successfully as several women offered to clean up the clutter around the building. Their efforts resulted, not only in more space, but finding a total of six coffee pots, enough machinery, Thomas says, to provide coffee to double their current congregation size.

Beauty in the Details: Many churches can easily lose track of pens and envelopes for the offering. Recently John Wesley UMC cleaned up the look of their envelopes and replenished each pew with them, along with pens.

Polish and Shine: The church family shined up the metal pieces of each door. It sounds like a small task but with bathroom and classroom push pads constantly being touched and smudged, the metal quickly becomes dirty and worn looking. They also took time to wash all of the windows.

Restore the Broken: Another easy fix! Most people know how to replace light bulbs and batteries. The church placed this task high on their list. They were surprised to realize that many rooms had dead clocks and dim lighting.

Good First Impression: The entrance of John Wesley has been given a fresh look both inside and out. By moving furniture and adding artwork, the inside looks more open and welcoming; and newly planted flowers greet worshipers as they approach the church doors. Easy

Outside Maintenance: Thomas made a goal to more frequently update the church welcome sign. The youth are responsible for picking up trash around the church property. “Our church is in a great location but the building is hidden from the road,” said Thomas, explaining the importance of making the church ground look inviting, Thomas is already seeing a vibrant, positive change within the church, both in the building and the congregants.


An Open Letter to the North Georgia Conference - A Tribute to Greatness

from Rev. John R. Moeller, Jr., president and CEO of Action Ministries.

Oftentimes, it is only in retrospect that the words of others really ring true and speak to us. I believe this to be true of the closing words of Jesus to his disciples in the upper room on the night before his crucifixion. At that time, he told his followers they would do even greater things than he had done while he was with them (John 14:12-14). I feel confident that those words likely fell on deaf ears that night. As a reader of this text through the years, I must admit that these words also glanced off of me.

 However, these words became more powerful and real as I looked back over the course of this past summer. I’m blown away that, under the direction of Action Ministries’ staff, our volunteers (most of them United Methodist) in communities across north Georgia, ensured that many of the hungriest children received a nutritious meal 219,000 times. It is mind-boggling to think that approximately 4,380 children were fed daily by kind volunteers who often brought enrichment activities to accompany lunch, expecting nothing in return.

 When I look back through this lens, Jesus’s words, “You will do even greater things . . .” are brought back front and center from the recesses of my mind. I praise God that I am caught up in the greatness of others who come together to meet the needs of the least of these in their communities. We, as United Methodists, are all bound up together in His greatness. Praise be to God!


                                                                     BREAKING NEWS

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