S3 is a collaborative, small group, action learning experience for clergy that help sustain and promote excellence in ordained ministry. Participants develop and implement a two-year long small group learning experience focused on three areas: Sabbath, Study, and Service. S3 groups are self-selected and self-directed: participants choose the members of their group and develop their group’s S3 learning project (with direction from the S3 project committee).
The deadline for submitting applications is July 1, 2013. If a group is selected to participate in the S3 program, participants will be invited to Epworth By The Sea for an orientation retreat in September. Approved groups will receive funding through the South Georgia Order of the Elders S3 program, which will provide $500 per person, per year, for the two years of the group’s learning process, to be used according to the approved learning experience.
Detailed information and an application can be found at www.sgaumc.org. Contact Dr. John Stephens at email@example.com or 912-634-1412 with questions.
Change the World – May 18-19
Join the United Methodist Rethink Church event that helps build community locally and fight malaria globally. Visit www.umcom.org/changetheworld for more information.
Rev. Dr. Grover Bell Day – May 19
On Sunday, May 19, Whitefield United Methodist Church in Savannah plans to honor Deanie and Rev. Dr. Grover Bell for their 60 years of dedicated ministry to the South Georgia Conference. The congregation invites all who have served with or been ministered to by Rev. and Mrs. Bell to join in celebration during their 11 a.m. Sunday morning worship service on May 19.There will be refreshments and a time to share memories with the Bells following this service. For more information, contact John Pigott at 912-355-1551 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Annual Conference Session – June 2-4
South Georgia’s 2013 Annual Conference Session will be held June 2-4 at the Macon Coliseum/Centreplex. The theme is “The Least of These” from Matthew 25:35-40. Visit www.sgaumc.org/ac2013 to see a tentative Annual Conference agenda, hotel list, and much more.
Clergy Spouses’ Luncheon – June 3
The South Georgia Ministers’ Spouses will gather during the Annual Conference Session at noon on Monday, June 3 at the Macon Centreplex for their annual luncheon. Reservations are due May 10, 2013. For more information and to register, visit www.sgaumc.org.
Mid-High I Camp – June 10-14
Mid-High II Camp – June 17-21
Connectional Ministries is gearing up for a great summer of Camp Connect Summer Camps! Mid High Camps, intended for rising sixth to ninth graders, are filled with a week’s worth of fun activities and opportunities to grow closer to Christ though daily worship, Bible study, and fellowship. Campers will enjoy the beach, pool, crafts, games galore, hilarious morning shows, and evenings of worship. Visit www.sgaumc.org/camping for more information and to register.
Wesley Glen Day – June 16
Every local church in South Georgia is encouraged to receive a special offering on Sunday, June 16 to support the ministry of Wesley Glen. To learn more about Wesley Glen and its great ministry, visit www.wesleyglenministries.com.
Elementary Camp I - June 24-28
Elementary Camp II – July 8-12
Elementary Camp III – July 15-19
Connectional Ministries is gearing up for a great summer of Camp Connect Summer Camps! Elementary Camps, intended for rising 4th-6th graders, are filled with a week’s worth of fun activities and opportunities to grow closer to Christ though daily worship, Bible study, and fellowship. Campers will enjoy the beach, pool, crafts, games galore, hilarious morning shows, and evenings of worship. Visit www.sgaumc.org/camping for more information and to register.
2013 Georgia Pastors’ School – July 22-25
Georgia United Methodist Pastors’ School provides inspiration, education, fellowship, fun and relaxation for North and South Georgia clergy and their families. Clergy have the opportunity to earn CEUs, and fun programs are offered for children from nursery through 12th grade. All programs are in the morning so that families will have their afternoons free. Each morning begins with a service of table and ends with an evening service of word followed by a time of fellowship. The school is supported by the tuition of attendees, a modest grant from the South Georgia Conference, and the generous contributions of our sponsors who provide refreshments during breaks and fellowship times. Active and retired United Methodist clergy are cordially invited to experience this combination of continuing education and personal renewal. More information on the school, including on-line registration and tuition payment, are available on the school’s website at www.georgiapastorsschool.org.
Lesson 2: Week of June 2
Week of June 2
Lesson Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-8
Have you ever had a time in your life when you felt that God was calling you to do something? Explain.
One of my favorite hymns in recent years is the hymn, “Here I Am, Lord.” I remember a time in my life about 12 years ago when God was moving me to a place of action. I had been involved in Disciple Bible Study for almost two years. The message for me as I read and studied the scripture, time and time again, was that God invites imperfect people to be involved in the work of God’s perfecting love. I certainly knew that I was not perfect, but somehow I sensed that God wanted to use me.
While in worship one Sunday, as I heard the words of Isaiah reflected in that hymn - “Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart” – tears began to flow. The Holy Spirit was moving me to respond to God’s call, “Whom shall I send?” I knew in my heart that the answer had to be “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).
Imagine the scene described in Isaiah 6:1-8. Isaiah’s vision magnifies the glory of God. God is seated on a throne, “high and lofty,” and the very hem of his robe fills the temple. There are seraphs, often understood in religious tradition to be the highest of heavenly creatures with a burning love for God. These holy beings dare not even look on God’s majesty, and therefore cover their eyes with two of their wings. With two more of their wings they cover their feet, symbolizing the holiness of this place. Furthermore, the seraphs fly around calling out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory,” while the pivots of the temple shake at sound of their voices and smoke fills the house of the Lord. When this scene is envisioned, it is easy to understand Isaiah’s reaction. When faced with God’s perfection and glory, Isaiah’s natural response is unworthiness.
When Isaiah stands before the majesty of God he sees himself as he truly is. Isaiah is no longer able to compare himself with the people around him, perhaps differentiating himself from them. When faced with the reality of God, the standard of the world is no longer the basis of comparison. When confronted with God’s glory, Isaiah has no choice but to see himself as one with all others, sinful and human (Isaiah 6:5).
So it is with us. When we are faced with the truth of God’s divine character we begin to see ourselves for who we really are. It no longer matters how we compare with others in the world around us. When God is our standard, the truth is that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
Although feelings of inadequacy are natural when faced with the truth of God’s perfection, God does not desire to leave us in the paralysis of unworthiness. God knows that we are so much more than our current state. Not only were we created in God’s image as part of God’s “good” creation, we are redeemed through God’s grace and transformed through God’s love. God never sees us merely for who we are, but always for who we were created to be and who we are to become. God sees Isaiah as so much more than “a man of unclean lips.” God knows that Isaiah needs to see himself that way as well. Therefore, no sooner have the words of confession left Isaiah’s mouth than God’s purification is made undeniably clear. As the cleansing coal touches Isaiah’s lips the seraph proclaims, “your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out” (6:7).
Once Isaiah understands himself to be forgiven he is now ready for God’s invitation. As one proclaimed by God to be guilt free and sinless, Isaiah is overwhelmed with responsive love. You see, when we are burdened by our own inadequacies, we are not available to God. Yet, when we are able to see ourselves through God’s eyes, as those forgiven by God and claimed as God’s beloved, we are available to take our place as God’s children.
Therefore, worship of God that engages the glory and holiness of God leads us to a place of response. First in seeing God in all God’s holiness, goodness, purity, and love we are exposed to the truth of how far we are from who we are meant to be. This realization leads us to a point of confession. This confession is good for the soul because it opens the soul to the transformative power of God’s forgiveness and grace. For us, as followers of Christ we know in our hearts that “in the name of Christ, [we] are forgiven.” Hence, as those forgiven by God we find ourselves ready to respond. Therefore, when the Father cries out, “Whom shall I send?,” we as children are prepared to say, “Here I am! Send me!”
Questions for further reflection:
Kim Reindl chairs the Discipleship Ministry Team for the North Georgia Conference and leads retreats, workshops, and seminars through Pomegranate Christian Education & Formation, www.pomegranatece.com. Contact her at email@example.com.
OKLAHOMA CITY (UMNS) —“I know you are seeing and hearing news reports about the devastation and want to assist. … Do not self-deploy. Best practices in times of crises call for a collaborative response, so people who can help are directed to where that help and those skills are most needed and will be most effective,” wrote the Rev. Richard Norman, disaster response coordinator for the Oklahoma Conference.
The Oklahoma Conference Disaster Response Team sent this email outlining how best to help.
Donations may be made through your local church by putting a check in the offering plate made out to the church with a note for "Disaster Response, United States" on the memo line. Donations may be made directly to the Conference Treasurer's Office by mail to:
Conference Treasurer's Office
PO Box 13145
Macon, GA 31208
Disaster Response, United States - Advance # 901670
You can also text the word RESPONSE to #80888 for an immediate $10 donation to UMCOR.
(UMNS) — As communities in Oklahoma, Texas and other U.S. states reel from the devastation of tornadoes, remember that The United Methodist Church has a system in place for responding. Here are a few of the places to check for information and find out how you can be part of United Methodist relief efforts:
United Methodist News Service Facebook page
United Methodist Committee on Relief
South Georgia Conference Facebook Page
South Georgia Conference Website at sgaumc.org
Download the UMCOR App: The free UMCOR app provides you with up-to-date information about UMCOR’s work.
Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) in Oklahoma has alerted us that many unsolicited volunteers are showing up at the Incident Command Center in Moore. Please instruct all volunteers associated with your church or other individual volunteers or groups you may come in contact with to NOT self-deploy. Best practices include a collaborative response, so people are directed when needed and where needed so their help and skills will be most effective.
Lesson 1: Week of May 26
Dr. Hal Brady
Week of May 26
Lesson Scripture: II Peter 3:1-15a
The story goes that in 1903 a Michigan banker convinced his client not to invest in Henry Ford’s company because, as he put it, “the horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty.” It wasn’t too many years before the automobile became the norm for worldwide transportation.
As we know, it can be difficult for any of us to think “outside of the box.” We can easily become set in our ways of thinking and taking action. Nothing ever changes; consequently, we begin to lose hope in any greater possibility or nobler future.
Something like this is happening in today’s scripture lesson. The writer of II Peter (whether Peter or someone else) is addressing communities for whom the Second Coming of Christ has become problematic and stressful.
Now, the writer of II Peter is primarily concerned with the Second Coming of Christ, which is related to the dissolution of the earth and everything that is done upon it (3:10). Everything the writer of II Peter admonishes us in this lesson is derived from this inevitable end which the prophets predicted and the apostles commanded (3:2). The writer feels so strongly about this that he urges his readers to remember the deep rooted traditions upon which their faith is built and not to ignore the matter (3:8).
The Second Coming of Christ, however, was and is a difficult doctrine for many people, even people of faith. For some, it is a theological curiosity, a kind of threat that is wielded by “fire and brimstone” evangelists, and they want nothing to do with it. Some scoff at the Second Coming, seeing that history has been running along for quite some time with no sign of it. Some have been turned off with it by those obsessed with the “rapture” and their “timetables” for God’s coming. Others are confused by the varying interpretations of the “end times.” Others are so caught up in the “scientific mind of things” that there is no room for any interference from beyond the world of inflexible process. Still others have become despaired because it hasn’t happened yet, so they conclude it never will.
At this point, the spotlight shifts back to the writer of II Peter! What does he say in giving answer to these issues or concerns? Basically, the writer offers three arguments that are still relevant today.
First, there was the flood in Noah’s day!
People at that time thought that things would continue on and on as usual. They thought history would keep on tracking itself. But, as you are aware, the people of Noah’s day discovered that God was not a disinterested “absentee landlord” who was unengaged with His creation. God acted!
To be sure, nature is faithful and predictable; nevertheless, “effect” sometimes is not the result of “cause.” God acts!
Second, the writer of II Peter focuses on contrast!
He reminds us that God’s time and our time are not the same. The writer states, “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day” (3:8). In essence, the writer of II Peter is telling us that we must never confuse time with eternity. God is not under a time limitation. His purposes are not measured by time. As one scholar put it, “The delay on God’s part in the fulfilling of his purposes must not be regarded as unconcern for its fulfillment” (3:9).
Third, the writer of II Peter points out God’s grace and our opportunity!
The writer says, “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (3:9).
It has been 2,000 years since Jesus came. Might we not have expected that a little more progress would have been made in terms of that kingdom in 2,000 years? But all the time God is patiently waiting and working, waiting and working, waiting and working.
A certain minister said that in his church they didn’t talk about “backsliding” members because as he explained, in his church most of the members didn’t get far enough ahead to slide back! But all the time God is patiently waiting and working.
Why is God waiting? God waits because God loves. God’s patience is rooted in God’s love. Because of God’s loving patience, we continue to have hope and possibility for salvation and renewal.
So how are we, as people of God, to live in the “meantime”—the time between now and the time of the Second Coming of Christ? As with other passages in the Petrine Epistles studied in the past few weeks, the call is to live in faithfulness to God. As one scholar observed, “This faithfulness to God is not simply a faithfulness to what we believe about God but a faithfulness to what we do about those beliefs.
For the writer of II Peter, life and history are not to be taken frivolously. We remember that the writer spoke of “the heavens passing away and the elements (the earth) being dissolved with fire” (3:10, 12). With that description, he is not trying to frighten us to be good but simply to indicate how a Christian should live in an age which expects something both of a glorious—and awful conclusion.
So, the writer of II Peter calls us to live lives of repentance (3:9), holiness and godliness (3:11) and justice (3:13). We are also to strive to live at peace without spot or blemish.
One last concluding thought: while waiting for new heavens and a new earth where righteousness is at home (3:13), the writer of II Peter admonishes us, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity” (3:18).
Beloved, therein is our hope. And the church said, “Amen.”
Questions for further reflection:
Dr. Hal Brady is a retired pastor who continues his ministry through Hal Brady Ministries (www.halbradyministries.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Kara Witherow, Editor
Al Johnson knows all too well the pressing need for clean water in the bateys of the Dominican Republic.
Despite precautions, a couple of years ago during one of his five mission trips to the small villages on the edges of the country’s sugarcane fields, Johnson somehow contracted Giardiasis, or “Beaver Fever.”
Sick for weeks after he returned home, the Montezuma United Methodist Church member knew he had to do something more to help improve the lives of the thousands of sugar workers who live in the bateys.
“Between one thing and another, I think somebody was giving me a message,” he said.
Communities of immigrant Haitians who harvest the sugarcane, many of the bateys lack basic services, including potable water. During one of her four mission trips to the Dominican Republic, Johnson’s wife Betty saw a pig sleeping next to a latrine on the bank of a river where people got their cooking and drinking water. This is not an uncommon sight in the bateys, she said.
The couple discussed how they could help and decided they would give the $8,500 it costs to fund one water purification system. They then challenged the Montezuma UMC congregation to raise and give enough for a second.
“Their major source of water, if the batey doesn’t have one of the water purification systems, is what’s flowing in the irrigation canals in the sugarcane fields,” Betty said. “Their drinking water, cooking water, and washing water – it all comes from there and it’s full of latrine runoff, livestock waste, and more. That’s why we feel it’s so important to put the water systems in.”
After hearing of the need, the Montezuma UMC congregation jumped into action and raised about $10,000.
“The water is contaminated, and if you drink it you’ll get sick,” said Rev. Billy Kimbrel. “We felt like we could make a difference and help them.”
Rev. Kimbrel tapped Debbie Williams, the church’s United Methodist Women president, to spearhead the fundraising.
“When you start talking about helping save lives by providing something as simple as water, people respond,” he said.
The fundraising effort was embraced by the church and community, Williams said. The UMW hosted a bake sale, a chili and salad luncheon and a USO-themed musical variety show. And the church’s United Methodist Men hosted a spaghetti lunch after worship services one Sunday; the congregation and community were generous in their support of all.
“$8,500 is not much when you think of saving lives,” Williams said. “How many lives can be saved with that? It just seems like we can do more.
“Raising money for the system caused me to really think about waterborne disease and the problems of obtaining clean water worldwide. It was exciting to help a village in this capacity.”
Not only did the congregation raise the money for a water purification system, eight church members and three other South Georgia United Methodists traveled to the Dominican Republic Feb. 23 through March 2 to meet who they were helping and to construct the small building in which the system will be housed.
The Johnsons, Williams, Rev. Kimbrel, Sara and Dennis Carey, Loren Stephens, Ricky Haugabook, Richard Hatcher, and Terry and Rev. Bill Huddle visited Batey Altagracia, one of about 14 on the outskirts of Barahona, a port city in the southern part of the country.
For five days, the group built the water system’s housing, laying and cementing cinder blocks and building a short retaining wall around it. They also hosted a children’s Bible school and ministered to the immediate needs of the people in the bateys by handing out food and clothing, some of which was donated by Oglethorpe United Methodist Church’s clothing bank.
They also visited a boy’s orphanage run by Rev. Pedro Kery Johnson, pastor of the Dominican Evangelical Church in Barahona. Pastor Pedro, as he’s affectionately called, leads the local church and visiting mission teams, and operates a school and the mission house in which the short-term missionaries stay.
Partnering with Rev. Johnson’s Dominican Evangelical Church gave the team members insight into the bateys and the lives of those who live there.
“They live in a kind of poverty that you can’t imagine unless you actually see it,” Al Johnson said. “The two principal problems in the bateys … are the lack of drinkable water and sanitation. (Pastor Pedro’s) big push is to get water purification systems installed and one latrine per family.”
This was Montezuma UMC’s first foreign mission trip. The congregation is quite active in local mission projects, but they had to act once they learned of the pressing need for clean water.
Everyone who went had a very positive experience, Rev. Kimbrel said, and the congregation is motivated to continue serving.
“All I know is that I have to do this,” said Betty Johnson, who says that the first few verses of Matthew 6 are a guiding principle in her life. “I am trying to put my beliefs into action. It’s what I can do and how I can make a difference.”