Good Soil: Wallace-Padgett Leads Opening Worship
By Anne Nelson
The 149th Session of the North Georgia Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church officially commenced with Opening Worship in the Grand Hall of the Athens Classic Center.
“We are God’s People, the chosen of the Lord, born of the Spirit, established in the Word. Our cornerstone is Christ alone, and strong in Christ we stand; O let us live transparently and walk heart to heart and hand in hand.”
Presiding Bishop, B. Michael Watson, introduced our preacher and other special guests, including Bishop Woodie White, Bishop Alfred L. Norris, and Bishop Warren Brown. Bishop Brown brought warm greetings on behalf of our Pan Methodist family and The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
Bishop Deborah Wallace-Padgett of the North Alabama Annual Conference, preached a gentle message, encouraging us to continue to be “The Good Soil” based on the scripture reading from Matthew 13: 1-9.
Bishop Wallace-Padgett praised the North Georgia Conference members for their “strength, grace, and diversity, a conference making a difference around the world.” Commenting later, “You are what I call ‘good soil.’”
Comparing ministry and sharing your personal story of faith to the act of gardening, Bishop Wallace-Padgett said that good soil produces quality and quantity of fruit. Bishop Wallace-Padgett shared a personal story of meeting a woman named Maria in an airport. Through the conversation, the bishop learned that Maria had grown up in another faith tradition, had become an atheist at a young age, but had felt drawn back to the church in her 20s. She was now attending a Methodist church because “[she] loves the way they talk about grace.” Maria’s prayer request to Bishop Wallace-Padgett was that “God would not give up on me.” Maria later revealed to the bishop that this was the first conversation she had ever had with anyone about Jesus. As a result of this airport encounter, Bishop Wallace-Padgett made a new priority: that she would be open to the possibility that the person next to her on an airplane might want to have a faith conversation.
Bishop Wallace-Padgett then challenged the nearly 3,000 laity and clergy of the North Georgia Conference to make the same priority: that wherever we are, we will be open to the possibility that the person next to us might want to have a faith conversation.
Her prayer for our conference was that we would be ever more productive in sharing our faith. Because “Jesus is trusting [us] with the future of our church.”
Worship concluded with a service of Holy Communion.
Bishop Watson’s benediction called us to action: “You’re good soil. Get out there and produce good fruit, abundant fruit. Amen.”
(Photo: Bishop Brown, Bishop Wallace-Padgett and Bishop Watson)