By Ansley Brackin
Communications Specialist for The North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church
A proud collection of blue t-shirts filled College Park’s City Auditorium Sunday afternoon, July 27th to rally in support of youth and their families involved in various United Methodist Churches around the College Park area. The production was organized by Laster’s Chapel member Emma Dudley, a woman who played a large part in bringing a bus full of children and youth to Annual Conference on Rally Day.
“I suggested that we bring kids to Annual Conference,” says pastor of Redemption Community UMC and Poplar Springs UMC, Rev. Robert Crawford.
He received a firm “let’s do it”, the typical answer from Dudley, who is famous for not asking people to do things. If someone is approached by the professional organizer to work on a project, there is no question of whether or not it will be done.
Crawford and Dudley began to talk with several small churches in the area. Laster’s Chapel UMC, Redemption UMC, Poplar Springs UMC, and St. Mark UMC of Fairburn agreed to combine forces to give their youth the full United Methodist experience.
Together, the four churches saved money to rent a charter bus to transport everyone to Athens. The Conference provided each participant with a Rally Day t-shirt to wear on the special day.
East Point First Mallelieu UMC’s Rori Blakeney, a representative of the Young Peoples Ministries of the General Board of Discipleship, wanted to get involved with the neighboring churches as well. He provided a special, kid-friendly, lunch of pizza and fellowship at Athens First UMC.
“I was able to engage in a conversation with youth and youth leaders about their needs”, Blakeney explains. “In addition, I was able to share information about the young people’s ministries scholarships and grants along with resources that we have produced. This experience gave the young people an understanding of the connectional life of the church.”
This year in particular demonstrated the importance and appreciation of young people in the church.
“It was a natural fit for Young Peoples Ministries of the General Board of Discipleship to play a part in reaching the children and youth,” says Blakeney. “It reminded them that as a church we are truly a team. It was a visible sign that Together, the many facets of the church, we make disciples”
Since their trip to Athens, the congregations continue to embrace discipleship together. They dawned their Rally Day shirts once more for an afternoon of music, talents, hot dogs, and learning. With an auditorium filled with dancing and singing children and parents, there could be no doubt in the capabilities of small congregational churches.
“We tend to feel like we are not a part of the big church, but we are!” Rev. Crawford explains enthusiastically. “We have to make that happen.”
Dudley and her new connectional team continue to invent new ways to maintain their relationships and strengthen the district. The congregations hope to see familiar faces from Annual Conference at future events.
“They invited us to Annual Conference, so we want to invite them here,” says Dudley.
View photos of the College Park Rally Day HERE.