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?
Rev. David Wofford is pastor of Young Harris Memorial UMC. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.