By Sybil Davidson
When you are in ministry “from everywhere, to everywhere,” you become fluent in the language of hospitality and welcome. That is certainly the case with The General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.
In a special worship service on Sunday, January 11, Global Ministries staff, missionaries, and directors joined members of Grace United Methodist Church, and North and South Georgia Conference clergy, laity, bishops and leaders at the Grace church in Atlanta. Grace will be the future home of the UMC’s mission agency.
“Come Holy Spirit,” prayed North Georgia Conference Bishop Mike Watson to begin the service.
More than seven languages were heard in the service, including Spanish, Juba Arabic, Swahili, Korean and English. Among these was the reading of Psalm 84 in Portuguese by Rev. Edney Joaquim of Communitas Mission in North Georgia’s Atlanta-Roswell District. Korean Church of Atlanta UMC provided the choir.
Rev. Carolyn Stephens of Cannon UMC in Snellville served as a storyteller.
“Don’t just pass by; stay awhile,” she said, recounting Abraham and Sarah’s hospitality. “We offer hospitality because that is what God’s people do,” said Stephens.
Thomas Kemper of the General Board of Global Ministries brought greetings and an introduction to the denomination’s mission agency.
“We love diversity,” he said. “The gospel of Jesus Christ is more than one nation or one culture.”
He explained that the General Board of Global Ministries is home to the United Methodist Committee on Relief and the mission/giving arm of the UMC, the Advance, among other programs. Global Ministries is also the denomination’s missionary sending agency.
“From everywhere to everywhere,” he said. “This is mission in the 21st century.”
Bishop James R. King, Jr. of the South Georgia Conference offered a homily and welcome.
“Christ everywhere means love everywhere,” said Bishop King. “The formula is simple: God loves us and God sends us out to love.”
An offering was collected and will be divided three ways: to Global Ministries missionaries for global mission, to Action Ministries for state mission and to Grace UMC for local mission.
Thanksgiving and communion began with the litany of five loaves. Challah bread, corn tortillas, naan bread, pita bread and chapati bread were served at stations around the sanctuary. That litany is found in the worship resources provided by Global Praise on the Global Ministries website (http://www.umcmission.org/Find-Resources/Five-Loaves).
“The Welcome and Celebration service happened through prayer and discernment, through conversation and creativity, through joint ministry, and through a desire to offer the best that we could offer God in worship,” said Debra Tyree of Global Ministries’ Global Praise program who, along with Rev. Kate Floyd of Grace UMC, led the design team for the service.
In addition to Floyd and Tyree, others on the design team were: George Howard, Global Ministries; Allison Lindsey, South Georgia Conference; Jorge Lockward, Global Ministries; Scott Parrish, North Georgia Conference and Global Ministries; Kelly Robererson, South Georgia Conference; Mike Selleck, North Georgia Conference; Jasmine Smothers, North Georgia Conference; and Denise Walton, South Georgia Conference.
Other North Georgians participating in the service included Dana Everhart, Hyo Kim, Dan Ndegwa, Ingrid Thomas, Nathan Kaimathiri, Caleb Nelson, Sarah Nelson, Axel Hernandez and Impact Dancers from Impact church in Atlanta. Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, Resident Bishop of the Raleigh Episcopal Area and president of Global Ministries, served as a liturgist.
“In my understanding of who we are as United Methodists, we bring our prayers, praises, thanksgivings, joys, and concerns with ALL of our sisters and brothers to every worship service – from the person around the corner as well as the person living on the other side of the world,” explained Tyree. “How can we not include the prayers, songs, languages, and worship traditions ‘from everywhere to everywhere’ in every worship service we lead?”
The voices of the congregation filled the sanctuary of Grace UMC for the final hymn, “Kanisa Litajengua,” a Kenyan worship chorus, which asks, “Who will build the church now?”
“Go out singing ‘We’ll do it together,’” said Tyree.
And that the congregation did.