Day One Annual Conference Update: Go to the Font


The Hicks family surrounds baby Rowan Atticus Hicks as he is baptized by his grandmother Rev. Nanci Hicks and Bishop Sue.

In the church there is no "them." There is only "us." Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson

Go to the Font: Annual Conference Opens With Worship

The 2017 North Georgia Annual Conference embraced its theme from the beginning, "Show Your Work: Excellent Worship That Inspires Action." The spirit moved in a powerful opening worship service planned by Rev. Sonny Sellers of Griffin First UMC and Rev. Eric Lee and Arturo Quintanilla with Chapel Roswell Band.

The service represented the "gathering" of the Conference and began with a processional from all corners of the room. District Superintendents, district lay leaders, Bishop Sue and Conference Lay Leader Bill Martin carried stones to pour into a large Ebeneezer, or font, at the foot of the stage. 

The service served as our official introduction to Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson as presiding bishop.

A brief video introduced Bishop Sue before she preached. In it, she shares about accepting the call to serve as bishop. “My only agenda, in this whole thing, is to see the holy spirit in full force in every person and every church,” she said in the video.

Bishop Sue preached on the text Ephesians 4:1-6. She began with a video illustration — a Heineken ad with the message, “Is there more that unites us than divides us?" She suggested that as the congregation watched, they replace the image of beer bottles on the table with the bread and the cup. “Sometimes it takes the secular world to show the church what we haven’t figured out yet,” she said.

The ad shows strangers with differing viewpoints meet and get to know one another. 

“Christ calls us to sit down, listen, and engage," said Bishop Sue. “You may never agree with me, but you are called to love me, you are called to hear me, you are called to share worship with me.”

The Bishop challenged congregations to have difficult conversations and called for an end to church gatherings that don't feature the fruit of the spirit.

"Show me your love, show me your joy, show me your peace, show me your patience, show me your gentleness, show me your kindness, show me your generosity, show me your self control, go to the font and show me your work,” she concluded. 

The highlight of the service was the baptism of Rowan Atticus Hicks, surrounded by his family, and baptized by his grandmother Rev. Nanci Hicks and Bishop Sue.

Show Your Work: In the Kitchen With Opening Worship Planners

In an experience unique to this Conference, each worship service will be accompanied by a discussion with the worship planners. After the service, Lee, Sellers, and Bishop Sue pulled up stools and talked about how they planned Opening Worship.

Sellers shared that the planing of the service started in the fall. "Worship takes preparation," he said. 

Lee emphasized the importance of three things: communications, creativity, and collaboration.

"Teamwork and collaboration is critical," he said. He also encouraged churches to experiment and try new things. "It doesn’t matter how big or small your church is, have a team that can collaborate, be creative, and communicate about worship." 

Bishop Sue recommended a great resource for public speakers - clergy or laity - "Talk like Ted: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Greatest Minds." The book expands on nine keys to succcess: Passion, Stories, Conversational Tone, Jaw Dropping Moments, Illustrations, Humor, Memorable and Multisensory, Eighteen Minutes. 

Session One: And Are We Yet Alive

The first business session included greetings, voting, and reports from several agencies.

The Host Committee and Superintendent Gary Whetstone welcomed the Conference back to Athens. Jere Morehead, president of the University of Georgia, and Athens Mayor Nancy Denson addressed the Conference. Morehead is United Methodist but Denson reminded us that while she isn't a member of a United Methodist church, she is United Methodist one week a year. 

The Committee on Episcopacy gave a fitting introduction to Broadway-fan Bishop Sue in song. Playing off one of her favorites, Hamilton, talented clergy and laity sang us through Bishop Sue's election, her service so far in North Georgia, and how happy the Conference is that she's here. 
Bishop Haupert Johnson
North Georgia stands with you. 
We know what you overcame
And with you we’ll rewrite the game
The world will come to know His name!

Just one year ago the North Georgia Conference endorsed Sharma Lewis as a candidate for bishop. The Jurisdictional Conference Report celebrated the election Bishop Lewis, as well as the election of Bishop Sue and her assignment to the North Georgia Conference. Members voted at the conclusion of the report to affirm that the members elected to serve as the delegation to the 2016 General Conference would also serve as our delegation to the 2019 called session of General Conference. 

The Georgia United Methodist Foundation offered a video and a word from President Keith Lawder. The Georgia UM Foundation helps all churches by “Sowing seeds of future generations.”

The United Methodist Connectional Federal Credit Union shared about the heart of its mission and named this year's Credit Union Scholarship Recipient, Gracelyn Askew from Thomson First UMC. 

The Credit Union offers loans, credit cards, and personal checking services to its members. Any member of a United Methodist Church in North Georgia is eligible for membership in the Credit Union. 

Members voted on 5 Constitutional Amendments by paper ballot. Results will not be announced by individual Annual Conferences but the cumulative total will be shared once all Annual Conferences have voted. 

The Annual Conference took time to thank Tom Cook, who has served as Conference Chancellor for 22 years. He addressed the conference with gratitude for the opportunity to serve and shared his regard for incoming Chancellor Jim Thornton of LaGrange. Bishop Sue welcomed Thornton to the role of Conference Chancellor. 

Notes for Wednesday
  • Any revisions to the Nominations Report in the totebag should be sent by email to before Wed June 14 at 6 pm.
  • The Annual Conference Offering will go toward the Ministerial Education Fund. The offering will be collected at the Service of Remembrance Wednesday. 
  • The 5K Run/Walk will begin at 6:30 a.m. at The Classic Center. The race will benefit the Youth Service Fund.
  • The Prayer Room and Labyrinth are open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Empire. 
  • A service of Holy Communion takes place at 7:30 am in Empire.