Introducing The Harbor UMC: The First Online-Only Church Plant in the North Georgia Conference



This week a new journey began in the North Georgia Conference with The Harbor UMC, the Conference's first online-only new church start.

An Ash Wednesday Service marked the beginning of a three-phase launch plan.

"We are beginning by establishing an online presence," said Rev. Jessica Blackwood of the design team. "This phase is the equivalent of knocking on doors. We are letting people know who we are, what we’re about, how to contact us, and where to find us."

The design team has been studying and praying for months in preparation for planting an online faith community. The team includes Atticus Hicks, Rev. Calisa Dauterman, Rev. Orlando Evans, Rev. Johnnetta Johnson, Rev. Montana Hamby, Rev. Jared Evans, Rev. Blackwood and others.

The Harbor is an online faith community for anyone finding themselves without a church home—whether that's because of turmoil, timing, life changes, health challenges, or displacement. And the church ultimately hopes that online attendees will receive care and fuel for their faith, and then relaunch if and when they're ready to a church in their community.

Preachers will vary each week, offering an opportunity for worshippers to hear from a variety of North Georgia Conference voices. An online community pastor and Stephen Ministers from local churches will offer a steady presence in the conversation. (Stephen Ministers are laity trained to provide care to those experiencing a difficult time in life, such as grief, divorce, job loss, chronic or terminal illness, or relocation.)

The Harbor is taking cues from lessons learned from traditional online worship services, Fresh Expressions, and new church starts, but there are very few direct models of this ministry today. There are however fine examples of online innovation to draw from, including a Virtual Reality gathering led by Rev. Zack Townsend and local churches that are intentional about online presence. 

"I continue to be in awe of the way God moves and reveals opportunities to be in Christian community," said Rev. Blackwood. "To be able to create a space for people to know they are loved and cared for is an incredible gift that we have as the church. The more people who know they belong, the more freely they are able to live into who God created them to be."

Find The Harbor UMC at, at, and on Instagram at @theharbor_umc.

Wednesday's service will be rebroadcast on Sunday at 6 p.m. Next month, The Harbor will partner with Rev. Johnson and Hapeville UMC to offer an online Bible study on Luke. The five-week study will begin the first Wednesday of March.