North Georgia United Methodists Support One Another Through Partnerships and Connections
Photo: St. Paul UMC sanctuary.
by REBECCA WALLACE
One of the great things about being United Methodist is the ability to share best practices and information throughout our connection. Many churches in the North Georgia Conference demonstrate "being a part of something bigger" at its best.
St. Paul UMC in Atlanta benefits greatly from such a relationship with Peachtree Road UMC, just a few miles north. For two decades, Peachtree Road has been sending a team of its members to St. Paul every March for its Great Day of Service, and according to long-time St. Paul member Marcus Merritt, the century-old building may not be in the shape it is today were it not for Peachtree Road.
“The Great Day of Service with Peachtree Road is such a blessing for St. Paul,” he says. “When that day comes every year, it nearly always helps us get over some sort of hump we’ve had with our facilities and accomplish things we cannot do ourselves. They even provide the supplies!”
Additionally, Marcus explained, having the expectation to be ready to receive such support from another church puts the onus on St. Paul to “get our ducks in a row,” as he puts it. This kind of partnership can become a catalyst for small churches to do the necessary prep work in exchange for something that will have much greater impact.
So what’s in it for Peachtree Road?
“The fellowship is just as important as the jobs that get completed,” explains Beth Spencer, Peachtree Road UMC’s Director of Local Outreach and Volunteer Service. “We believe that it is our responsibility to support our sister churches, but also have really enjoyed the long-term friendships made through this partnership.”
Down in LaGrange, it’s not just two churches joining forces. It’s eight churches supporting each other as part of a connectional group, or cluster group as other NGUMC districts refer to it. Three years ago, Ayres Memorial UMC, Dunson UMC, Harmony UMC, LaGrange First UMC, LaGrange Korean UMC, Leete Hill UMC, Trinity-on-the-Hill (LaGrange) UMC, and Warren Temple UMC began cosponsoring an Easter Sunrise Service for the entire LaGrange community. Put on by the “Area United Methodists,” no church is singled out as presiding over or even organizing the event.
“The response has been incredible,” says Brian Germano, senior pastor at LaGrange First UMC. “Between 200 and 300 people have attended each year, with a good mix of demographics representative of all eight churches, but also of the greater LaGrange community.”
Held at a popular amphitheater, even the neutral location of the service is intentional.
“We are trying to build an affinity for United Methodist churches, rather than for any one church,” adds Brian. “Through the partnership, we know we are reaching many more and different types of people than our church would alone.”
The first joint Easter Sunrise Service was the first time all the area UMCs worshipped together, and because it has been so successful, the group is considering other activities, according to Brian, such as a joint Disciple Study or service project.
“This really opens up the possibilities for all our area UMCs to do any number of things we wouldn’t have done otherwise,” he said.
Rebecca Wallace is a communications consultant (and United Methodist) in Atlanta.