North Georgia Annual Conference
The Classic Center, Athens, Ga.
June 13-15, 2017
Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, presiding
In the church there is no "them." There is only "us." —Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson
The 2017 North Georgia Annual Conference session was held June 13-15 at The Classic Center in Athens, Ga. With a theme of "Show Your Work: Worship That Inspires Action,” the session focused on worship preparation and innovation. Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson presided, marking her first Annual Conference as resident bishop in North Georgia.
It was a historic session in North Georgia, as Bishop Haupert-Johnson is the first woman to serve as episcopal leader in the conference. As she called the first session to order, the presider’s table was entirely staffed with women for the first time, including Conference Secretary Donn Ann Weber and four Associate Conference Secretaries.
Oh, How We Worship
The Annual Conference embraced its theme from the beginning. Not only did the Conference focus on worship, the four primary services themselves progressed through the stages of worship. The Annual Conference began with gathering (Opening Worship), moved into the word proclaimed (Service of Remembrance), a time of response (Ordination), and sending forth (Closing Worship). Each of the services was planned by teams of excellent North Georgia Conference worship practitioners from local churches.
Accompanying each service was a time to hear from the worship planners. Called “Show Your Work,” the discussions focused on the teams’ decision-making process, tips for local churches, and a look behind the scenes.
Beautiful visuals included a large Ebenezer, or font, that was utilized as a centerpiece of the session. It illustrated the message in the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” which was sung throughout the week. Prayer stations developed by youth invited members to engage with God in the midst of Conference.
In Opening Worship, Bishop Haupert-Johnson preached on the text Ephesians 4:1-6.
“Christ calls us to sit down, listen, and engage,” said Bishop Haupert-Johnson.
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.
The highlight of the service was the baptism of Rowan Atticus Hicks. Surrounded by his family and members of Oak Grove UMC in Decatur, he was baptized by his grandmother Rev. Nanci Hicks and Bishop Haupert-Johnson.
In the Service of Remembrance, Rev. Jimmy Moor, a retired elder in North Georgia, preached on hope and memory.
“We remember these people today, not because of what they did, but because of who they were, and who they were for us,” he said. “We remember how they showed us what it means to be Christian, and what it means to be a human being.”
At the close of the sermon he invited to Conference to sing along with him the chorus of “Go Rest High on that Mountain,” by Vince Gill.
At the June 13 service of Licensing, Commissioning and Ordination, the Conference licensed 26 local pastors, commissioned 13 provisional members, ordained 4 full-connection deacons, and ordained 11 full connection elders. The choir from Central UMC in Atlanta brought the congregation to its feet with songs from the Africana hymnal.
In a new tradition, more than 300 robed clergy processed into the service to be seated behind their new colleagues. Retired bishops, Bishop Woodie White and Bishop Alfred Norris, each participated in the service.
Bishop Haupert-Johnson offered the sermon sharing guidance from scripture and words of comfort to the new clergy.
"The pressure is off," she said. "We just have to show up. God is already there. We're sending you in the name of Jesus to meet him."
The final worship service of the session was led by Rev. Olu Brown and Impact Church. Communion liturgy was woven throughout the service. Brown preached on Paul’s words to Timothy, compelling the congregation to “Show Your Work.”
“Paul often talks about work,” said Brown. "Paul is encouraging Timothy to show his work. He says, let your work be something you live through your life. Make an effort to present yourself as a tried and true worker who interprets the message of truth correctly.”
Four Areas of Focus
The Four Areas of Focus of The United Methodist Church were celebrated throughout the session.