Toward Tomorrow: The General Board of Global Ministries Breaks Ground in Atlanta


Bishop Mike Watson welcomes Global Ministries to Georgia at the organization's ground breaking ceremony.
(Photo courtesy of Grace UMC)

By Anne Nelson
“It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center, but God, who makes things grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:7, The Message
The North and South Georgia Conferences of The United Methodist Church, the City of Atlanta, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Gammon Theological Seminary, Candler School of Theology, and many, many others extended a warm, Southern welcome to The United Methodist Church’s General Board of Global Ministries on January 19 at an afternoon groundbreaking ceremony. 
After 200 years in New York City, Global Ministries is relocating their offices to the campus of Grace United Methodist Church on Ponce de Leon Ave. in the diverse and vibrant Intown Atlanta Community.  Tuesday’s Groundbreaking Ceremony celebrated the construction phase of the organization’s new home in Atlanta. 
“Groundbreaking ceremonies typically memorialize new building construction," explained Thomas Kemper, General Secretary. "For Global Ministries, groundbreaking means breaking open new spaces for innovation and collaboration, deepening relationships with churches in Atlanta, and embarking on new partnerships with our neighbors and local communities.”
The ceremony, appropriately titled “Toward Tomorrow,” began as the Community Bell Choir from Grace UMC rang together, leading into the Call and Promise. At times the bells sounded disjointed, discordant, and other times, unified and hauntingly beautiful. The bells set the tone for the celebration – the beauty of hope for the future, with the musical discord and tension acknowledging the great need in both our local and global communities. Ashlee Haze, Spoken Word Artist, followed the tolling of the bells, speaking poetry: “I can hear a bell ringing in the distance . . . For whom does this bell toll?  For you.”  The Call and Promise concluded with readings from the book of Isaiah and from the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Rev. Kate Floyd, Senior Pastor of Grace UMC, led the Opening Prayer, acknowledging, “God is about to do a new thing.”  Thomas Kemper then gave opening remarks entitled “For Such a Time as This.” Kemper spoke of Global Ministries becoming a world-wide mission network, no longer sending out and having others receive, but moving toward an “inescapable network of mutuality” where missionaries and ministries are “from everywhere to everywhere.” 
Bishop B. Michael Watson, North Georgia Episcopal Area; The Honorable Kwanza Hall, Atlanta City Council Member – District 2; and Jorge L. Fernandez, VP, Global Commerce, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, all offered official words of welcome to Global Ministries. Bishop Watson noted the ceremony marked “another happy day as we move into this glorious partnership.”  He also said, “The world needs to know Jesus Christ” and expressed his enthusiasm that Global Ministries is positioned to “do this good work. Glory Hallelujah!” 

Hall charged Global Ministries to “remember our [Atlanta] neighbors.” He then expressed hope for the Atlanta – Global Ministries “dialogue that will bear fruit” and extended “greetings on behalf of the city.” Jorge Fernandez, on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, said, “We welcome you,” and spoke to how Global Ministries will help tell the good story about Atlanta by partnering with other Atlanta entities to improve the quality of life for all people. 
Dr. Albert D. Mosley, President-Dean, Gammon Theological Seminary; Ralph R. Morrison, Chair, William I.H. and Lula E. Pitts Foundation; Dr. Jan Love, Dean, Candler School of Theology, Emory University; and John R. Moeller, Jr., President/CEO, Action Ministries, also extended greeting to Global Ministries. 
The ceremony concluded with remarks by Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, Raleigh Episcopal Area, and President, Global Ministries. Bishop Morgan Ward reminded those gathered that groundbreaking is similar to tilling the earth and that much of the biblical narrative is centered around the image of a garden – “miraculous stories of soil and seeds!” - and that even our Lord’s resurrection takes place in a garden. Bishop Morgan Ward brought dirt from her own garden in Raleigh to mix with the dirt in the wheelbarrow, displayed with other gardening and building tools, symbolizing the “tilling of the earth” that will be done through Global Ministries’ work in the world.  “We break ground figuratively on ground that has already been broken . . . and we pray that mission will flourish because indeed, God’s spirit is alive.” 
After the ceremony, Rev. Floyd remarked, “Today's groundbreaking was a beautiful celebration of ministry partnerships and planting seeds together. The Spirit has truly been at work in this process, and I'm grateful to the Grace congregation for being willing to do a new thing. It takes courage to let go of what the church has known and the property it has owned. Grace members are ready to dedicate their time and resources to God's mission in our community and our world, and today was just the beginning!”
Rev. Scott Parrish, in a dual role as Mission Specialist for the North Georgia Conference and Mission Strategist for Global Ministries, said, “I believe that the relationships and expertise of Global Ministries can have a profound impact for congregations in North Georgia, helping us more effectively serve our communities as we seek to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. How exciting that our congregations may be so directly related to this new chapter of UMC mission with impact locally and internationally!” 
Indeed, God’s spirit was alive as Global Ministries broke ground in Atlanta and looks “Toward Tomorrow.”

Anne Nelson is a freelance writer and serves as editor of the Monday Morning in North Georgia e-newsletter. Contact her at