District | North East


Greetings North East District

May 1

I was talking with a pastor the other day about being a pastor to all of the people represented in the church he serves.  That church is a typical United Methodist Church.  There are people there who represent all of the labels we have assigned to people over the past few years—progressives, centrists, traditionalists.  Labels, in my mind, that continue to drive wedges between people who for most of their lives were able to maintain a love and respect for one another in spite of their differences.  He made the statement that he felt like he couldn’t drive his stake in the ground to declare what he fundamentally believes.

I have served the United Methodist Church for 38 years as an ordained pastor, and I have been a Methodist from birth.  His statement allowed me to look back over my years of local church ministry and consider what fundamental, theological stake I drove in the ground in the parishes I served.  I know exactly what it is, because it is exactly what compelled me to go into the ministry—God’s grace, God’s unconditional love.

I was haunted as a child and teenager that I was not good enough.  I got in trouble for arguing with my brother and sisters even though I would fight FOR them if anyone ever said anything about them.  I felt “less than” when I made a poor grade and was reprimanded for not studying harder, even though I had given it all I had.  When I fell off my bike because I didn’t execute a turn soon enough, all I could focus on was how stupid I was.  I rarely felt worthy of anything even though I tried as best I could to be good, to not mess up, to be perfect.  I seemed to fail every single day.

But then Rev. Nat Long came to Conyers First UMC.  His sermons were life affirming and life changing for me.  He preached on God’s love for all people.  Through him I learned of John Wesley’s doctrine of grace and how that grace is universal.  It is available to everyone, and God never stops wooing every individual into a relationship with God.  (God never gives up on us and comes to us as we are!!). I learned that when I accepted that unconditional love and repented of my eleven-year-old sin, God’s justifying grace forgave me.  I learned that even though I had repented of my sin, I still messed up.  I still fought with my brother and sisters; I still fell off my bike; I still didn’t make perfect grades.  But, I learned that accepting God’s love was not the end!  Through God’s sanctifying grace, God promised to continue working in me to perfect me in love—to shape me into the kind of person who could share that love with others.  Nat Long drove his stake into the ground at Conyers First UMC to declare that fundamentally –no if, ands or buts--that God is love. God loves God’s creation; God gave God’s only son out of unfathomable love; God never stops seeking and loving lost sheep.  I heard that message every Sunday for seven years.  I felt, found and was transformed by God’s love.

When I went to college, I was one or two on my hall that went to church every Sunday.  In late night conversations, my hall mates shared how they were so glad that they didn’t have to go to Church.  They were tired of being made to feel unworthy, unloved, constantly judged.  Their sins were the focus of every sermon, every Bible study, every Sunday school lesson.  Church was the last place they would go if they had a choice.  In those late-night conversations, I told them of my experience and shared with them another way of understanding God.  That God loves us first and foremost.  It was not long before they would come to me and ask me to tell them more about this God who loved them and cared for them.  It was through the joy of sharing with others the profound love I had experienced in and through God that called me into ministry.  When I accepted God’s call, I drove my stake into the ground to share above all else, God’s love.

When people in the church came to me to tell me they did not want that group of people who didn’t believe in capital punishment coming to church, I drove my stake in the ground for the sake of love.  When a man came to me to tell me that he was leaving and taking his money with him because I welcomed a black child to the children’s time, I drove my stake into the ground for the sake of love.  As I look back on my ministry, the only times I had to drive my stake into the ground was when others tried to elevate what they considered was the unworthiness and sin of others. Because I found worth in the eyes of God through the Gospel sharing of Nat Long, I have made it my only mission to declare that same Gospel to others.  I have always believe that it is my job is to share the Gospel—the Good News.  It is God’s job to perfect others in love through God’s sanctifying/transforming grace. I will always drive my stake in the ground for the sake of love.


District Superintendent

Alice Rogers
(770) 536-2586


Administrative Assistant

Holley Butkovich
(770) 536-2586

Contact Information

343 Northside Drive  
Gainesville, GA 30501  

(770) 536-2586 Phone
(770) 536-7188 Fax

northeast@ngumc.net http://www.ngumc.org/northeast