St. Simons Island is a United Methodist mecca. Charles and John Wesley both preached at Fort Frederica in 1736 (more on that in another post). There are plaques, monuments, and markers all over the island with the Wesley name on them. Two United Methodist Churches serve the island, one on the north end and one on the south. Magnolia Manor is a United Methodist Nursing Home on the island. And, if all that weren’t enough, there is Epworth by the Sea.
Epworth by the Sea is a United Methodist Retreat Center owned by the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. Purchased in 1949, the South Georgia Conference continues to develop the Center. The 100-acre Campus has 6 motels, 12 family apartments, and 13 youth buildings accommodating up to 1,000 persons. Three auditoriums accommodate groups of all sizes. There are four dining rooms and a cafeteria. There are tennis courts, a swimming pool, a basketball court, and an open field for other activities. Bicycles, two fishing piers, and a ropes course are just a few of the many activities open to groups or individuals that use the Retreat Center.
During the short time we have been on St. Simons Island, Epworth by the Sea has housed a retreat for new District Superintendents in the Southeast Jurisdiction, multiple women’s retreats, and several large confirmation classes. Individuals can use the motel rooms if they are available. I’m told these rooms are considerably less expensive than the other hotel rooms on the island.
I have been to Epworth by the Sea several times now and enjoy walking around the large campus. There are so many buildings that I don’t feel like I have seen all of them yet. One of my favorite buildings is the Lovely Lane Chapel. The Chapel was built by Norman W. Dodge in 1880 and is the oldest standing church building on the island. It was originally named St. James Union Chapel and renamed after the Methodists purchased the property. The name comes from the place where the 1784 Founding Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church was held in Baltimore, Maryland.
Another must-see building at the Center is the Moore Museum of Methodist History, opened in 1965. A giant statue of John Wesley stands in the atrium. The excellent interpretation of United Methodist history in the Museum is impressive. The Museum integrates the history of St. Simons Island with that of the United Methodist Church. Much of the focus is on the Wesley brothers, but the history continues with displays showing what the United Methodist Church is doing today. A 6,000 volume library is available to anyone who wants to do research on the history of the church.
I went to the Museum on a Thursday afternoon. Every Thursday at 2 p.m., Dave Hanson – a retired United Methodist minister – gives a presentation on John and Charles Wesley and the time they spent in Georgia. Dave really makes John and Charles come alive in his presentation.
I enjoy going to Epworth by the Sea and learn something new every time I go.