Tom and I have now been on St. Simons Island six days. We came on a Tuesday, explored until dark (tomorrow’s post), worked at Fort Frederica the next four days, and went to church today, our first day off. Unlike other national park sites where we have worked, St. Simons is a hotbed of civilization. We are within a few miles of restaurants, grocery stores, and the beach. Wesley UMC (United Methodist Church) is – literally – across the street from Fort Frederica. This morning we walked to worship.
Wesley UMC was founded in 1987 when 10 acres of land was given to the South Georgia Conference on St. Simons Island. The church rapidly grew from the original 117 members to over 1000 members today. The church building is a gorgeous place that looks like it was chiseled from the natural limestone in the area. There is a John and Charles Wesley Memorial Garden on part of the land that will be spectacular in a couple of months. The sanctuary has natural timber beams and a silver pipe organ at the front. The two traditional services are held in the sanctuary. The contemporary service is held in the Celebration Hall.
Tom and I attended the 10:45 traditional worship service. Rev. Steve Patton, Senior Pastor, led the service which was a renewal of baptism. We started off the service by singing “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” a hymn written by Charles Wesley. It doesn’t get any more Wesleyan than that! We sang this processional hymn as the crucifer, acolytes, choir, and pastor processed. About 250 people attended this third service of the morning.
Rev. Patton had a good children’s sermon. He compared the toys in Toy Story to us. The toys had Andy’s name written on their feet so they wouldn’t forget to whom they belonged. We have Jesus’s name written on our hearts so we won’t forget to whom we belong.
The “adult” sermon was equally good, based on the passage in Acts 10 that describes Peter’s visit to Cornelius. Peter was a “church” insider – he knew everything about faith and following Jesus. Cornelius was a church outsider. Even though he believed in the God of the Jews, he didn’t know anything about Jesus or how to follow him. Cornelius invited Peter to tell him about Jesus and this invitation led to the first Gentile Christians. Rev. Patton reminded all of us church insiders that people are constantly inviting us to tell them about Jesus. The question is – do we take them up on their invitation or do we ignore it?
I really like this question, because it makes us look for the ways people are inviting us into conversations about Jesus. They may not phrase the invitation in ways we notice unless we are looking for it. In fact, most of the time, people are very good at pretending that they have all the answers for life. We have to get to the place where people trust us with their questions before they invite us in. Or we might need to meet them in places of hurt and vulnerability. One of the best places for me to share Jesus was always in hospital waiting rooms.
Tom and I really enjoyed our visit to Wesley UMC. They have a Wednesday night supper and Bible Study. We are thinking about checking it out. We certainly can’t use distance as an excuse not to go!