By Kara Witherow, Editor
If you look closely, you can catch a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven in Glynn County.
Two United Methodist congregations – one African American and one Hispanic – have joined together to share life, ministry and buildings.
Early this year, the Spanish-speaking United Methodist congregation of Glynn County, located in Brunswick, was in search of a home to carry out its ministries. In its hour of need the congregation of Grace United Methodist Church put out a welcome mat and invited the congregation with open hearts, open minds and open doors.
Rev. Daniel Medina, pastor of the Glynn County United Methodist Hispanic Ministry, and Rev. Douglas Force, pastor of Brunswick’s Grace United Methodist Church, have known each other and been friends for many years. When Rev. Force learned of the Hispanic ministry’s need, he offered Grace UMC’s facilities.
“They invited us to worship with them one Sunday and we noticed that we have a lot of things in common,” Rev. Medina said. “We became friends – not just the pastors, but the congregations as well.”
Most weeks, the two congregations worship separately. The Hispanic congregation gathers at 9:30 a.m. and the African-American congregation meets at 11 a.m. The first Sunday of every month, however, they meet together in a bilingual and multicultural blended service.
“It’s bringing diversity and a new experience to our congregation,” Rev. Medina said. “This is an example of a time when one plus one does not equal two, but three. In ministry, we are working together.”
They’re not just coming together during worship services – they’re working together outside of traditional “church” hours, too. The two congregations are renovating a house that sits next to Grace UMC. Bought by the church several years ago, the building had great potential but was sitting empty and unused.
With support and volunteers from Saint Simons United Methodist Church, Wesley at Frederica United Methodist Church on St. Simons Island, Grace UMC and the Hispanic United Methodist congregation of Glynn County, the house, in downtown Brunswick, is being remodeled. When complete, it will welcome and serve the youth, children and community. The home will be used as a fellowship hall, will house an after-school program and will be the hub of Christian education for the youth and children of both congregations.
“We are planning to call it Casa Wesley, or Wesley House,” Rev. Medina said. “We want to have both languages and both cultures united by our love for the Lord.”
“We are very grateful for the fact that St. Simons Island UMC, Wesley at Frederica UMC, Grace UMC, and Glynn County Hispanic Ministries were willing to partner together in this project,” said Dr. Tim Bagwell, executive director of New and Revitalized Congregational Development. “While the project focused on rehabilitation of the property for the use of Glynn County Hispanic Ministries, there was something else of equal value which unfolded. Those who worked on this project connected with Daniel Medina and the members of his church. The result was that four congregations came together for a common project. Those who came to give were surprised by what they received! Kingdom economics!”
In their time together, the Grace UMC and Glynn County Hispanic Ministries congregations have learned that they’re more alike than they are different.
“We have discovered that we are not very different from each other,” Rev. Medina said. “We share a lot of the same experiences and the same vision and mission, and we are united in Christ. We started out small, but it’s had a snowball effect and we are becoming one ministry”
This is just the beginning, Revs. Medina and Force said.
Planned are Sunday school and youth ministries, mentoring, tutoring, computer, math, Spanish, English and remedial classes for all ages, with the objective of giving participants tools to find success in the economy of a global community.
“Coupled with these efforts is an evangelistic thrust designed to reach men and women of every birth with the message: you are loved,” Rev. Force said. “The scriptures remind us that in Christ Jesus all things are possible. Well, in at least one little corner of South Georgia, the serendipitous is breaking out. We who are United Methodist have been left to tell the tale with open doors, open minds, and open hearts that the best is still yet to come.”