May 2020


To the South Georgia Conference:

The Cabinet and I want to thank all of our clergy and congregations for the ways you have been responsible, stayed home, practiced social distancing, and taken other measures designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. We know how hard this is and how much you want to be together with your congregation. It takes everyone doing their part, and you are certainly doing yours. Thank you.

On Thursday, April 30, Governor Kemp issued a statement extending Georgia’s public health emergency order to June 12. This order calls for everyone to continue to stay home and social distance as much as possible. Those over 65, as well as those with underlying medical conditions, are asked to continue sheltering in place through June 12.  

The governor’s extended order focuses our attention on mid-June as a time certain small gatherings might safely occur as long as CDC guidelines and procedures are followed. Out of an abundance of caution, we recommend June 21 and/or June 28 as dates to consider for any in-person gatherings. Each church needs to make decisions based on local conditions in the congregation and in the community. And each church needs to determine its own version of a “rolling restart” - which means deciding what one activity can be done safely, rather than starting many things at one time. The schedule for this rolling restart will be unique to each church and some, due to their size or other factors, may not begin their rolling restart until later in the summer.

As you make plans for a rolling restart at the appropriate time, please use the guide - “Getting Ready to Return” - to help you think through various points of consideration as your church implements new methods and procedures to prepare your operations for the changes in the way you gather and worship. 

One of the key concerns, no matter the church size, is how to safely accommodate gatherings of various sizes when the time is right. The timing and preparations for local churches opening their doors will look different for every single church. Inevitably, how we gather will look different than it did in February. Here are five key words to guide our decision making: Context, Risk, Resources, Readiness, Monitoring.

CONTEXT: Pay attention to your context and do not compare yourself to churches of different sizes or locations. Are you in an area where the coronavirus is especially prevalent? What specific concerns are being expressed by parents, older adults, and others? What size gatherings will your space permit you to hold while allowing for six feet of distance between each person or family?

RISK: Many of our faithful members and pastors fall into the high-risk category. How much risk are you willing to assume? How will you mitigate risks for infants, children, youth, adults, and all who have underlying medical conditions? Consult with healthcare professionals in the congregation or community concerning when and how to open.

RESOURCES: Before re-starting anything, do you have adequate supplies such as paper towels for restrooms, sanitizer, gloves/masks? Are you able to procure additional supplies as needed? What is your plan for cleaning/disinfecting all areas that are used?

READINESS: Are plans in place to provide guidance for safely parking, entering, and leaving the building? Are plans in place to provide seating that maintains social distancing? How will these plans be communicated to the congregation? Please discuss your plans with your district superintendent.

MONITORING: Who is designated to maintain accountability to all guidelines and procedures?  How will you monitor staff for possible infections?

In all cases, we need to pay attention to the following:

  • Before resuming any use of church buildings, form a task force to work through the guide, “Getting Ready to Return” to look at how you can slowly and safely phase in gatherings over a period of time.
  • When you reopen church buildings you need a plan for cleaning and disinfecting after each space is used. Click here for guidelines for churches from the CDC.   
  • Wearing masks in public is important for not spreading the disease. 
  • People without symptoms may nevertheless be contagious and spread the virus.
  • Childcare should not resume until CDC guidelines can be strictly followed.
  • We must live with the reality of this virus until a vaccine is ready for widespread use.
  • Business establishments, corporations, organizations, and local governments cannot allow more than 10 people to gather in a single location unless there is at least six feet between each person
  • Please discuss your plans with your district superintendent.

The Cabinet and I acknowledge there may be a few exceptions in which gatherings could occur earlier than this and still adhere to all of the guidelines and guidance of local authorities. In a county with few or no cases of the virus, a gathering of up to 25 might be okay with social distancing measures in place. In all places, groups of 10 or fewer are okay, so some of our churches are organizing watch parties in homes to view online worship. Congregations that have lots of space and few people can meet provided they can remain six feet apart per person and have communicated the plan to their congregation. Drive-in worship is okay if people maintain social distancing. Online worship and telephone conferencing are best.

In addition to the key words and guidelines shown above, we invite you to join one of these Zoom at Noon calls based on average worship attendance to help you think through various points of consideration:

  • Monday, May 4 - Churches with average worship up to 50 (Watch the recording)
  • Tuesday, May 5 - Churches with average worship from 50-150
  • Wednesday, May 6 - Churches with average worship 150-250
  • Thursday, May 7 - Churches with average worship 250+

Click here to register. These conversations will be recorded and posted online. In the coming weeks, we will also be offering conversations around making choices for financial sustainability based on these same breakdowns of average worship attendance.

How we lead in the days ahead will be important. Please care for yourself. Take the necessary time off to refuel and reflect. 

And remember: Stay Calm. Stay Connected. Stay the Course.

Because in the midst of this pandemic we are Alive Together in Witness! 

R. Lawson Bryan

Specific Needs Your Church May Encounter

If there are specific issues affecting your church, please contact the office at 229-273-3119 or with these general questions. For technology questions (email, online worship options, website, Facebook, etc), please email Mandy at

Please continue to watch our Facebook page, calendar, and emails from us as information is constantly being modified based on new guidelines to keep everyone safe.

Magnolia Manor

Please click here to read some important information regarding Magnolia Manor and COVID-19.


Upcoming Events

The Moving Pastors Workshop (previously scheduled for May 21) has been postponed - TBD.

May 4-5 24 Hours of Prayer & Fasting, The Chapel at Brunswick
May 25 Memorial Day, Office Closed
Jun 23 Set-up Meeting - please watch for possible date change
Jun 26-28 Grown Ups Summer Camp, Epworth by the Sea
Aug 15 UMM Men's Rally, Cordele First UMC
Sep 17 Sexual Ethics Training - moved from April
Oct 9-10 Basic Lay Speaking Training, Vidalia First
Oct 12-15 Autumn Adventures, Epworth by the Sea
Oct 16-17 Basic Lay Speaking Training, College Place UMC
Oct 23-24 Advanced Lay Speaking Training, Vidalia First
Nov 6-7 Advanced Lay Speaking Training, College Place UMC

2021 Dates

Jan 24-27 Winter Conference, Epworth by the Sea

You can also find our calendar on the District website:



May 2 Jesse Comer, spouse of Cecilia Comer - Westtown UMC
May 3 Thomas Parrish - Wesley Chapel
May 7 Dan Harper - Christ UMC (Albany)
  Mary Ricardo, spouse of Felipe Ricardo - El Faro, Morgan
May 14 David Fincannon, spouse of Tammy Fincannon - Reynolds Chapel
May 28 Lee Smith - Leesburg
  Becky Parrish, spouse of W.A. Parrish - Boston/Oak Grove
  Ali Thomas, spouse of Ed Thomas - Leary Charge


How Can We Pray for YOU?

The world has been shaken by the effects of the COVID-19 virus. Everyone has been affected and some face dire circumstances. In times like this, our faith becomes paramount. One of the blessings of Epworth is the Wright Prayer Chapel, open 24/7/365, where people come to pray and leave prayer requests. I am privileged to read and pray for those prayer requests. At this time, you may not be able to leave a prayer request on campus. But we still want to pray for YOU. Send me an email ( with your prayer request, and every Thursday at 10 AM, our staff and I will gather in the Wright Prayer Chapel to pray for you and your needs. I look forward to hearing from you.


Jesus said, “[I]f two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” [Mt. 18.19-20 NIV]


We will get through this together in faith!

Grown Ups Summer Camp

Where The Wild Things Are
Epworth By The Sea
June 26 - 28
Be a summer camper again with professional award winning storyteller Andy Offutt Irwin as your camp counselor.
Enjoy a dolphin tour with Captain Phil; learn all about shagging; meet a variety of “wild things”;
have a concert and storytime under the stars; take a walk in the woods and go seining at the beach. Plenty of time for you to enjoy ocean activities and the history of St. Simons Island as you wish.
Camp ends with a worship service at the ocean’s edge.
Visit for more details and to register or call 912-638-8688

Autumn Adventures

Experience the Magic: Cumberland Island National Seashore and Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

An Event for Older Adults

October 12-15, 2020


View Brochure




View Rates & Register Online Now


UMM Vice President

The position of Vice President-South Central District and South West District for South Georgia United Methodist Men is available and the Executive Leadership Team of UMM is seeking interested candidates to fill this volunteer role.

The candidate for the position of Vice President should live in one of the Districts that he serves to assist the District Presidents in those areas.  The desire to serve in Men’s Ministry leadership, active work in the local church and experience at the district level are characteristics that will lead to success in this role.

Interested candidates should contact the UMM Conference President, Donald Rhodes, via email  or by telephone 478-397-0440.

Please remember to check out the conference page for a full list of classifieds.

Director of Music Ministries at Colquitt UMC
Director of Youth Ministries at Bainbridge FUMC


Georgia United Methodist Foundation Newsletter

Check out the latest edition here: newsletter.

Sign up at to have Growing Generosity delivered right to your inbox. For more information, please contact GUMF at 770-449-6726877-220-5664 or

Sexual Ethics Training

Click here to go to the District website page to see a list of who is due for training and register for an upcoming training.

Helpful Links

View a list of Certified Lay Servants on our website.

District Classifieds
Church Dashboard
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Connect with the Southwest District on Social Media: District Office Facebook Page  

Share with us on the Southwest District Facebook group. This group should be used to share pictures, church events, or information on studies and materials. 

If you have technology questions...

Please email Mandy ( with questions. She can provide ongoing support for your Facebook page/group and/or website, setting up new computers, or updating old ones!

Rev. Doreen Smalls Cindy Rollins Martha Walls Mandy Fill
District Superintendent


Information Technology
Southwest District Office | 1602 Goff Circle Cordele, GA 31015 | (229) 273-3119