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‘Partner with me’: New S.C. Bishop Holston speaks at welcoming service about faith, building the church

By Allison Trussell

IRMO—In a sanctuary filled with sunlight, music, friends and family, the South Carolina Annual Conference welcomed its new bishop, Jonathan Holston.

The service was held Oct. 7 at Union United Methodist Church, Irmo.

Following the presentation of signs of episcopal ministry – objects that ranged from a globe to a staff to a Book of Discipline and hymnal – the newly elected bishop offered his first message to the Methodists of South Carolina. In a sermon marked by good-natured ribbing and laughter, Holston challenged the conference to know where it is heading.

Holston recalled a letter written by David Livingstone to the London Missionary Society, which had asked if he had found a good road because they had people who wanted to come help him. His reply? “If you have folk who will come only because there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want folk who will come if there is no road at all.”

Sometimes, God takes you where there isn’t a road, Holston said, but if you are excited and have something to share, people will want to follow you and take that path as well.

“Get excited when you come to worship,” Holston said, offering to give the congregation white towels in reference to the Carolina-Georgia game the previous night. “We ought to be excited and not just at football games.”

Despite being a people of “almosts” – I almost went to church; I almost made a difference; I almost sang in the choir – Holston reminds us of Peter’s words that we know where and to whom we must go.

“Will you partner with me to build a faith, a church, where anyone and everyone has the opportunity to love and to care and to serve? Will you do that?” Holston asked. “(Because it) all comes back to what we believe, who you are. It will show. And when you know where to look, you don’t need a road or anyone else. God has chosen you for this. When you look up to the hills, you know there’s a blessed assurance because God is there. My friends, Peter said it all. We believe. And when you believe, there is nothing you cannot do.”

The Claflin University Choir, Spirit Singers and the chancel choirs of Francis Burns, Silver Hill and Union UMCs provided soaring and uplifting music to round out the bishop’s welcoming service.

An offering collected at the service will go to the Leadership Development Scholarship of Gammon Theological Seminary.

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