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Augusta Road celebrates 61st Heritage Sunday with mortgage-burning, more

PELZER—Everyone loves a party and on May 20, Augusta Road United Methodist Church was celebrating.

It was our 61st Heritage Sunday, and our guest preacher was former pastor Dr. Steven D. Gillespie. Our kids enjoyed his children’s sermon, complete with guitar accompaniment. The adults recall how he tied his personal recollections of his time with us to later developments in our lives (Ezekiel 37:1-14, “O, Lord, you know”)

Pastor David B. Smith had convened a team of members to work through the Forward Focus process. Working with Rev. Andy Watson of Emma Gray UMC, Woodruff, our team researched demographics online, interviewed staff at local schools and solicited information about our congregation’s history and prospects from the congregation. This was our wrap-up meeting, and Watson presented our findings to the congregation after our traditional potluck lunch. Our three areas for future focus are: revitalize our outreach to our newest neighbors, recruit a new age-level minister and reinvest our God-given gifts with those in need locally and globally.

“While many congregations face harsh demographic and cultural realities, it is quite exciting to see a congregation ready to embrace the future of promise God has placed before them,” Watson said.

It was great to have our Greenville District Superintendent Dr. George Howle on hand for the presentation about Forward Focus. As it happened, we learned shortly after we finished that project that our mortgage was paid. Howle was on hand to rededicate our sanctuary as debt-free during the worship service.

Outside after lunch, some of the attendees sang “Disco Inferno” as we put a flame to the mortgage. Looking back, we shouldn’t have been surprised. We paid back the mortgage on our first building in less than 10 years, and several members reminded us of that while doing our Forward Focus research.

Gillespie also rejoiced with us. During his years with us, 1992-97, we bought the property we have since built our church upon, in 2001. As he said during his sermon, “O Lord, You Know,” the rest of us found out: We are well and truly blessed!

So what will be do with the money we no longer need to pay the mortgage company? Ask 20 members and get 20 different answers. Perform some delayed building maintenance? Maybe get a new electronic street sign? Update our technology and website?

The list goes on, as does our love for our spirit-filled congregation. “O Lord, you know.”

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