VBS to be held July 10-14

Oconee Street UMC will be helping “children discover the qualities that make them heroic in God” at its annual Vacation Bible School from July 10-14. This year’s theme is “Hero Central: Discover Your Strength in God.”

VBS is open to children ages 3 through rising 5th-grade students. Sessions will be held each day, July 10-14, from 9 a.m. to noon.

Participants are divided into age-specific groups and each day cycle through classes including science, story time, arts and craft, music, and recreation.

Registration is open at http://2017.cokesburyvbs.com/oconeestreetumc.

Volunteers are also needed to teach classes, guide student groups, setup, cleanup and other activities. To volunteer, click on the registration link and select “Volunteer.”

For more information about VBS, email Jamie Clark.

Talents to be on display at OSUMC Coffeehouse

Oconee Street UMC is hosting its annual open-mic coffeehouse night on Friday, Feb. 3 from 7-9 in the fellowship hall.

Musical performances, poems and comedy acts will be performed by church members, and desserts and coffee (of course) will be served. The event is open to the public and is being sponsored by the church’s neighborhood outreach committee.

If interested in performing at the event, email <a href=”mailto:lewallen@uga.edu?Subject=Coffeehouse” target=”_top”>Lew Allen</a>


VIDEO: “The Work of Christmas”

The Oconee Street UMC Chancel Choir performed “The Work of Christmas” to more than 150 audience members on Dec. 6, 2016 in the sanctuary. The choir performance, directed by Amanda Martin, featured 11 instrumentalists, six actors and a narrator. Click here to see photos from the event.

PHOTO GALLERY: “The Work of Christmas”

The Oconee Street UMC Chancel Choir performed “The Work of Christmas” to more than 150 audience members on Dec. 6, 2016 in the sanctuary. The choir performance, directed by Amanda Martin, featured 11 instrumentalists, six actors and a narrator. Click here to watch the performance.

All photos by Jaydon Dennis



Detention and Deportation: A Christian Response

On September 18 from 9:45-10:45 am a panel will lead us in a discussion of ongoing detention and deportation in the Athens immigrant community, and how our church might respond. This is the handout we’ll share, in case you want to study it ahead of time to formulate your own thoughts, experiences, and questions.

 When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. Leviticus 19:33-34

 Carlos, a proud and responsible father of 5 Clarke County School District children, was rear ended while driving to work. The police arrested him for driving without a license; Georgia denies licenses to undocumented immigrants.  Soon after that, as he was leaving for work, ICE arrested him and detained him indefinitely in a prison with nearly 2,000 other immigrants in South Georgia. His wife was horrified at having to tell her children when they came home from school that they might never see their father again.

Compared to national averages, undocumented immigrants in Georgia are

  • more likely to be detained and deported
  • more likely to be picked up by ICE for traffic offenses and other minor infractions. “Immigration judges and ICE attorneys are more harsh and aggressive…they classify as criminals those with arrests for driving without a license, or on 10-20 year old DIU arrests where the person has paid the fine and fulfilled the legal obligations…” (FULTON COUNTY, CBS46))
  • less likely to receive bond (5%vs. 10.5%k ) or more likely to pay a higher bond ($13,714 vs. $8,200)
  • more likely to be deported (87%versus 60%)
  • more likely to be denied parole (.7% vs. 5.8%)

 In June 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics wrote to Department of Homeland Security, which includes ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), to express its concern that detention exposes asylum-seeking families to unnecessary mental and physical health risks (depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress), while exacerbating the trauma they fled in their countries. Similar negative health outcomes have been found for children who are not detained, but have a parent at risk of detention or deportation.

How is our church currently involved with our immigrant neighbors?

  • We give $250 a month for families who have been affected by deportation
  • We funded several DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) applications
  • We donated rice, beans, diapers, clothing, and Christmas presents
  • UMM helped restore the family home of a man killed in a storm last year
  • We provide space for U-Lead Athens weekly meetings; several members are actively involved as tutors, dinner providers, and donors to the Scholarship Fund

What are additional ways our church can respond? 

  • Provide support for families who have lost a parent to detention/deportation by building financial support into the church budget, and by individual contributions
  • Work with the Athens Banner Herald, Flagpole, and/or our North Georgia Conference Undocumented Partnership Task Force blog to publicize stories every time there is a raid
  • Join the support system in place at Pinewoods – become a buddy, provide rides, find support for legal advice, food, temporary housing
  • Organize a coalition of faith-based organizations in the Athens Area to provide legal, financial, emotional, and other needed support for families going through the deportation process with the goal of preventing deportation, not only caring in the aftermath.
  • Provide transitional housing when a family has lost a member to detention

 Provide Sanctuary to an individual in immanent danger of deportation. The New Sanctuary Movement is a coalition of interfaith religious leaders and congregations, called by faith and conscience to respond to the suffering of our immigrant brothers and sisters facing detention and deportation.

 Initial steps:

  1. Expand partnership with our undocumented neighbors to learn needs
  2. Enter into a time of prayer and discernment
  3. Create a coalition of congregations in advocacy efforts, legal and logistical support, vigils, and financial support
  4. Work with an immigration lawyer. Most Sanctuary cases begin when a lawyer identifies someone working to stop their deportation order without success.
  5. Make a public Declaration of Sanctuary at a press conference

Submitted by JoBeth Allen

C.S. Lewis Bible Study

751830A Tuesday night Bible study examining renowned author C.S. Lewis and his relationship with God will begin Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 7 p.m.

The study, titled “C.S. Lewis: Reluctant Disciple: Faith, Reason and the Power of the Gospel,” will be the weekly college Bible study class for the semester. However, the class is open to anyone interested in attending.

The class will meet at 7 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall each week for light snacks, study and discussion. For more information,  email <a href=”mailto:oconeestreetyouth@gmail.com”>Allison Floyd.</a>

Register for VBS by July 10

logo-glowRegister for VBS by July 10!

Surf’s up at VBS 2016 as children will “catch the wave of God’s amazing love” at the Surf Shack,  July 25-29 from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Registration is now open here.

Volunteers are needed to have a successful VBS program. Youth (middle school/high school students) are also encouraged to serve as volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering for VBS, please contact Jamie Clark.

Welcome letter from Pastor Joe Gunby

img_0222-1Hello Church Family,

Greetings in the name of the One who was, and is, and is to come.

Today I have the privilege of officially becoming your pastor. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to serve this church. Throughout the entire process of becoming your pastor, I have had a deep sense of peace that God was working in my life to bring me to you, and that sense of calling has only been deepened as you have welcomed me with such extravagant hospitality. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the outpouring of kindness to me and my family that has come in the form of notes, pictures, phone calls, meals, and of course, a John Wesley bobblehead. Maxine and the SPR have gone above and beyond to make this transition as smooth as possible—helped tremendously by Lisa’s compassion for all of us, too.

About Lisa…I have seldom met a pastor with the kind of pastoral wisdom that she exhibits. She demonstrated tremendous gifts of love and leadership that have shepherded this congregation to the place where it is and I could not be more grateful to her. She wasn’t even my pastor and I already miss her. Of course it’s OK for you to miss her and to feel sad that she is gone. But in her love for me I feel God’s blessing on my ministry to you. I’ll never forget the first conversation we had on the phone—her deep gladness that this transition was going to be OK, that she was safe to hand off this work to me. Now that the transfer is official, it’s time to press on toward what lies ahead, but we won’t leave the past behind as we do. We will cherish the past as a resource for the future direction of this church.

In these first few months I’m committed to a ministry of listening—of hearing from you the things that God has done in your midst, of your love for one another, and of your compassion for the least of these. I want to hear what this church means to you, your memories of what matters, and how the lessons of the past shape our way forward into God’s good future. It’s important for me to hear from you not just because I’m your guest and need to know what makes you tick, but because I recognize that Oconee Street has a unique charisma and mission that means a great deal to the United Methodist Church and to the city of Athens. In time, some things are bound to change here and there, but my commitment to you is to maintain the continuity of this church’s witness to God’s life in this city.

And I do love this city. I went to high school here and lived here for a number of years after college, and it feels like coming home to be back again. With me I bring my wife Julie (10 years, today!), my daughters Lena (5) and Etta (2) and my baby son Simon. Julie is no stranger to Athens, either, having graduated from UGA in 2002. Y’all did a good thing getting me because it means you get her. You’ll see.

Again, thank you all so much for the warm welcome. You already feel like family and while I can’t wait to begin this good work with you I also know that all things unfold in God’s good time, and that if we trust in God’s future, we will come together to a place of deep joy.

God bless you.

Your pastor,

Joe Gunby

Farewell message from Pastor Lisa Caine

Caine final sermon

The Rev. Lisa Caine delivers her final sermon as pastor of Oconee Street UMC on June 12, 2016.

Dear Church Family,

Back in January I told you I had decided to retire in June.  That seemed a long time away.  But, in the blink of an eye here it is, and this Sunday is our last Sunday together. What a wonderful 15 years this has been, and sometimes I think it has all flown by as fast as the last six months.  After so long a time together, saying good-bye is not easy, nor should it be. We share many memories of joys, celebrations, losses, and challenges that have made us church together.  We have brought our gifts and talents, offered them to God, and grown closer to God and one another in the process.

I am so very thankful for each of you. To have known you and worked with you has enriched my life beyond measure. But it truly is now time for the next stage, both for me and for you. I welcome, along with you, Rev. Joe Gunby and his family. One of the gifts of the United Methodist Church is the opportunity to work with various pastors over the years because each one brings new perspectives, new ideas, and new abilities to share.

I want to continue our ties of Christian love and friendship, but I would be disappointed if these ties interfered in any way with your relationship with Joe as your pastor.  The best way to do that is to welcome Joe as your pastor and call him, not me, when you need a pastor, whether there is a death in the family or someone going to the hospital or the happy occasion of a wedding or baptism. When you need your pastor, call Joe, even if at present you don’t know him as well as you know me. This does not mean that I can never return. But he will be the pastor, and I will return to assist at his invitation.

This is the way the new pastor can minister and serve and be accepted. One pastor’s work ends where another’s begins.  I can enjoy my retirement knowing that you are led by such a gifted pastor.  Since I am not moving from Athens, I won’t say “good-bye” because I’m sure we’ll see each other from time to time.

Keep me in your prayers as I will keep you in mine. May the Lord bless you and keep you,

Grace and peace,
Pastor Lisa



What does the Bible say about homosexuality?

Oconee Street UMC is hosting a screening of “For the Bible Tells Me So” on Friday, March 18 at 7 p.m.
The documentary, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007, explores the intersection of religion and homosexuality in the U.S. and how some have interpreted the Bible to stigmatize the gay community. Segments include interviews with several sets of religious parents (including former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt and his wife, Jane, and the parents of Bishop V. Gene Robinson) about their personal experiences raising homosexual children, as well as interviews with those now-adult children.The movie also features an animated segment, “Is Homosexuality a Choice?” which a summarizes the current scientific theories about sexual orientation.
The screening is free (donations may be accepted) and open to everyone. Childcare is provided. Discussion will follow.
Email: OconeeStreetUMCyouth@gmail.com with questions.