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Q&A with the District Lay Leaders

Q&A with the District Lay Leaders
Photo illustration by Kathleen Barry

Advocate chats with eight new DLLs, plus four returning, about hopes, issues, more

By Jessica Brodie

It’s no secret churches are led by far more people than a pastor. From church lay leaders to financial officers and others in key congregational roles, non-pastor leaders of God’s church help guide, run, minister and operate the church to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.

The South Carolina Conference has a long history of vibrant lay leadership and lay involvement, and the conference Lay Leadership area strives to continue fostering that leadership through a culture of call by engaging, equipping and empowering laity so that they might effectively partner with each other and their pastors to live out God’s call as they lead the church.

This year, with the extension of the quadrennium because of the pandemic, Conference Lay Leader Barbara Ware is continuing in her role. Betty Void is lay leadership secretary, and Valerie Brooks-Madden is the conference lay leader nominee.

On the district level, eight new district lay leaders are joining the team, along with the four returning district lay leaders.

Returning are Jeff Fogle (Anderson District), Tony Watson (Greenwood District), Stacey Newlon (Rock Hill District) and Rick Hammett (Spartanburg District).

New district lay leaders include Katrina Patton (Charleston District), Michael Jennings (Columbia District), Tracy Johnson (Florence District), Chandra Dillard (Greenville District), Sarah Horace-Johnson (Hartsville District), Michael Toms (Marion District), Sheila Shanklin (Orangeburg District) and Karen Kendo (Walterboro District).

Here, we talk to each of the district lay leaders, new and returning, to learn what they most look forward to in their role, what they believe are the most pressing issues within the local churches, what is one thing a year from now they hope to look back on and know was successful, and a few things about their profession, hobbies, family and more.

“I am excited to be able to continue to work with the district lay leaders from our 12 districts as I continue on as conference lay leader,” Ware said. “We have eight new and four returning district lay leaders, which is going to make for some wonderful conversations. I am looking forward to seeing how these district lay leaders and other lay leadership areas respond to the new experience and new opportunities we are seeing to be in mission and ministry with people during these uncertain times.”

 

Jeff Fogle, Anderson District Lay Leader

What are you most looking forward to as the district lay leader?

I’ve been fortunate to serve as the Anderson District lay leader for four years. As I enter my fifth year, I look forward to continuing to get to know as many laypersons at our churches in the district as I can and to learn the DNA of our local churches.

What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local churches?

Weaving new and old ministries/methods into a cohesive, forward-moving church.

What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was successful?

I hope we can look back and see, after absorbing the initial “gut punch” of COVID-19, that we have pulled ourselves back up, resumed those ministries and activities that we are able to safely do and birthed new ways to connect with one another and make disciples.

Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc.

I am an architect by profession. I work in Greenville and serve as a principal architect at Batson Architects Inc. My hobbies are traveling to college football games/stadiums on my bucket list, biking with my wife and grilling. My wife, Cindi, and I have been married for 32 years. We are proud parents of two daughters, Rebekah and Megan. We are now empty-nesters but relish and enjoy time with them when we can all gather.

 

Katrina Patton, Charleston District Lay Leader

What are you most looking forward to as the district lay leader?

I definitely feel God’s call to this opportunity. Serving as DLL presents many and diverse challenges, and I look forward to setting a tone of collaborative relationships—between members of the laity and between clergy and laity. Jesus calls us to do this!

What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local churches?

The effect of COVID-19 on worship, finances, missions, church programs.

What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was successful?

That I got out of my own way and created an environment where folks want to share ideas.

Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc.

I practiced in the legal profession beginning in 1981 and retired in 2019. I served as a paralegal, attorney and, for the past 10 years, as a Dorchester County magistrate. I now work part-time at Bethany UMC’s KidsCare (reopening Jan. 4). I am married to Luke Biggs (retired Navy). We have no two-legged children, but a I’m a “Crazy Cat Mom” (currently “only” three). I’m also a “Crazy Clemson Fan.” Go Tigers!

 

Michael Jennings, Columbia District Lay Leader

What are you most looking forward to as the district lay leader?

I’m looking forward to the opportunity to hear other people’s views and struggles and how we can work together to come to resolution.

What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local churches?

The biggest is how we develop a hybrid church worship that connects us all. That’s a real struggle coming up.

What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was successful?

That we figured out how to do evangelism.

Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc.

I spent most of my life in IT, and now I’m retired and currently working at O’Reilly’s, where I get to drive around delivering parts and talk to people. I love it! I’m married to Kathy, and we have two girls and two grandkids: a boy, a girl and one on the way. And I love that my grands are in church. Also, I’m currently trying to learn how to play guitar.

 

Tracy Johnson, Florence District Lay Leader

What are you most looking forward to as the district lay leader?

I am most looking forward to meeting, working with and serving with the great people of the Florence District and across the state.

What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local churches?

I believe our greatest issue is reaching the younger generations with the authentic message of Christ.

What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was successful?

I would like to look back and know that we made a difference during a historic pandemic. I’d like to know that we shared the love and message of Christ within and outside of our church buildings and that we were successful in encouraging others to put their trust in Him.

Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc.

My wife and I led Methodist Youth Fellowship at Shiloh for seven years, and I have enjoyed taking groups to Salkehatchie Summer Service for 13 years. I served as treasurer of the church for five years and have been serving as lay leader since 2005. My wife, Season, and I have been married for 23 years and have three children. Our son, Daniel, is a student at Clemson University, our daughter Emilee is studying at Converse College, and our youngest daughter, Caroline, is a sophomore in high school. I am a network engineer at a local telephone cooperative where I have been employed for 23 years. It can be a demanding job, but I have been very blessed to have a career that I enjoy so fully. I enjoy hunting, fishing, hiking, running and gardening. I grew up on a farm where my parents taught me the value of hard work. There is nothing like working in the garden and enjoying the fruits of my labor, and it brings me joy to share with others.

 

Chandra Dillard, Greenville District Lay Leader

What are you most looking forward to as the district lay leader?

I’m excited for the opportunity to work for and collaborate with so many gifted laity and clergy.

What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local churches?

The most pressing issue right now is how do we continue to worship and advance ministry while enduring a pandemic. Regardless if a congregation is coping well or struggling, getting on the other side of COVID-19 is not without its challenges. I believe the second challenge is how does worship and ministry stay relevant in order that we might continue to make disciples for Jesus Christ.

What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was successful?

A successful year would be that I’ve identified and been in contact with the lay leaders in the Greenville District. I want them to know that we’re a team and it will take all of us to live out and lean into God’s vision for ministry.

Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc.

I was born and raised in Greenville. It’s the only place I’ve lived outside of my time of attending Winthrop University in Rock Hill. I attend John Wesley UMC, where I’m currently church council chair. I’m the community relations director for Furman University, and I also serve in the South Carolina General Assembly as a Statehouse Representative for Greenville County. I have previous service on Greenville City Council from 1999-2008. I was the first woman elected to represent the citizens of District 3 on City Council. In my free time, I like to spend time with my mother and my cat, Junior.

 

Tony Watson, Greenwood District Lay Leader

What are you most looking forward to as the district lay leader?

As a district lay leader, I am looking forward to being able to see the laity in the district and conference face to face. While the online meetings have been very helpful, they are only a substitute for meeting face to face. Also, it is hoped we can continue our work in the Greenwood District to strengthen our local connections. As is common to the conference, there are many small churches that have very active and dedicated members. By fostering ways for our local churches to work closer, we can make strides for God’s kingdom together that we cannot do separately. Also, one of our goals is to continue to strengthen our clergy/laity partnerships.

What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local churches?

It is felt our most pressing issue facing the church today is to remember to keep the “Great Commission” as found in Mathew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” This is not a command just for clergy but all Christians. We all have a part to play in making disciples. Our mission statement is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” I feel our challenge is to place more emphasis on the first part of this statement “to make disciples for Jesus Christ.” Missions and ministry often, I feel, place too much emphasis on transforming the world through mission and ministry. As we plan and prepare for ministry and ministry, our challenge is to make sure a component of our efforts includes a bold witness for Christ. Without a change of heart, which only Christ can do, there will be no lasting change. When the heart changes, eternity also changes.

What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was successful?

Over the next year it is hoped our numbers of people making a profession of faith will confirm our efforts to bring Christ to a troubled world.

Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc.

On the personal side, in addition to our church work, I enjoy traveling with my wife to see our grandchildren. Times spent fishing and in fellowship with our district superintendent and the Greenwood “fishing team” are always, always fun. Playing golf with the best congregational specialist in the conference and other ministers in the district has been wonderful, and it is hoped this will continue.

 

Sarah Horace-Johnson, Hartsville District Lay Leader

What are you most looking forward to as the district lay leader?

What I’m most looking for as a district lay leader is to learn more about the issues that are affecting each church individually and hopefully help the lay leader of the church to bring some resolve or action with the help of the pastor and congregation.

What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local churches?

I feel the most pressing issues within the local church is division amongst the congregation on growth and tradition.

What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was successful?

I would like to look back a year from now and know that a change has begun within the local churches as to how they communicate with each other. Right now a lot of African-American churches do not worship with Caucasian churches or vice versa, and I would love to begin to see more blended ministry.

Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc.

I’m married to Shawn Johnson. We are a blended family of 10 with three blessed grandchildren. I enjoy reading and take great pride in teaching God’s word. I’m a fan of basketball at any level! I enjoy traveling and just spending time with my family. With everything that is going on today, it’s important to realize just how important family time is.

 

Michael Toms, Marion District Lay Leader

What are you most looking forward to as the district lay leader?

I am looking forward to meeting all the local lay leaders in the Marion District and working with the district superintendent to help develop leaders across the district and conference.

What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local church?

I believe one of the most important issues facing the local church is how do we engage the younger generation and make them more active in the church.

What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was a successful?

A year from now I would like to look back and know that all the new, innovative ways that the local churches implemented during the pandemic to make disciples have become a regular part of their services.

Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc.

I am a retired military veteran, a retired state correctional officer and former school board chairman, and I am currently the owner of Ole Sarge Enterprises LLC. I enjoy fishing, drawing, painting and volunteering in the community. I am married to Brenda, and we have an adult son and three grandchildren.

 

Sheila Shanklin, Orangeburg District Lay Leader

What are you most looking forward to as the district lay leader?

I look forward to partnering in ministries with other district lay leaders and local church lay leaders as well as with clergy to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local churches?

I believe that open communication based on trust is an issue within the local churches both inside the church walls and outside those walls in the communities served. Without trust and a willingness to communicate and work together, our service in ministry together will be stifled.

What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was successful?

I would like to have established a personal relationship with trust and open communication as a sister in Christ with each local church lay leader in the Orangeburg District. In addition, I would like to know I have encouraged the same among lay leaders, as well.

Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc.

My educational background is in secondary education serving as a teacher and administrator. Since I retired from teaching in the public school, I’ve continued the joy of teaching in the church. I enjoy being a Ruritan and serving the community through that organization. Spending time with my husband, working and sharing precious time outside of work is very important to me. Our three children and five grandchildren are also sources of enjoyment. Most of all, I enjoy spending time with my God in quiet devotion, Bible study and prayer early each morning.

 

Stacey Newlon, Rock Hill District Lay Leader

What are you most looking forward to as the district lay leader?

As a returning DLL in my second year, I am looking forward to an even greater connection to the local churches.

What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local churches?

The most pressing issues within the local churches reflect our national situation—political unrest, lack of resources and justice for all persons and a pandemic that has forced change, which has been both frustrating and surreal.

What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was successful?

I was blessed to spend a lot of time last year attending charge conferences with then-DS Joe Long, and again this year with DS Anthony Hodge. Rev. Long encouraged the churches to give God their first: first day of the week in worship, and the first of their time, talents and treasures. Rev. Hodge asked the churches to be calm even among the anxious situations. What I have seen in the churches is inspiring. God’s people have not only given their first; they’ve given their everything to sustain the churches and thrive. Ministry and missions have not ended. I have witnessed a tenacity of clergy and laity to press on, to continue to proclaim the good news, to be resourceful and flexible. I have seen churches remain calm in a turbulent situation and exemplify resiliency, finding their way through, and shining.

What I am most looking forward to in the next year is 1) a church that realizes it is ever-changing and becoming renewed in its mission; and 2) a church that is bold in remembering the commandment to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, and in that love, power and grace, community is transformed for God’s glory.

Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc.

My husband and I have been married for 25 years. We have two adult children, Rachel and Everett, and have extended our family with our son-in-law, Jonathan, and our 6-year-old grandson, Micah. I am a demand planner for a textile company that makes sheets and bedding products. My main responsibility is to forecast sales trends and keep the supply plan in place to support the sales. When I am not working, I am attending school to obtain a Master of Divinity. I enjoy spending time with my family and like day trips. And regarding the charge conferences this year, I can say I went to a church that has “Happy Hookers” and another church that was happy to honk as they voted with their car horns in the outside charge service for their new leadership team. I could not make this stuff up. What an interesting year!

 

Rick Hammett, Spartanburg District Lay Leader

What are you most looking forward to as the district lay leader?

2021 will be the start of my second term in this position. I am excited to return as my district’s lay leader to serve to the best of my ability for Methodists in South Carolina and the Spartanburg District. I hope to continue to be an advocate for the Rev. Cathy Mitchell and to serve the Spartanburg District. At the time of this writing, I will rotate off as the local lay leader at my home church, Lyman UMC. I have served Lyman 25 years as lay leader.

What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local churches?

I believe one of the most pressing issues within the local churches is to return to a “normal,” although we are uncertain as to what that “normal” will be. Many of the churches are also looking forward to the day when everyone is able to worship in person. Some churches are also facing financial difficulties during these trying times. We as Methodists together need to increase our prayer for our fellow church members and the other churches in our district and conference.

What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was successful?

As we face the start of a new year, I hope we are able to move forward and not dwell on the challenges of 2020. We have learned how to become a hybrid church and denomination! We have learned to have conference call worship, virtual worship and in-person worship. In this year we have had Zoom charge conferences, Virtual Annual Conference and numerous virtual meetings. I, for one, long for personal relationships and being together! I am proud the young and the old have embraced this time and stepped up to carry on our calling and our worship!

Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc.

I am married to my beautiful wife, Tommie. We have three wonderful children, Tate, Tayler and Tia. We are members at Lyman UMC, and we reside in Lyman. I wholesale factory original auto parts to General Motors and Ford dealers. I love to spend time with my wife and our adult children and other friends and family. Hobbies include yard work, day trips and travel.

 

Karen Kendo, Walterboro District Lay Leader

What are you most looking forward to as the district lay leader?

I am very much looking forward to getting to know churches and pastors and local lay leaders and church members throughout the Walterboro District. I have a head start on that as I am a certified lay servant and have attended numerous lay servant schools in the past and served on the district lay servant committee for a few years. So I have some established connections within the district that I hope to build upon.

What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local churches?

For many local churches, the crisis is the aging of our members with no influx of young members. This is especially true in my own local church.

We need to find a way to be meaningful to all ages. I think that means we need to find ways to reach and assist people who are unchurched—not to be the most popular church with the fancy programs, but to be the church that serves as the hands and feet of Jesus. For others to see and hear our church members as they go about their daily lives and say to themselves, “I want whatever it is she/he has.”

When church is just a place you go on Sunday morning, then it isn’t the church our Savior wanted established on earth. We need to do church 24/7.

What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was successful?

I have now served First UMC, Harleyville, as lay leader for 10 years and four pastors. It is such a meaningful way to serve because my first pastor when I assumed the position trained me and then allowed me to be a lay leader.

Those that followed him also used my talents to assist the church ministry in meaningful ways. I want to do the same for the Walterboro District and to assist all of the local lay leaders in every church to fulfill their mission.

I want to be able to say that local church lay leaders in the Walterboro District understand the nature and responsibilities of their position and are equipped to serve.

Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc.

Kendo: I am a retired public school educator and administrator. I taught in Orangeburg County for 26 years. Teaching is a passion for me, and I continue to pursue that passion by teaching Sunday school and Bible study. I am married to Delmar Kendo, who is also a retired educator and coach. We both stay very busy in retirement. Delmar is a basketball, softball and baseball official. I took up quilting as a hobby about 10 years before I retired. Quilting now is not like your grandmother did it! Since my retirement, my hobby has become a second vocation. I am a professional quilter. I teach, judge quilt shows and am pursuing national certification in quilt judging. COVID has slowed that pursuit down considerably, as in-person quilt shows are nonexistent. I also have a longarm quilting service where I finish quilt tops that others sew. Discovering this talent in my later years has been very rewarding. Delmar and I own three great dogs that keep us active with walks and keep us laughing with their antics. And I have a studio kitty who supervises my quilting. We love to travel and visit new places and recently purchased a pop-up camper. We are looking forward to getting back to nature through camping.

 

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