Lee Road UMC becomes ‘lighthouse congregation’

TAYLORS—On the evening of Thursday, March 21, Lee Road United Methodist Church dedicated an eight-foot lighthouse on their campus in honor of the church’s decision to remain United Methodist and to become a “lighthouse congregation.”

The Rev. Rusty Godfrey, Lee Road pastor, led the church through a series of five meetings in 2023 with Greenville District Congregational Specialist the Rev. Cathy Joens. Through open discussion, much prayer and consensus, the church decided that the main course it wanted to chart for its future was to be “welcoming” and “loving” to everyone, and that the best way to achieve this pathway was to remain UMC and intentionally invite everyone into full inclusion into the life of the church.

At the end of this process, the church council voted to unanimously support the consensus results of the people in November.

Not only did the church undergo its own unique process to have the necessary discussions, it also designed its own interpretation of what it means to be a “lighthouse congregation” as well as designed its own logo. Church member and visual artist Gene Turner placed Jesus with outstretched welcoming arms in the lantern room with light rays emanating from his person.

The lighthouse congregation movement started in the North Carolina Conference as a way to welcome United Methodists who felt lost after their church voted to disaffiliate and guide them to churches remaining with the UMC. However, Godfrey cast a wider vision of the lighthouse as being a “universal welcome” to all persons, especially those who have been treated as outcasts.

An invitation postcard distributed by church members embraced “welcoming everyone with full inclusion into the life and mission of our church, regardless of race, age, nationality, sexual orientation, physical ability or any other distinction.”

The church website boldly proclaims the message as the core beliefs of the Lee Road UMC as a “lighthouse congregation,” including being proudly and intentionally United Methodist; known for open hearts, open minds and open doors; a beacon of love to all people, who deny every semblance of discrimination; reflective of God’s love in the heart of their United Methodist community; a supportive haven of peace and comfort for disaffiliated United Methodists to experience hope and healing; and a passionate and welcoming family.

As they said, “Our light shines because our primary identity is as children of God; we acknowledge that all people are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God; we welcome everyone into full inclusion in the life of our church; and we are servants to our community, the world and the downtrodden.”

The lighthouse was ordered by the Board of Trustees from a proprietor in Pennsylvania. It is an eight-foot-tall poly-resin structure with a custom solar beacon. Men of the church prepared the site by pouring a concrete pad and placing decorative stone to make it look like a jetty. Grasses and bushes were planted as well. Unity Team Chairperson Sandy Davis oversaw the project.

The dedication evening began with pizza and a concert by The Bridge Collective, Lee Road’s contemporary worship band. Next, people were invited to move outdoors with congregational candles for a brief program that included prayer, poetry, Scripture readings (John 8:12 “I am the Light of the World”) and, finally, a countdown by those assembled with an unveiling of the structure by Mike Lewis, Trustees chair.

As Joyce McKenzie posted on Facebook, “It was wonderful. Thanks to the dedicated hearts and hands.”

Others have commented on the “beautiful night,” the “familiar and new faces” who attended the event and the labor performed by “hard-working, Jesus-loving men.”

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