St. Andrew United Methodist Church (UMC), in Carrollton GA, is in the process of merging with the Wesley Foundation at UWG. Church mergers are very common, but a church merging with a college organization is a very unique collaboration. Last year, St. Andrews UMC decided that they wanted to take on the task of connecting with the students at UWG. They took their vision to the North Georgia United Methodist Conference to help bring their ideas to light.
In June 2016, Sam Dawkins, Associate Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Lawrenceville GA, had the vision that he wanted to do more work with college students. Dawkins graduated from The University of Georgia where he was heavily involved in their Wesley Foundation organization. “That was a huge part of my life in college,” said Dawkins. “I found friends, met my wife, I was able to be a worship leader, and found my calling to the pastoral ministry there, so I want to build a community where people can find that at the University of West Georgia.”
Dawkins took his decision to his senior pastor and district superintendent to keep in mind in case any opportunities came up where he would be able to follow his vision. “A couple of weeks ago, when the bishop and the cabinet met together to discuss appointments they decided to appoint me to this merger because of my gifts and my interests in working with college students,” said Dawkins. In the United Methodist Church, it is common for elder pastors to be appointed to different churches throughout their career.
The Wesley Foundation at UWG, named after John Wesley, the founder of the United Methodist Church, closed last year.The North Georgia Conference decided that it would be best to open back up when they knew they could do it right and make the changes they knew were needed. “I don’t know the specifics on why it was closed,” said Dawkins. “That was a decision made by our conference as well as those who are in charge of higher education. They decided that it was better to close it and relaunch it than to keep it going as it was.
There is not an official timeline or deadline set for the merger, but those in charge hope to start gathering student involvement by the Fall 2017 semester. There are many possibilities since it is so early in the decision making process. Dawkins has not been introduced to the congregation of St. Andrews UMC yet but there are plans for an introduction in the next few months. “We are supposed to meet in the next month or two and I am not going to be appointed pastor until June,” said Dawkins. “We’re looking at hopefully having weeknight services starting in August when school starts back. And looking at launching the church at some point during the school year once we have college students, people from the congregation and the community who come together to get ready to launch.”
Merging churches can be a very tedious task. After the idea of a merge is presented, everyone in the congregation has to take a vote on whether they agree or disagree. The vote was a unanimous yes, which shows that the whole congregation has the same vision of doing more in their community and getting more involved with the college students. Originally, St. Andrews UMC was placed a few blocks away from UWG so that they could be heavily involved in the college community. Now, they are hoping to live up to their purpose.