Primetimers Explore "All Creatures, Great and Small"
along South Georgia's Historic Golden Isles
by Jeanie Blankenbaker
"Thus it is that every part of nature directs us to nature's God."
From the moment their host Cindy Doehring welcomed 38 older adults to the Golden Isles, they knew they had signed on to a week-long Primetimers event to remember! They had come to Epworth By The Sea on St. Simons Island from across the United States and the United Kingdom to learn about "All Creatures Great and Small" and early Methodist history in Georgia.
Hairless and Other Creatures
Although participants also had time to relax under Spanish moss-draped live oaks, they primarily enjoyed multiple opportunities to explore and learn about the natural wonders of St. Simons, Jekyll and Sapelo, all barrier islands along Georgia's southern coast. From November 9 to 14, 2008, the group soaked up information from local experts, who shared how the islands are actively engaged in preservation and environmental issues, preserving and restoring natural treasures in the coastal marshlands and beaches. The Primetimers:
Hands-On Volunteer Work
Primetimers is a mission volunteers program of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church. On Jekyll Island, the group visited the University of Georgia Marine Extension Agency to learn about intertidal oysters and to do volunteer work. They assisted restoration efforts at the shell recycling center by shoveling oyster shells into mesh bags that will be used to enhance oyster beds. In less than an hour, they filled a record 216 bags! Described as "keystone" species, oysters play a critical role in maintaining a healthy coastal ecosystem.
The group also attended the dedication of the United Methodist Volunteers In Mission (UMVIM) room, located at the Arthur J. Moore Methodist Museum and Library on Epworth grounds. Jeanie Blankenbaker, event shepherd, spoke at the event which honored the work of UMVIM and the Rev. George and Cora Herndon. Over half of the museum is dedicated to the historic heritage of the Methodist Church.
History and Wesleyan Heritage
The Primetimers listened to several historical presentations, which included background on the Wesleys and Methodism from the 1700s to the present. Epworth By The Sea, located on the banks of the Frederica River overlooking the famous Marshes of Glynn, is in the midst of an historic area. The center, a hospitality ministry of the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church, was named for the English boyhood home of John and Charles Wesley, who lived and worked on St. Simons Island from 1736 to 1737. At Fort Frederica, they walked down Broad Street, observing foundation ruins of the town of Frederica, established in 1736 on St. Simons Island. It was here that Charles Wesley held services for St. Simons' early settlers, and his brother John worked to establish a church. They also visited the "Wesley Oak" at Christ Church on the island.
Daily worship was an integral part of the program. Evening devotions presented by volunteering participants focused around the event theme and provided a special time for reflection on God's world and our place in all of creation, both great and small. On the last day, Primetimers enjoyed a Wesley hymn sing in Lovely Lane Chapel on the grounds of Epworth.
John Wesley understood creation as evidence of the existence and work of God. He once wrote in A Survey of the Wisdom of God in the Creation, "In short, the world around us is the mighty volume wherein God hath declared himself." By the time they left St. Simons Island, Primetimers had lived and better understood this part of Wesley's philosophy.
Primetimers events offer older adults (50+ years):
Jeanie Blankenbaker served as Assistant General Secretary for Mission Volunteers of Global Ministries and retired August 2006.
Date posted: Nov 26, 2008