Wesley Chapel UMC - The Church with a Servant's Heart
Wesley Chapel UMC leadership pictured left to right, Rev. William Bert Neal III, Treasurer Eddie Johnson, Archives and History Ministry Chair Simone W. Morton, and Finance Chair Daniel Morton
Next year will mark the 150th anniversary of Wesley Chapel UMC in McDonough, Ga. The Church was founded by Brother C.A. Kent, Rev. Joe Laney, and Brother Lowe Tomlinson. Although the vision of planting a new church was first ignited while they were still slaves, their dream would not become a reality until 1867, shortly after the Civil War ended.
Over the years, the Church has undergone name changes, relocations, and expansions. Today, this award-winning family of faith is home to nearly 1,600 members.
“When we moved into our current building in 2003, we brought with us five stained glass windows, a bell, a chandelier, a communion table, three pulpit chairs, and a pew. These artifacts bridge the gap between the new and the old church,” said Simone W. Morton, Chair of the Church’s Archives and History Ministry.
Strong pastoral leadership is a hallmark of this predominantly African-American congregation where Rev. William Bert Neal III serves as its 48th pastor. “We have had two bishops, Bishop Sharma Lewis and Bishop Alfred Norris,” Mrs. Morton said. “Several of our pastors went on to get their doctorates, and many of our pastors have been active at the Conference and District level.”
A spirit of generosity has been passed on through the ages. While researching Conference Journals, Mrs. Morton discovered the Church gave $62 in 1900 to the Freedmen’s Aid Society. “In 2015, we gave $28,000 to the McDonough community,” said Rev. Neal. “We serve as a resource to people who need assistance with rent, power bills, gas, and jobs.”
Eddie Johnson, Treasurer at Wesley Chapel UMC, adds, “We are not volunteers. We are servants. We are called to be like Christ. We are here to serve our church, community, and the world at large wherever we can, however we can, and in any way we can.”
The Church is in the midst of its “Dream. Dare. Live.” debt reduction campaign. “We have 5.5 acres of undeveloped land behind our church. There is an opportunity to provide something to the community by way of a multipurpose field, picnic pavilion, walking fields, a preschool academy, or a food pantry. We are on the front end of partnering with the Methodist Children’s Home on their Foster Care Ministry, as well as trying to do more with our Health and Welfare, and Transportation Ministries,” Rev. Neal said. “Paying off the mortgage is critical to undergirding new and existing ministries. It becomes difficult to do ministry when you don’t have the financial resources. From a spiritual standpoint, community outreach allows people to be able to connect to what it means to represent the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. By freeing up the capital to have more resources, it adds to our spiritual well-being.”
In 2014, Wesley Chapel UMC chose the Georgia United Methodist Foundation to manage its investment funds. This decision is helping the Church achieve its spiritual and financial goals.
“We began conversations with the GUMF when we were looking to earn a better return on our investments. Most of our monies were invested in either a money market account or CDs. Since interest rates have come down over the years, we were earning less and less,” explained Daniel Morton, Finance Committee Chair at Wesley Chapel UMC. “We decided to invest in the GUMF’s Equity Fund. We are pleased with the higher returns and also have a better comfort level because the GUMF follows the same Socially Responsible Investment Principles as The United Methodist Church.”
In 2016, Wesley Chapel UMC refinanced its existing loan with the GUMF. “The foundation’s lower interest rate saves us $7,200 each year, gives us relief from the budget, and allows us to invest those monies back into ministry,” Mr. Morton said.
“With the Georgia United Methodist Foundation, we were able to find a home for our funds to optimize growth,” Mr. Johnson adds. “The foundation’s interest rates exceeded anything we were able to find in the marketplace and that includes commercial lenders, financial institutions, and credit unions. They were the best around. That is why we chose to go with the foundation.”
This article was originally published in the Summer 2016 edition of Faith & Money, a publication of the Georgia United Methodist Foundation.