HOT AUGUST EVENTS: Three spiritual weekends in Knoxville

HOT AUGUST EVENTS: Three spiritual weekends in Knoxville

  • Great Black Churches / Aug. 6-7
  • Calling All Men / Aug. 13-14
  • Adult Ministries Kick-Off / Aug. 21

Take your pick. For three consecutive weekends this month, three different ministry teams will offer three different gatherings. Two of the events are brand-new to Holston. One event is in its third year.

All three meetings happen in Knoxville. And all three were organized by passionate people who hope their creations will fill a spiritual niche – and ultimately, wake up some sleepy churches. Ready?

Not for Blacks Only

The name is "Great Black Churches: Past, Present, and Possibilities." But the event is not just for African Americans, says organizer Leah Burns:

"The target audience is all Holston Conference laity and clergy whose ministry includes – or hopes to include – African Americans."

Following Friday night worship on Aug. 6, the Saturday schedule offers speakers and topics new to most Holston church members. Plenary sessions will be led by the Rev. Harold Lewis, director of African American congregational development in the Florida Conference, and the Rev. Pamela Lightsey, dean of students at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

From Holston's own inner-city ministries in Chattanooga, the Rev. Lurone Jennings and the Rev. Barry Kidwell will co-lead a workshop on reaching the unchurched and homeless, one of three workshops offered.

A special component of the Aug. 7 gathering is "Young People's Exploration," said Burns.

"Oftentimes our youth and young adults are told that they are the future, but what does that mean?" she said. "They'll have an opportunity to explore and develop this for themselves."
Burns is pastor at Haven Chapel UMC in Oak Ridge District and a leader of the African American Ministry Team, which decided the event should be held in a historically revered African American church: Lennon-Seney UMC in downtown Knoxville.

The registration fee is $25 per person, $10 for participants ages 10 to 20. Meals are included in the fee; accommodations are not. For more information, visit or call toll-free (866) 690-4080 ext. 4137.

Male Call

Introduced for the first time in August 2008, "Calling All Men" was an instant success, attracting more than 600 participants for a gathering that many doubted at first. "What? A bunch of guys are going down to traffic-infested Sevierville to bob their knees to Christian rock, attend workshops on stewardship, and eat big meaty sandwiches with other guys?"

Well, yeah, says organizer Mike Smith, president of the Holston Conference United Methodist Men and a member at Concord UMC.

"This event is not about United Methodist Men's ministry, but about bringing men to Christ," he said. It's for "men who don't know Christ" as well as for "men who are already on their journey."

Target age group? "Fifteen to 95," says Smith.  The date is Friday and Saturday, Aug. 13-14.
After two years at the comfy Wilderness in the Smokies Resort in Sevierville, this year's meeting is re-locating to the economically wise Cokesbury Center in west Knoxville.

Leading worship are the Rev. Tyrone Gordon, Bishop Thomas Bickerton, and Bishop James Swanson. Workshop topics include "Dealing With Difficult People" and "Marriages That Last." For the first time, the event offers hands-on mission opportunities (hunger project, prayer line) beginning at 9 a.m. Friday. Opening worship begins 7 p.m. Friday evening.

After July 31, the registration fee is $50. Visit to register online or to get more information. Or call toll-free (866) 690-4080.

Ham Journey

Ham Journey? It's a play on the acronym for Holston Adult Ministries, a new ministry developed when someone realized the conference had activities for senior adults and activities for young adults, but little for the in-between crowd.

"This is a one-time event, the first and the last 'Kick-off' developed after three years of study and reflection on how the Holston Conference can serve individuals and churches as they witness to adults," said the Rev. Cynthia Thompson. "It's designed to meet the needs of adults between the ages of 35 and 65, the group affectionately known as the Baby Boomers but that really includes two very different generations of adults."

The "Adult Ministries Kick-off Event" begins with 9:30 a.m. registration on Saturday, Aug. 21, at Cokesbury Center in Knoxville. The theme, "Where is Your Journey Taking You?" will be addressed by keynote speakers John Rehder of the University of Tennessee Geography Department and Robert Martin of Saint Paul School of Theology. Bobby Fields, program coordinator for the East Tennessee Alzheimer's Association, is one of three workshop leaders.

"We intentionally invited leaders you may not know to our area for fresh insights and perspectives on faith," Thompson said. "We reached beyond the box with hands-on demonstrations of how technology can be used to develop faith. We worked hard to make the event fast-paced and worth every minute of your time."

Thompson is pastor at St. Luke UMC in Chattanooga District and a leader of the Holston Adult Ministries Team.

Registration fee is $20. Register online at or by calling toll-free (866) 690-4080. .5 CEU credit is available for the event.