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Local pastor wins leadership, evangelism awards

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

A McDonough pastor has received two prestigious awards, one of which recognizes outstanding leadership, the other evangelism.

Rev. Sharma Lewis, senior pastor of Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church in McDonough, received the G. Ross Freeman Leadership Award, during the 11 a.m., worship service at the church on Sunday.

The award was presented to Lewis by Rev. George Freeman, senior pastor of Jonesboro First United Methodist Church. He said the presentation of the leadership award set a precedent.

"We've been doing this for eight years, and this is the first woman to receive the award," said Freeman. The award was named after his father, G. Ross Freeman, Sr., also a pastor, and a retired member of the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church since June 1993.

The G. Ross Freeman Leadership Award Program was created by action of the Southern Jurisdiction Conference Presidents of United Methodist Men in June of 2001. The purpose of the award is to strengthen "United Methodist Men Fellowship" in local churches, by honoring pastors who inspire men in ministries of evangelism, missions, and spiritual growth.

Lewis also received the Harry Denman Award, which recognizes clergy members for their evangelism efforts. She was given the Denman award during the 8 a.m., worship service.

Lewis knew she was to receive the Denman Award, but was taken by surprise by the Freeman Award. "I was shocked about both of them, but I was especially shocked with the Freeman Award, because it's never been received by a woman," she said. "I am very humbled and honored. That award is given to a clergy that really tries to engage its United Methodist Men to be mission-minded, as well as evangelistic."

Pastor Lewis' church has a "One Man, One Boy" mentoring program to pair United Methodist Men members with young men in the congregation, to take part in social activities, said Lewis.

Through the program, the men work with the boys on outreach community projects, including Hands On Henry, and Many Hearts Many Hands, she said.

They also work together on service projects to help the elderly members of the church, said Lewis.

"You always want the kids to be balanced, so the 'One Man, One Boy' program has done social activities together like going to Braves games and Hawks games," she added.

Lewis has led Wesley Chapel UMC since 2007. She has been appointed as district superintendent of the United Methodist Church's North Georgia Conference. Her last day at Wesley Chapel UMC will be June 24.

Rev. Freeman, who has known Lewis for at least six years, said she stands out from her peers as a strong leader.

"She's a dynamic leader [and] she's a wonderful preacher," said Freeman. "The church has grown, and is doing a number of ministries in the community, due to her leadership."