Wesley Chapel UMC's pastor gets promotion

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

The Rev. Sharma Lewis, senior pastor at Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church in McDonough, has been appointed as the district superintendent of the United Methodist Church's North Georgia Conference, encompassing the Atlanta-Decatur-Oxford district. Lewis' last day at the McDonough church is June 24.

In her new position, she will work closely with Bishop B. Michael Watson, and will be responsible for working with 64 churches, and various other ministries served by members of the clergy, Watson said.

"Rev. Lewis, as the district superintendent of the Atlanta-Decatur-Oxford District of the North Georgia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, will be a member of my cabinet," said Watson. "She will be an extension of my office within the district she serves," he added. Some 26,000 parishioners are in the district.

"I'm very humbled by this appointment," said Lewis. "He had 1,400 clergy he could have chosen."

Lewis said she is looking forward to her new role. "I am excited, because one of the things about being a district superintendent, it allows me to sit with the other cabinet members," she said. "... It brings me to the table to be able to give input in the change in the annual conference."

Lewis said she will have responsibility for churches in Snellville, Covington, some in DeKalb County along the I-20 corridor, on Pryor Street in Atlanta, and in the East Lake area. "It's a pretty diverse radius," she said.

Lewis' duties will be many, but one of her main assignments is working with other clergy members. She said other pastors are likely to look to her for leadership. "A district superintendent is what they call a pastor's pastor," Lewis said.

"She will be a wonderful district superintendent, just as she has been a wonderful pastor," said Bishop Watson. He said Lewis stood out from the other candidates for the job. "She is a committed disciple of Jesus Christ, a faithful minister of the Gospel, an able administrator, a gifted preacher, and a winsome evangelist, with a bright mind and a loving spirit," he added.

Lewis said she saw 600 members unite with Wesley Chapel over the past three years of her service. "The church came alive, evangelistically ... What I mean by that is this church grew tremendously."

She said she is pleased with the accomplishments of the church, which include participation in the Hands On Henry initiative; a partnership with McDonough First United Methodist Church in the "Many Hearts, Many Hands: Great Day of Service" community outreach project; and a partnership with Mercer University and the Henry County Department of Family and Children's Service to "adopt" needy families during the holiday season.

Meanwhile, members of Wesley Chapel are greeting Lewis' appointment with mixed emotions. "I hate to see her go, but, hey, I'm happy that she is being promoted and moving on," said church secretary, Denise Louis, who has worked at Wesley Chapel UMC for eight years. She said she anticipated Lewis' departure. "I knew she would be leaving, I just didn't expect it to be this year."

Archie Williams, a member for four years, echoed similar comments. "I'm happy, but I'm not happy," said Williams. "I'm happy that she's going on and growing, but I don't want her to go."

He also praised Lewis' ability to touch the lives of others. "She's honest, and she's up-to-date. She has a way of making the medicine taste better."

Lewis said she plans to move from Henry County to Stone Mountain, to live near where she will work. She will be replaced by Dr. Howard Wright, the district superintendent for the LaGrange district. Lewis, 46, has been pastor at Wesley Chapel UMC since 2007, and has been in the ministry since 1999.