Gazette Sea Foam: Lay speaking school is something special

Thanks to Joseph F. Lloyd of St. George for sharing the story of a recent special gathering in Beaufort.

Joseph writes:

Three generations of one family were among the 72 people who weathered threats of Hurricane Irene to attend the Fall 2011 session of the Walterboro District Lay Speaking School held at historic Carteret Street United Methodist Church in Beaufort.

Returning lay speakers say that the schools are effective due to the organizational skills of Jackie Jenkins, director of Lay Speaking, and her associate, Tom Whitacre, and their carefully chosen staff. They demand and maintain a stubborn commitment to a high standard of excellence. They choose staff and instructors who are dedicated, competent, enthusiastic and models of consistency.

Beth Brittman, Pastor-Parish Relations Committee chairwoman at Port Royal United Methodist, took her fifth course. She was among three attendees from her church. She stresses that the name "Lay Speaking" is not a good title. The school is not just about speaking. Students never have to enter a pulpit. It is about leading, caring and communicating. It covers everything from grief rites to discovering one's own spiritual gifts, to the church's social principles, to why the church does what it does and how. It covers the whole gamut of life.

Harry Bright, chairman of the board of trustees of Isaiah United Methodist Church in Walterboro, has attended the District Lay Speaking schools for more than 15 years. Harry enjoyed his first course so much that he brought his son-in-law, Johnny Epps, to the next session. Johnny became hooked on the schools, and he and Harry are permanent fixtures, attending almost every year. Harry's wife, who also faithfully attends, was unable to participate this year. But Johnny brought his 15-year-old daughter, Bianca, who attends Colleton County High School. She took the Youth Basic Class and will continue the family tradition of Lay Speakers.

Deb Higdon, a new member at Carteret Street United Methodist, who will serve on the Evangelism Committee, took her first course. She said the school is very well-organized, the teacher is well-prepared and the food is fantastic.

Jenkins says that the March 3-4 class will also be conducted at Carteret Street United Methodist Church courtesy of Pastor Susan Ulmer.

"There's always room for one more learner," Jenkins said.

Joseph Lloyd may be reached at 843-563-2804;

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