Claflin University will hold its 2015 Baccalaureate Service on Friday, May 8, at 7 p.m., in Tullis Arena of the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Physical Education Center.
The Reverend Sharma Denise Lewis, District Superintendent of the Atlanta Decatur Oxford District, will be the featured speaker. The churches of the Atlanta-Decatur-Oxford District, which are located in urban, suburban, and rural areas, are served by over 100 active and retired United Methodist clergy. Her responsibilities include assisting the Bishop of the North Georgia Conference by providing spiritual and pastoral leadership, supervision, and administration to the clergy and laity in the churches of her district and beyond.
Baccalaureate is an interfaith service offering farewell to the graduates of Claflin University.
The service is open to all graduating students and their families and live music will be performed by the Claflin University Concert Choir. Claflin’s 145th Commencement Convocation will take place on Saturday, May 9, 11 a.m. at the South Atlantic Seventh-day Adventist Convention Center in Orangeburg. Visit www.claflin.edu for a complete listing of commencement activities.
Lewis, a second-career minister, has a distinguished record of service in the North Georgia Conference, beginning with her first appointment in 1999 as the Associate (and subsequently Senior Associate) Pastor of the 8,000 member Ben Hill UMC in Atlanta. Her responsibilities at Ben Hill included the areas of evangelism and spiritual formation. In 2004, she was appointed as the first African-American and first female Senior Pastor of the Powers Ferry UMC, a cross-racial congregation in Marietta, Ga. Lewis’ reputation as a strong spiritual and compassionate leader was bolstered by her service at Powers Ferry UMC.
In 2007, Lewis was appointed Senior Pastor of Wesley Chapel in McDonough, GA (a sprawling semi-suburban area about 30 miles from Atlanta). It was at this church that Lewis’ great passion for evangelism and spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ was truly made evident. During her three-year tenure, over 600 new and restored members were added to Wesley Chapel, and worship attendance doubled. Her remarkable pastoral leadership at Wesley Chapel enabled her to receive the Harry Denman Award for Evangelism in 2010, as well as the G. Ross Freeman Leadership Award. Lewis is the first female to receive the G. Ross Freeman Leadership Award.
Lewis is an Elder in Full Connection in the North Georgia Conference. She serves on numerous boards including being named Vice Chair of the Wesley Woods Foundation Board, the United Methodist Children’s Home, Southeastern Jurisdictional (SEJ) Intentional Growth Center and she is the Cabinet Representative for United Methodist Women.
In June 2011, the North Georgia Conference honored Lewis by electing her the first African-American female to lead the Delegation to the 2012 General and Jurisdictional Conference.
Lewis was born and raised in Statesboro, Ga. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology at Mercer University and the University of West Georgia, respectively. Lewis worked as a research biologist and chemist prior to devoting her life to the ministry. She received her masters of divinity degree from Gammon Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center.
Lewis is a member of the Atlanta Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and she is a recipient of the Delta Sigma Theta Pinnacle Award and the Torch Award. She was also recognized in 2014 as a Gammon Theological Seminary Distinguished Alumna.