There is no denying the fact that this collective area — the Golden Isles — is a beautiful place. It’s not only the beaches, the marsh and the live oaks, but also the people and the history that enhance this landscape.
The imprints of many generations have been left here. For those currently enjoying this picturesque coastal community, there lies an obligation to secure it for those yet to come. And it is not just a moral obligation, but a spiritual one as well.
The Rev. Gary Cumby, pastor of New Beginning Fellowship in downtown Brunswick, notes that the charge of stewardship dates back to the earliest passages of the Bible.
“In the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve were given the task to be caretakers of the garden,” he said. “After they were expelled from the Garden (of Eden) because of their sin, they were told to go forth and multiply. As we spread across this earth, we should also be caretakers of the environment that God has entrusted us with.”
The story of creation, laid out in the pages of Genesis, details how God formed the world from the void. And while humanity calls it home, the earth, Cumby said, belongs to God first and foremost.
“The Bible says that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” he said. “It is to be used for our needs and also to be admired as His creation. The Bible says that we can look at nature and see the handiwork of God.”
“Therefore, part of our stewardship is to keep our surrounding areas as clean as possible to enhance the beauty. We should not worship the creation but be good managers of that which we have been entrusted.”
It’s a charge that Cumby has always taken seriously and has stressed its importance to his congregation. For the past 10 years, his church has been a part of the Adopt a Highway program through Keep Golden Isles Beautiful (KGIB). They have also signed on as a participant in this year’s City-wide Cleanup, which will be held from 9-11 a.m. April 27 in Brunswick.
It is a collective effort between KGIB, the city of Brunswick, the Downtown Development Authority and the state-wide Great American Clean-up Georgia initiative.
Individual and group volunteers are being asked to join in and members of Cumby’s congregation plan to answer the call. They’ve been spreading the word around their church, as well as meeting with neighbors to encourage volunteers — from children to seniors — to turn out for the cause.
“We went into the neighborhood behind our church last week, and handed out flyers regarding the city-wide clean up and invited folks to be part of our team,” Cumby said.
Historically, he adds, this is a role churches are obliged to play. Creating community and connections is key, as is stepping up to take care of the environment.
“It is an opportunity to reach the neighborhood and improve the surroundings, thus bringing a pride in the area we live in. It is the job of the church to reach those living in the vicinity, and it is a good way to partner with the neighbors and reach them with the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.
“The church should not be separate from the neighborhood that surrounds them. Sometimes folks just need encouragement to get started.”
Bryan Kelso agrees wholeheartedly. As the director of groups and deployment director for The Chapel in Brunswick, it is quite literally his job to get congregants excited about community involvement.
“It is all of our responsibility to keep our community beautiful and we have to find that motivation,” he said.
“God made us stewards of our environment. He also charged us, most importantly, with loving and serving each other. Getting out in the neighborhoods like this ... I can’t think of a better way to do that.”
The camaraderie of the event is also important for Kelso. His group participated last year, and he’s excited to be able to gather with his extended Christian family.
“There really aren’t that many opportunities for churches to come together and do something, so this is a nice opportunity. It feels good to help other people,” he said.
“We have so many churches here ... there’s no reason that there shouldn’t be 100 percent participation.”
It’s certainly what Lea King-Badyna is hoping to see.
The executive director of Keep Golden Isles Beautiful and organizer of the event hopes to see hordes of volunteers of all ages, religious affiliations and backgrounds participate.
“With over 100 churches in the city limits of Brunswick, this effort is a fantastic opportunity for the faith-based community to join together in an important community betterment project. It’s the perfect faith ‘actionable moment’ — a chance to reach out to others, work side by side with folks from all backgrounds, and share beliefs in the process,” King-Badyna said.
“Churches, community organizations and individuals from all over the Golden Isles are encouraged to participate in the city-wide cleanup. The effort of each volunteer is important, and working together creates an immediate positive difference and impact. Volunteering in the city-wide cleanup is a fun experience and a great opportunity to make new friends.”