Lake Junaluska breaks ground on welcome center


LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. — Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center broke ground July 2 for the Joseph and Shirley Bethea Welcome Center

The 12,000-square-foot structure will take 10 months to construct and will serve as the welcome center and lodging check-in location for the retreat center. 

Over $1.6 million has been raised for the building through donations from more than 1,000 individuals, regional businesses and United Methodist groups, including 15 conferences within the Southeastern Jurisdiction.

“Committees were organized in the Carolinas and over $600,000 was raised from those three conferences,” said Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey of the Western North Carolina Conference. “The other annual conferences in the Southeastern Jurisdiction joined in to raise another $400,000.” 

Joseph Bethea was an African-American United Methodist bishop who served in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.    

“We are proud to name this building after Joseph and Shirley Bethea,” said the Rev. Jimmy Carr, executive director of the Southeastern Jurisdiction. “They were leaders of hospitality and kindness for The United Methodist Church.  

 “This building will serve as a constant reminder that we are all children of God and need to be welcoming to everyone.” 

More than 250 people attended the ground breaking, including Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor of the South Carolina Conference, Bishop Charlene Kammerer of the Virginia Conference and Bishop James E. Swanson of the Holston Conference. Swanson also delivered the sermon for the ceremony and said, “We want folks to know that they are welcome at Lake Junaluska.” 

Josefa Bethea Wall, who is the daughter of Joseph and Shirley Bethea, also attended the groundbreaking. “(This) building will represent reconciliation and will welcome many in the manner which Joseph and Shirley Bethea welcomed many. It will stand as a symbol of the church’s hospitality,” she said.