Hundreds of golfers from South Carolina and across the nation are preparing to converge on the Orangeburg Country Club on Sept. 27 for the 8th Annual Bishop L. Jonathan Holston Golf Invitational Benefiting Africa University.
This year, the charity event – an initiative of South Carolina United Methodists – has a dual focus.
Golfers and friends will gather, as in previous years, for a day of friendly competition and fellowship. The gathering will raise money to support scholarships and other needs at United Methodist-related Africa University in Zimbabwe.
In 2020, the tournament raised more than $35,000 to assist Africa University students and help the South Carolina Conference meet its annual apportionment commitment. All 12 UMCSC districts invested and fielded teams in the tournament.
In addition to investing in Africa University, golfers also will use their time together to pay special tribute to a lifelong Methodist and dedicated fellow tournament participant. The Rev. John Wesley Hipp died Oct. 27, 2020, just one month after taking part in the 2020 tournament. He consistently supported the tournament, from its launch in 2013 at the Cobblestone Park Golf Club in Blythewood.
Bishop L. Jonathan Holston, the resident bishop of the South Carolina Conference and tournament patron, remembers Rev. Hipp’s gift for connecting with people.
“From the pulpit to the conference room to the golf course, John could find common ground from which to begin meaningful and humorous dialogue that furthered God’s kingdom here on earth,” Bishop Holston said. “John leaves a legacy that challenges each of us to continue the work of building bridges and strengthening relationships that reflect the goodness of God’s creation.”
The Rev. Mitch Houston, senior pastor of Bethany United Methodist Church in Summerville, was Rev. Hipp’s college roommate and lifelong friend.
“I speak for his family and friends in saying we miss his laughter and warm smile every day,” Rev. Houston said. “John loved the game of golf. We played many rounds and tournaments together. A great memory I have is the last time he and I played was at the Africa University tournament at the Orangeburg Country Club.”
Rev. Hipp’s pastoral ministry spanned four decades, including serving local churches in Aiken, Wagner, Rock Hill, Saluda, Chapin, Conway and Charleston. He also served 28 years as a chaplain in the South Carolina National Guard, from which he retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2008.
Mention of Rev. Hipp among those who knew him immediately triggers reminiscing about his humor, his love for people, and, of course, food.
“John Hipp knew all of the best eating establishments in Orangeburg and Florence,” said the Rev. Ken Nelson, superintendent of the Orangeburg District. “John cared about food because it was a way to nurture the soul and depths of human relationships.
“The Orangeburg District is a place where authentic relationships and encounters happen around food and a table. Some may see it just as a meal, but I understand that work as ‘soul food.’ It is often a starting point for tending to the soul. We learned that from John.”
The Rev. Tim Rogers, superintendent of the Marion District, is looking forward to sharing stories in September with others who knew, loved and respected Rev. Hipp. He recalls the joy that Rev. Hipp brought to life.
“People followed John because they knew he cared deeply,” Rev. Rogers said.
Following a visit to Africa University in February 2020, Rev. Rogers and the Rev. J. Elbert Williams, pastor of the Lamar-Ebenezer Charge, launched an effort to endow a scholarship. Organizers are earmarking a portion of the proceeds from the 2021 Bishop L. Jonathan Holston Golf Invitational for that effort.
“We are grateful for the help we are receiving from the Holston Golf Invitational as we establish the Marion District Scholarship Endowment for Africa University,” Rev. Rogers said. “The endowment is an opportunity to invest in new leaders for Africa and extend the reach of the love of Christ on the continent.”
There are multiple ways you can support the Bishop L. Jonathan Holston Golf Invitational Benefiting Africa University:
• Enter a four-person team ($480)
• Rev. Robert Harper, event contact: