When the blessing to plant Saint James Mission was given in 2012, Priest James Bozeman and his fledgling flock literally “started from scratch.”
“We had no worship space and almost none of the necessary liturgical items, but we had a dedicated core of three families with a vision for an Orthodox church in Beaufort,” Father James said. “In order to cope with that challenge, our diocese helped fund our initial steps to help us get on our feet.”
The Church Planting Grant made it possible for Father James and the mission’s faithful to move forward and grow with confidence.
“For the past three years, we have been able to sidestep some of the struggles that tend to slow down the growth of a new mission due to the fact that the Planting Grant has both supported us and taught us how to stand on our own,” Father James explained. “With the grant, our mission has been able to support a full-time priest while simultaneously working toward purchasing property on which we hope to build a permanent church building in the near future.”
Saint James Mission will complete the third year of its grant at the end of 2017.
“Without the grant, it hardly seems possible that we could have enjoyed that one critical accomplishment,” Father James continued. “Financial struggles are a normal part of the life of a small mission in its early years, but the Planting Grant has minimized this difficulty for us, allowing us to focus on adult and youth spiritual education, developing a regular cycle of services and reaching out to our community through special local events.”
On a personal level, Father James relates how he and his family moved to Beaufort “totally on faith.”
“Initially, we weren’t exactly sure how this brand new mission was going to gain momentum and become self-sustaining,” Father James recalled. “To be certain, we had then—and still have—some incredibly giving families, but there was still a shortfall in our working budget. Because of the Planting Grant, our mission has progressed to the point where we are, by God’s grace, growing and self-sustaining. It was a great comfort knowing that we had the support of our Church during these critical first years of Saint James Mission.”
Enabling a priest to pursue his vocation full-time, Father James added, certainly makes it possible for him to focus on his own prayer life and spiritual growth.
“In my experience, the greater gift of the Planting Grant is that it enables the priest to offer more of himself and his time to his flock, while at the same time preserving his family life and his marriage,” Father James explained. “Our faith is not placed in the regular financial support offered by the Planting Grant, but in the support received by way of this grant, which helps to bolster our faith in the One for Whom this support is offered. It connects our mission to the broader life of the Church.”
Father James was quick to add that “It’s hard to say exactly who benefits from these grants and who doesn’t.”
“Clearly the missions that receive this support enjoy a benefit from them, but the larger non-Orthodox community also enjoys this benefit when a church is financially enabled to ‘expand the mission’ in ways that would essentially be impossible on an austere budget or without the guidance of a priest. Other established local parishes benefit when a new mission comes alongside and helps to foster the expansion of Orthodoxy in places where it has never been known.”
In “graduating” from its three-year Planting Grant at the end of this year, Father James and the faithful of Saint James Mission are left with a sense of anticipation, looking forward to their future.
“We hope that we have been good stewards of this great gift,” Father James reflected. “Having begun with three families, we are now closer to twenty families, and we hope to keep seeing this sort of growth in the coming years.”