For three years, Saint James Church here received an Orthodox Church in America Church Planting Grant, which enabled the fledgling community to engage a full-time priest who would be able to focus his attention on building up the Body of Christ in Beaufort, SC. At the end of 2017, the mission “graduated” from the Planting Grant program and began a new page in its ongoing growth—one that includes the construction of the parish’s first temple in the near future.
“Mission life is simply a call to be faithful and to trust wholeheartedly in Christ, despite what seem to be obviously troubling and sometimes overwhelming circumstances, while not losing heart over what seems to be slow progress,” Priest James Bozeman said in reflecting on the community’s experience. “Growth has been steady, and I have found that we have been continually challenged to look past numbers and metrical data in order to see God at work within each life in our mission. Are people being drawn to Christ? Are they drawn in such a way that sharing Christ with others simply seems to be becoming ‘natural’ to them? Are they participating in the life of the Church more and more out of a sense that the Church is the actual source of life? These are hard questions to answer.”
Father James is quick to add that his parishioners have challenged him to work on his own salvation.
“They have humbled me through their generosity, drive and energy both for the sake of Christ and the Gospel,” Father James added, “but also in the willingness of some of them to really allow the ‘life in Christ’ to become the center of their everyday lives, which they share joyfully with their neighbors.”
The tenacious faith of Father James’ flock has enabled them to face a variety of challenges in their brief history, even as they look to the future.
“Recently, we received the troubling news that our rented worship space of six years would be put on the market and sold,” Father James related. “I was praying for discernment in the area of our stalled building project, when that very same day I received a phone call letting me know about the impending sale. And so this call was an incredibly timely thing!”
Rather than being, as one might expect, “bad news,” the sale according to Father James was “exactly the thing our mission needed at that moment!
“It has galvanized us and energized us to work to establish a permanent church building in Beaufort, and we are now in the middle of our first Capital Campaign to raise funds for the first phase of our building program while we develop a design for this building,” Father James explained. “This year is our first year functioning without any grants or diocesan financial support since Saint James Mission was founded in 2012, and we’ve worked hard to prepare for the day when we would have to ‘stand up’ and move forward on our own, financially.
“God has been good to us and has been faithful,” Father James added, “and I have tried to stress to myself and my parishioners that our task and our vocation is to give back to God our own faithfulness and trust.”
Father James shared that one of the most troubling things for the community was seeing the “For Sale” sign installed outside its rented church building earlier this year.
“Many were asking, ‘What will we do if the building is sold? Where will we go?’ so I challenged everyone to see it as a literal ‘sign from God,’ compelling us all to think about the future of Saint James Orthodox Church in Beaufort and the part that each of us is called to play in it,” Father James related. “If we were to continue to grow and prosper, it would only be by way of our faithfulness and trust in Christ. He established us here. Why would He abandon us?”
While the community’s faithful have been praying—and continue to pray—specifically that the Lord would bring about growth in terms of numbers as well as in love and unity, they also, Father James added, have been praying “specifically to care for our material and spiritual needs in the face of the sale of our building.
“Just a few weeks ago, we received word that the man living next door to our building had purchased it and, as a friend to our parish since we moved in in 2012, he gladly welcomed us to continue to rent the space,” Father James said. “What is more, as the new owner, he made plans to fix our long-time leaking roof! So what seemed like a truly troubling change has turned out to be a gift to us from God through our kind neighbor and new landlord!
“These are small—but important—ways that God has chosen to renew our sense of His presence and grace in our lives in our mission,” Father James concluded, “even as we move forward as ‘Planting Grant graduates’ to building a ‘home of our own’ in the years ahead.”
Follow Saint James’ ongoing growth online.