July 1, 2017 marked the fifth anniversary of the first Divine Liturgy celebrated at Saint James Mission here. According to the mission’s Priest James Bozeman, it’s been “humbling and revealing to look back at what has happened to us since that time.
“Looking over some of the documents from our first annual parish meeting in 2012, I found a rather random list of one-year, three-year and five-year goals that I had drafted for our mission,” Father James said. “At that time, I was looking ahead to our five-year anniversary, which seemed like an eternity away during those first few months of our mission’s existence.”
The challenges faced during those “early years” were quite simple — getting a choir up and running, training lay readers and altar servers, procuring the things we needed to serve a Liturgy, and finding a place in which services could be celebrated.
“In those first weeks, we had no place to meet!” Father James recalled. “But thanks in part to the Church Planting Grant, as well as the hard work and commitment of our Church family, we were able to quickly establish our brand-new mission and now we have met the majority of those early goals.”
The one outstanding practical goal that remains is the construction of a permanent Church building, but Father James and his flock are working steadily toward making this a reality.
“Many of the targets that I identified back in 2012 revolved around liturgical life and practical aspects of mission life,” Father James continued. “More difficult to anticipate at that time were the growing spiritual needs of our Church family and how to meet them. It was difficult to express such things in a tangible way within the context of a list of goals. It was — and still is — so tempting to boil ‘success’ as a mission down to the ‘facts and figures’ level, failing to factor in the seemingly intangible spiritual goals.”
But if there’s anything mission members have gleaned from their first five years as a mission, it is that they “must first grow in love and unity in Christ and as a family within our greater community — the very thing for which we pray during each of our services,” Father James added. “I rejoice to be able to say that this is happening here in Beaufort.
“When we first began to hold services in the summer of 2012, we were still relative strangers to one another,” Father James explained. “We all lived in the same general area, but we didn’t know each others’ needs and likes or hopes and struggles. Each of us sort of dove into this mission head-first, so to speak, not really knowing how well we would work together as a family.”
As a pastor, Father James acknowledges that it is wonderful to see a self-sacrificing love kindle and grow in the attempt to put into practice in our everyday lives what we learn and celebrate in the Divine Liturgy.
“Perhaps this is our greatest accomplishment of the past five years,” Father James observed. “When I came here as a new priest, I think that I was largely focused on serving my new community and offering guidance as a pastor, which were not bad intentions. However, what I am seeing now is how easy it is to fall into the trap of ‘acting like a priest’ rather than simply ‘being a priest.’”
Father James was quick to add that the mission community has taught him how much of the priestly vocation is centered around working out his own salvation, all for the sake of the salvation of those people entrusted by Christ to his care.
“If I’m not dealing with my reality as a husband, father and priest, then my ministry will suffer, and those under my care will suffer as well,” Father James concluded. “I have been both humbled and comforted by this ‘revelation,’ and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the People of God in Beaufort.”
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