The faithful of Saint James Mission are looking forward to celebrating the fifth anniversary of their community’s “planting” in April 2017.
“It’s hard to believe how quickly the time has passed, and we are grateful to God and His providence and care,” said Priest James Bozeman. “In so many ways, it seems like a small miracle that our mission began and has continued to grow in our small southern town.”
In January 2017, the community entered its third and final year on the Church Planting Grant.
“We are doing a bit of reflecting both on the past two years on the grant and our past five years since we first opened our doors,” Father James continued. “We can say that without the Planting Grant, we would have struggled to exist and grow as we have during these early years as a Church family. The Grant has allowed me as a priest to attend to the needs of my own family as well as my Church family in way that otherwise would not have been possible.”
Receiving the Grant, according to Father James, “also has allowed our Church family a bit of freedom from the overarching concern of finances, which has actually encouraged the giving and support of our membership.
“With this final year of the Grant already passing by, we are looking forward to the point at which we will fully take up our responsibility to care for the life of our mission, both spiritually and materially,” he continued. “I think that this is a big step in the life of any new mission community. Our Church family has to truly take ownership of the reality of being a small community located in a place where Orthodox Christianity is relatively unknown. We are called to harvest such fruit that the Lord chooses to bless and grow.”
Asked what his flock has learned from the previous two years on the Grant, Father James stated that one of the more important lessons is that the Grant is temporary and that that period of time passes quickly.
“Planning ahead is crucial to make the most of this financial support,” Father James added. “Our mission has attempted to do this, following in the footsteps of other missions that have already ‘graduated’ from the Church Planting Grant program.”
But, as Father James pointed out, perhaps the greater lesson that he and his flock have learned is to trust God and have faith that He will provide what is needed, when it is needed.
“As I noted before, it is a bit of a miracle that our mission exists here in this small town and that it is growing to become a real part of the life of our community,” he said. “God has blessed us as our mission, initially ‘planted’ by six interested individuals, today averages at least 30 or more people at the Sunday Divine Liturgy. This is good growth and slow growth, reminding me of the famous Live Oak trees native to our area that grow strong and live long by way of slow, steady growth. Certainly there is a lesson in this for our small mission.”
Father James admits that he’s “pretty impatient to see more growth and to see a more sustainable number of members committed to having and holding onto an Orthodox Christian presence in Beaufort—probably a typical concern of priests who serve mission communities. But at the same time I am very grateful for the truly beautiful first five years that we have experienced as a mission and for how our Lord has seen fit to draw us together as a Church family, with emphasis laid on the word ‘family.’
“One of the things that I have preached since our mission was planted is that Orthodox Christianity is for everyone,” Father James continued. “Our mission is committed to this reality, and we pray that our Church family and Orthodoxy will gain a greater presence here in small-town South Carolina. Our future is in God’s hands.
“The only questions for us are simple ones—are we offering God the best part of our lives for the sake of the Gospel, and are we willing to accept gratefully however much or little the Lord chooses to send us as He sees fit?” Father James concluded. “We are grateful for what the Lord has provided for us at Saint James Mission, and we are making the effort to be faithful to the Gospel and to live it out in our community with joy and conviction.”
The Mission Planting Grant Program is made possible in part due to the generous support of the Stewards of the Orthodox Church in America. See what you can make possible by becoming a Steward today!