2011 Breakthrough Congregation: UU Congregation of Beaufort, SC

Part of Membership

By UU Fellowship of Beaufort, Beaufort, SC

Download the UU Congregation of Beaufort, SC video (right-click to save the file). The video is eight minutes long.

Video Transcript

(singing: I’m gonna let it shine…this little light of mine…)

Greetings from the Low Country of South Carolina. We’re here on the Atlantic inter-coastal waterway, also known as the Beaufort River, one of hundreds of tidal creeks, rivers and marshes in this area. These waterways surround sea islands, where you can find a unique blend of diverse local cultures, history, tourism, retirees, military bases and their personnel, and Unitarian Universalism.

(singing: There’ll be justice in that land, there’ll be justice in that land…)
In our ten year history, UUs in Beaufort have actively established themselves as a progressive force for good in our community. Tutoring our children, helping the homeless, literally bringing food to the hungry, getting out in our kayaks to clean up marshes like this one. As a congregation each year we march in the Martin Luther King parade and the Heritage Days parade at Penn Center, and we continue to build our partnership with Penn Center on St. Helena Island, a school founded for freed slaves by a Unitarian. That’s an amazing legacy for us to have and honor as we move forward. Our congregation has moved across that bridge to our new home on Lady’s Island, one of sixty large islands in Beaufort County. We have a new place to meet in fellowship, and a stronger will and ability to make a difference, helping others in our community. Let us tell you more about our fellowship.

The founders of this congregation, like myself, longed for community and we had a great desire to do social justice work so our coming together has been a wonderful relationship.

Hi, I’m Reverend Nan White, and I’ve served this congregation and I serve it in a shared ministry capacity. Living in the buckle of the Bible belt, where many conservative churches of all kinds and sizes are on every corner makes searching for a religious community challenging.
Our guests on Sunday morning speak about how welcome they felt on their first visit. That’s the result of work by our membership committee, but more so, it is the culture we've created and reinforced over the years.

We know we want to see more people of color, more young people and more families. We’re increasing our PR efforts, using both print, electronic and social networking media to try to get our message out to the larger community, and as always, making everyone feel welcome is every member’s responsibility.

Our family has been members of UUFB for about six years now and one of the main reasons why we joined here was because of the commitment to religious education and to the children. I grew up in a church where children were seen but not heard and I didn’t want that experience for my kids. And my husband is Native American and we wanted to incorporate those beliefs into our children’s lives as well. And from the very first time we showed up we felt accepted into this group.

I want to find a place of worship that I can go to where I won't be looked upon as not wearing a big hat or whether I was rich or poor. Even if the soles were flapping on my feet, I just wanted to be a human being and accepted as that.

Our mission is to create a joyful sanctuary for spiritual and intellectual growth, embracing all souls in a nurturing community… My boys have been asked to read the Mission Statement, light the Chalice, and read the story for all ages. The people here understand that if we are to grow, we need more kids. The adults in the Fellowship know my boys, and my boys know the adults. My kids feel like they belong to this Fellowship as much as I do.
Our congregation has grown from 32 original members in 1999 to 88 members today with a growth of over 50 percent in the last four years.

(singing: Enter, rejoice and come in…)

We are now rejoicing about our great location with two buildings, and we’ve arrived at this moment with fine ministerial leadership and well trained lay leadership.
Over 45 volunteers have given hundreds of hours and talent. We couldn't have done it without you. Some came to work one workday, and some came to work every workday. Our new motto is love, eat, pray, and paint. [Laughter]
(singing: This Little Light of Mine, I’m gonna let is shine, This Little Light of Mine, I’m gonna let it shine, This Little Light of Mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let is shine, let is shine…)
The decision to call a minister was the first important decision we made, and I believe was the critical success factor in our growth and vitality. Rev. White is visible, known throughout the community, and well respected, and her leadership has been essential to our continuing and deepening relationship with Penn Center.

Our long-range plan commits us to becoming a multi-racial, multi-cultural community. The location of our new property positions us well to serve those ends, I think. As we walk together in love, we recognize that conflict can be and is a sign of growth. . Moreover, our members understand representative democracy and grant power and authority to the minister, the elected board and the committees. We seem to get things done faster than the usual what I term “speed of church”. As an example, we established a property search committee in May, purchased property in July, and closed on that new property in August, all while the minister was on Sabbatical leave! I think the future is bright and predict we will outgrow this newly acquired property as new members are drawn to the way we live out our Unitarian Universalist values.

Personal relationships and shared ministry are two very important ingredients for building a healthy congregation, and I think that’s why we’re a breakthrough congregation.

(singing: This Little Light of Mine, I’m gonna let is shine, This Little Light of Mine, I’m gonna let it shine, This Little Light of Mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let is shine, let is shine…cheers and applause!)