Todd, is it true a new church is being planted on Fripp Island?
Sort of. Yes, we’ve established a new Worshipping Community on Fripp Island but not with the idea of it becoming a separate church. Instead, our hope is that these individuals and families from Fripp Island would consider themselves active members of St. Helena’s.
How did you get started?
We were approached by some residents of Fripp about doing an “outreach” service on the beach over the summer, so we made a commitment to offer a service on the beach for seven consecutive Sundays.
You wanted to attract tourists. Is that what happened?
We had the mentality that this would be a ”seed scattering” opportunity. With hopeful optimism, we printed 100 bulletins for the first week. We were blown away when 220 people gathered with us on the beach! Word spread in subsequent weeks and over the weekend of the 4th of July we had 320 in attendance. What surprised us was the number of Fripp Island residents who joined each week. We averaged nearly 300 people, and over half of those were year-round residents of Fripp.
Other than the obvious (sun and sand) how was worshipping on the beach different from worshipping in the church building?
Often times, the walls of a church cause people to have a defined idea of what is sacred and what is secular. Worshipping in a natural outdoor setting blurs that line between sacred and secular. For example, at our first service we had a woman accept Christ as her Savior there on the beach. It only made sense that it was there on the beach she should be baptized. Following our service two weeks later, everyone who gathered for worship walked down to the edge of the water and were witnesses of this baptism. It was a very powerful experience for many who had never witnessed an adult baptism.
What made you realize it was going to be more than just a summer outreach?
We had planned to hold our final worship service on Fripp in mid-July. However, the loud and clear message we got from the residents was that we could not stop. Lives were being changed and the Island was being transformed by the power of the Gospel. We had received so many open doors and so much favor from the Lord, it was clear He desired our efforts to continue. We took several weeks to meet with leaders, establish a core team and then re-launched our weekly service in October.
October. So no more services on the beach?
For the first month we met at the Creek House, a screened-in shelter near the back of the Island; then we moved to the Beach Club. That’s where we are now, but the location is fluid. Once the weather gets better we may move back to the beach so we can continue the outreach there.
How many people are attending?
Since re-starting the service, we’re averaging over 100 people in worship. While that is less than what we had (with tourists) over the summer, we’re still greatly encouraged. With Fripp Island having a year-round population of only 325, we’re currently gathering more than one-third of the Island for worship each Sunday!
Who are you hoping to attract?
We’re not focused on attracting anyone. Instead, our focus is on impacting lives for Christ. Even if an individual chooses to never join us for worship on a Sunday morning, I believe we have been commissioned to reach every person on Fripp Island with the Good News of the Gospel. The Kingdom of God advancing one life at a time is of greater value to us than attracting seat-fillers on a Sunday morning.
Are you taking members away from St. Helena’s to serve this new worshipping community?
Members of St. Helena’s who live on Fripp Island made up the majority of the original core team. However, now that we have established our new weekly worship schedule, our leadership team is largely comprised of individuals who were not previously connected to St. Helena’s.
What has surprised you about this experience?
I have been amazed at the overall receptivity and excitement from the residents of Fripp Island. Within the first few weeks of meeting over the summer, we had a Baptism, blessed the renewal of marriage vows and led a memorial service. We have quickly been invited into the lives of individuals who are hungry for the Lord.
What are your biggest hopes for this group?
My greatest hope is: 1. every individual on Fripp Island is impacted by the Good News of the Gospel; and 2. our transformed lives would make an impact for the Kingdom well beyond Fripp Island.
Also, one of my prayers is that this new expression of mission and worship would cause other churches to seek the Lord about how they might offer a worship service in a non-traditional venue. In any way that St. Helena’s can help support an individual or church pursue a new missional venture like this, we would love to stand with them.