In early 1985, as the Pawleys Island and Litchfield area was beginning to grow, there were Methodists who recognized the need for a church here. From the Waccamaw Neck one could worship in Murrells Inlet or Georgetown, but they felt in a growing community, this was not sufficient.
On April 30, 1985 the first meeting to organize a steering committee was held at the Community House Restaurant. Their tasks included:
- Finding a place to worship
- Defining their mission, purpose and goals
- Acquiring dedicated members
- Seeking contributions from sister churches of hymnals, robes, paraments, communion service and chairs
- Getting volunteer office persons
- Renting office space
- Locating a piano and pianist
- Finding persons who liked to sing and teachThose early settlers found financial aid from the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Belin Trustees, the First United Methodist Church of Myrtle Beach as well as a number of churches in the Marion District and the Annual Conference.
At the Annual Conference in May 1985 the Rev. David Surrett was appointed as the founding pastor. Only a year later on May 25, 1986, St. Paul’s Waccamaw was born. After a year of laying a foundation, the church was chartered by Bishop Ray Clark, assisted by Marion District Superintendent, The Rev. Clyde Calhoun and resident minister Dr. Robert N. Dubose. With eighty-eight members the church began a new life which had been carefully nurtured by dedicated persons heeding God’s call.
Services were held each Sunday in the Tara Cinema in the Waccamaw House (now the Litchfield Beach and Resort). Under the fine leadership of dedicated musicians Ann McAlister, Susan Jackson and Mary Lu Norris, the choir and music program began to flourish.
Each Sunday a group of parishioners had to set up the theater for church Services, then reset it for the 1:00 p.m. movie. There was fellowship and coffee in the concession area following each service.
In June 1986 a committee found land at Shell and River Roads that seemed suitable for the new church. This was purchased with help from the Annual Conference, other churches and the grace of God.
In 1987 Dick Groening and Tucker Dieter were charged to develop a Long Range Planning Committee. By February 1988, plans to build a church were in the early stages. In the spring the church learned it was getting a new minister. After Annual Conference the Rev. Henry Flowers began his work at St. Paul’s Waccamaw.
The church enthusiasm was at a high level and a building fund campaign was planned. On December 12, 1989 the building committee reported to the Administrative Board that a proposal had been made, offering a building site of 4.66 acres on Highway 17 (across from Litchfield-by-the Sea). The Board approved this unanimously and referred it to the congregation, which approved it on January 7, 1990.
June 23, 1991 was “A Celebration to Remember” with ground breaking ceremonies for the church in the new location on Highway 17. Construction began in late August for the three-building complex with a free-standing bell tower. Completion was estimated in 9-10 months.
1992 was an exciting year as they watched construction of the building. The unique sanctuary with beautiful stained glass windows was the centerpiece. A free-standing bell tower with its lofty steeple capped it off.
The building was consecrated for use on June 7, 1992. Many memorials and gifts continued to come in for the sanctuary and buildings. The courtyard was a gift designed to conform with the vision and enhanced by the two live oaks on either side. On June 14 there was a dedication of memorials and special gifts. On June 28 a special service naming A. Foster McKissick Memorial Fellowship Hall was held.
In September 1993, Dr. Robert A. Baxter came to be director of music. While there have been many accompanists, handbell choir directors and musicians, Dr. Baxter has been the leader, having led our music well and having developed an accomplished choir in his many years with us.
In 1994 the second floor of the education building was completed with four class rooms and an assembly area. The youth and the United Methodist Men were instrumental in this project.
St. Paul’s Waccamaw UMC continued its growth and in 1997 the fellowship hall was increased to twice its size, including a stage. A storage area was also built. In June 1997 Rev. Flowers retired and Rev. Milton L. McGuirt was appointed as pastor.
The church vision for meeting its growing needs continued strong. A Phase II planned for a new Administrative Building along with changes in the current Education Building. Early estimates of completions were December 1988. Phase III, expanding the sanctuary was envisioned to be in place a year later.
These plans were continually reconsidered but the congregation was not yet ready. The Long Range Planning Committee made recommendations for building in December 1999 but again the church was not ready.
In August 2001, the Future Planning Committee was given the task of determining whether the existing church facilities were adequate, based on current as well as future needs. In June 2002 the Future Planning Committee reported and recommended an update in the Master Plan. In May 2003 Stubbs Muldrow Herin, architects began an major revision. The costs were huge. But could we continue waiting?
The decision was made to have a campaign to raise funds for the building needs. In the fall of 2003 Cargill Associates led us in a campaign. A Building Committee was named in early 2004 tasked with coming up with a best scenario plan which could be built for the available funds. After months of work and three church conferences, a plan with classrooms, kitchen, choir rehearsal area and large fellowship hall was approved.
October 31, 2004 was again a memorable day in the history of St. Paul’s Waccamaw. Breaking ground for our Christian Life Center, we celebrated another step in our vision – A church that was born looking to the future. On August 7, 2005, we recognized the completion of construction with a picnic and a floor-signing celebration. The new building opened for adult Sunday School classes on September 18, 2005. This building also provides quarters for our music programs, along with a large multi-purpose room and kitchen for our many fellowship ministries.
On May 21, 2006, the congregation and friends celebrated “Twenty Years of Grace”, recognizing twenty years of service and looking forward to the future.
St. Paul’s Waccamaw continues to grow, and God has chosen through a warm and caring church family, a covenant in Stewardship, a sense of real mission, and a faith-oriented optimism on the part of those who unite in membership, to become a visible presence to those persons searching for growth and nurture in the “Wesley Tradition” in this exciting area of South Carolina.
The real heart of St. Paul’s Waccamaw is not its buildings but its people. They are strong in their faith and faithful in their work. We are all grateful for the opportunities and challenges we have to be about God’s work. Thanks be to God!