Although WE celebrated several 10-year anniversaries in 2016, its genesis actually dates back to the 1980’s.
While serving as Senior Minister at Carteret Street UMC from 1981-85, Rev. Ben Barnes, Sr. began advocating to the Bishop for the creation of a new UM church on Lady’s Island, an area that was projected to grow exponentially for decades to come. In the early 2000s, Melissa Mandell was asked by the Bishop to serve on a committee to explore the possibility of launching a new UM congregation in the Beaufort area. These conversations led to a group of retired clergy and laity coming together in the fall of 2005 to begin the work of creating a new church. From the outset, Rev. and Mrs. Barnes, along with the Rev. and Mrs. Chad Davis and Dr. Ernest Etheridge, were instrumental in providing leadership along with the founding families: Ben and Mandy Barnes, Toby and Amy Brevitz, Tom and Sheena Jenkins, Rick and Auman Kates, Tom Kemmerlin, Dave and Melissa Mandell, John and Ginny Purviance and Jose and Jaime Vergara.
In late 2005, Charlie Dodge was instrumental in locating a ten acre tract of land on Lady’s Island for the UM church to purchase for future use. The property included an old horse barn that had been converted into a boys home. A group from Carteret Street UMC, led by Warren Rose, made improvements over several months. In June 2006, the Rev. Mel Arant and his family arrived to serve as the first appointed pastor. Excitement began to build as plans were made to formally launch the new church, and new individuals and families continued to join the team. On January 21, 2007, this new church called “Waters Edge” was introduced to the larger Beaufort community. Those first services were held in the old movie theater near Beaufort High School. Eighteen months later, WE moved to Beaufort Academy where it continued to hold its Sunday worship services. On December 18, 2011, WE held its organizational meeting with more than 150 adults and children in attendance. On that day, Rev. Barnes and Rev. Davis were named Pastors Emeriti, the latter posthumously.
In early 2014, WE – now under the leadership of its second pastor Rev. Lane Glaze – began a Needs Assessment process to reaffirm its core values and to discern a path for the future. The work of this team included a recommendation to explore the possibility of renovating the existing building on the church’s property. Initial research led leadership to conclude that the old barn was structurally sound enough to be renovated. With the expertise of Phil Waters and Sheena Jenkins, preliminary plans and renderings were created and presented to the congregation in the fall of 2014.
In early 2015, a pledge campaign revealed that there existed sufficient financial support to move forward. The Church Council named George Clark as Project Manager and Sheena Jenkins as Interior Designer. In August 2015, the firm of TD Commercial Builders was selected as the General Contractor and work began shortly thereafter to convert the old barn into a church.
After more than nine years of worshiping in a temporary space, Waters Edge held its first full worship service in the new church on March 20, 2016 – Palm Sunday. On April 24, 2016, WE gathered for the special service to consecrate the new church to the work of God in the world, with founding Pastor Mel Arant preaching.