What was once a pool hall, bar and location of many calls to the Bluffton Police Department has been transformed into the heart of worship and mission for the Bluffton campus of St. Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church.
The Hilton Head Island-based church has moved its Bluffton ministry headquarters to 39 Persimmon St., Suite 203.
As Easter approaches, the building’s transformation is a living example of how God transforms a community.
The church began offering contemporary worship services in Bluffton on Feb. 9, 2014, at USCB’s Hargray Building and held small groups, youth group and office hours at its ministry center in Plantation Park behind Dairy Queen.
In just two years, the Bluffton ministry has grown to the point it needed a new, more permanent location to hold worship and ministry, according to its Bluffton pastor, the Rev. Daniel Burbage.
“Our Bluffton congregation had been searching for a multi-purpose space to call our own for the past few years,” Burbage said. “We needed something to use for Bluffton worship on Sunday mornings and all throughout the week for youth and small groups.”
On the surface, the former bar was far from the perfect place for worship. It was dirty, with a shameful past, and needed a lot of work. But the members of St. Andrew By-The-Sea saw past the negative to realize what the vacant spot could be: “a space that offers an authentic and relaxed worship experience for people of all ages and backgrounds,” Burbage said.
Renovation took about four months and included countless hours of cleaning, demolition and construction of new classrooms. “We didn’t have a particular design in mind,” Burbage said. “We just wanted it to feel welcoming to folks of all ages.”
“This renovation project was the best example of what Christ’s transformative love can do,” he said.
The Bluffton ministry is a United Methodist Congregation with a mission to be an open, nurturing body of Christian believers seeking God’s guidance as they minister to others.
“St. Andrew is a missional church at heart,” said the Rev. Neil Yongue, senior pastor for St. Andrew By-The-Sea UMC, “and our Bluffton congregation is our largest ministry effort to date.”
The cross that hangs in the new “sanctuary” was constructed from one of the bars torn out of the original space. As Easter approaches, Burbage said he loves to point to that cross and remind guests that it’s a “physical reminder of what Jesus Christ can do when we give our lives to Him. No matter how broken we are, Jesus’ redeeming grace can transform us.”
Good Friday services will be held at the new location at 7 p.m. March 25, with Easter morning worship at 10:30 a.m. March 27. A special Easter children’s service will be held at 10 a.m.
For more information, visit www.saint andrewbythesea.com or call the island office at 843-785-4711.
Laura Jacobi is a freelance writer and public relations professional in Bluffton.