Belin Memorial United Methodist — Murrells Inlet, South Carolina
SC Picture Project | Georgetown County | Belin Memorial United Methodist
This beautiful seaside edifice in Murrells Inlet was built in 1991 to resemble the first church that sat here, constructed in 1925. However, the roots of this church date back several generations earlier. It is named for the Reverend James L. Belin (pronounced Blane), a local Methodist minister and well-known community philanthropist of the Waccamaw Neck area. The Neck, as the Waccamaw Neck is often called, refers to the land between the Waccamaw River and the Atlantic Ocean and includes Pawleys Island, Litchfield Beach, and Murrells Inlet.
Prior to his tragic 1859 death in a horse and carriage accident, the Reverend Belin established a trust fund to benefit various mission projects. Today Belin’s trust fund continues being allocated to missions determined by the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. He also was known for ministering to the slaves who worked on the area’s prolific rice plantations, though many historians say that planters employed such missionaries as a form of control by indoctrinating slaves into submission by use of Biblical teachings. Belin himself owned a family rice plantation – Wachesaw Plantation – which he conferred to his nephew, Dr. Allard Belin Flagg, prior to his death.
The first edifice for Belin Memorial Church was constructed from the planks of the disassembled Oatland Methodist Church at Pawleys Island, founded in 1836 and where the Reverend Belin preached for 23 years. The church was reassembled in 1925 at Cedar Hill, land that belonged to Belin and which he bequeathed to the Methodist church. A parsonage sat on Cedar Hill and housed Belin and other Methodist ministers until 1960.
The church building sufficed until renovations were needed in 1955, and in 1977 the entire church was moved 75 feet to the center of the lot, a project which included doubling the size of the sanctuary. The intensive project was completed in 1978, with much of the work being done by members of the church along with then-pastor, the Reverend Wesley Farr. However, the growing congregation was in need of yet another sanctuary by 1991, and the current structure – which was built to resemble the first one – was built and in use by 1992.
Following its history of repurposing valuable building materials, Belin Memorial United Methodist Church donated the original sanctuary to Joseph B. Bethea United Methodist Church. Bethea UMC moved the church to its current location west of Myrtle Beach in 1993 and began using it shortly afterwards.
The seawall cross, seen above and below, provides members a place to worship outdoors overlooking the water. Many American Methodist churches originally met outside beneath brush arbors as they awaited circuit-riding preachers to visit them with a sermon. Worshiping outdoors surrounded by live oaks (Quercus virginiana) and an ocean breeze brings people close to their Methodist roots as well as their natural surroundings.
Since 1997 the first Saturday of May each year is reserved for the church’s Blessing of the Inlet ceremony. The coastal community feels richly blessed by the sea, and everyone from fishermen to beach lovers attend the ceremony to express their gratitude for the joy of living in such a singularly exquisite place.
Now at a membership of around 2,000, Belin Memorial United Methodist Church continues serving the Waccamaw Neck community, carrying on the legacy of the church’s namesake.
Reflections on Belin Memorial United Methodist
Artist Tim Matthew, who submitted the painting below says: “My goal through my artwork is to capture the beauty of South Carolina on canvas. I was riding through Murrells Inlet one day and saw this church. Its stunning beauty and location by a marsh attracted me so I stopped to take a few photos. I loved the way the evening light was falling across the church at the time I was there. Back in my studio, I created this painting. I hope it captures the beauty of Belin UMC and also of South Carolina.”
Belin Memorial United Methodist Info
Address: 4183 Highway 17 Business, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576
GPS Coordinates: 33.555259,-79.035346