Beaufort lay speaker earns emeritus status

Douglass Gregg's voice has been heard all across Beaufort County.

He was known as "The Voice" of the county during the 17 years he worked as the county's switchboard operator.

And for almost 40 years, he has served as a lay speaker at Wesley United Methodist Church in Beaufort.

But now that he's 80 and his health has declined, Gregg has been given emeritus status.

"It's time for somebody else to take over," said Gregg, who is still able to attend church every Sunday. "I'll continue to fill in if they need me. It is always nice to be asked to do something. It is a pleasure and an honor to do what you can when you are asked."

Gregg came to Beaufort in 1976 after serving in the U.S. Army and then retiring from the U.S. Air Force. Some might remember Gregg from when he filled the role of chairman of Beaufort's Memorial Day committee for 15 years.

An active member at Wesley, he said he felt a need to take the classes required to become a lay speaker.

"Our job as lay speaker is if the pastor is not available, then one of the lay speakers takes over and carries on service," said Gregg, who was called upon to perform about three sermons. "It was a position in the church that required you to talk to members and if you had something to say they listened."

Emeritus status was assigned to Gregg and two others during the Lay Speaker Celebration Day at New Hope United Methodist Church in Walterboro.

The other two honorees were Woodrow Reed of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Ravenel and Daisy Dash of St. Mark United Methodist Church in Reevesville.

Each was placed in emeritus status after years of service because of their failing health or that of their families. Reed, a lay speaker for 30 years, also worked with younger men in the church. Dash, known for her vocal similarity to Ella Fitzgerald, was noted for her visits to people in nursing homes, hospitals and prisons, as well as helping young people attend lay speaking classes.


With these speakers retiring, there is still no shortage of lay speakers.

More than 115 people from pre-teens to senior citizens attended the Winter Lay Speaking School of the Walterboro District held at Carteret Street United Methodist Church in Beaufort.

The Walterboro District encompasses 10 churches in parts of nine counties from as far away as Orangeburg. Recently, 40 new candidates registered for the required first Basic Lay Speaking class.

"The movement has grown in South Carolina," said Joseph Lloyd of St. George, who is communications representative for the Walterboro District.

"Probably every United Methodist church has a lay speaker or has access to one. We trained more than 250 last year. People like to serve and find the lay-speaking program effective. More keep coming."