Grounded in the history of Kent, Washington and the Green River Valley, Saint James Episcopal Church is a welcoming congregation and open to all. Christian fellowship and ministry is abundant as it is rooted in the past, vibrant in the present and looking to the future.
Tovi Harris, Parish Historian
Rooted in the past
St. James Church planted its roots in 1890; when the Rev. James Cheal conducted the first Anglican services in Kent, Washington for 25 families. On Sunday, November 15, 1891, Bishop John Adams Paddock dedicated a new church building, seating 200, on Meeker Street between Second and Third. Frank G. Hill, E.H. Naden, and William Rodney Arney were the first trustees.
Church member and lay leader, Mr. Arney went to Seabury Divinity School, Faribault, Minnesota, graduated in 1900 and returned to his home church where he served as Rector for 33 years.
The church building was moved to Third and Gowe in 1908 where a guild hall and rectory were added in 1909.
In 1911 St. James was enrolled as the first parish in the new Episcopal Diocese of Olympia.
The first Harvest Home Thanksgiving Service was instituted at this time and continues to this day in November.
Growth continued and membership expanded so that the parish was able to build a red brick English Gothic church in 1921 that served for the next 43 years. Bishop Frederic W. Keator was present at the cornerstone laying.
St. James supported the Japanese American congregation of St. Paul’s Episcopal Mission at Taylor, near Kent Washington in the 1920s and 1930s.
The Rev. Dr. Arney retired in 1938 and was followed by the Rev. James Terry who served until 1941 when he left to become an Army chaplain. There was a succession of clergy in the war years as they took turns serving at St. James and in the chaplaincy.
The Rev. Warren P. Frank was rector from 1955 to 1965. This decade was one of growth for the congregation with the purchase of a new rectory and the conversion of the former buildings into classrooms.
St. James’ Light on the Hill
In 1957 five acres were purchased for the present site of our parish. A funds drive with matching funds from a benefactor led to the building our present church, Bishop Ivol Curtis officiated at the dedication.
September of 1964 was the launching of a St. James school that served 25 preschoolers and grew to 65 elementary students in the following two years. Note: In twenty years the school grew to include nine grades, plus preschool and kindergarten, and moved to the old Thomas schoolhouse in the summer of 1987.
On May 15, 1965, St. James Parish celebrated its’ 75thAnniversary. The decade of leadership by the Rev. Warren Frank had been fruitful indeed for the parishioners and their service to Christ in the Kent Community.
On March 20, 1966, the Rev. John L. Gretz was installed as rector by Bishop Curtis and served at St. James for over twenty years, until his retirement in 1988. Under his leadership the church added a bell tower in 1979; and in 1985 renovated its sanctuary and parish hall, and added a columbarium.
Parish life was lively in these years with strong ministries in education, social service, healing, youth, worship, and outreach to the community.
The Rev. Robert (Chip) Nix became the next rector, serving until 1996. Small group ministry was a focus of the parish during this time. Fr. Nix also had the privilege of leadership for St. James’ Centennial celebration in 1990.
The Rev. John Lambert became the next rector, until 2004, with a focus on building the parish community and rediscovering our Anglican roots.
In September of 2004 the Rev. Dr. Marda Steedman Sanborn was installed as rector of St. James where she served for a decade. Facility improvements were made during this time to update and renovate as needed and congregational life focused on mission and community outreach. In March of 2014 Marda accepted a call to be Canon of the Ordinary, office of Bishop Greg Rickel, for the Diocese of Olympia.
Vibrant in the present
St. James of today, has become a mission-minded church, starting at the front door and reaching across local and national borders. Our St. James Thrift Shop, located in our gymnasium, and our New Life Funds provide assistance to those in need in our community, reaching over 1,000 people annually. Grounded in our Pioneer Heritage, we are a welcoming congregation, diverse in age, economics, and ethnic backgrounds.
With a history of strong lay ministry, our people continue to grow with a myriad of opportunities for faith formation. Our house of worship is a place of sanctuary and opportunity for spiritual growth for all who enter. Our focus on ministry continues to be rooted in the past, vibrant in the present and looking to the future with faith and hope.
Looking to the future
In December, 2015 St. James welcomed our rector, the Rev. Dr. Joyce Parry-Moore. She brings high energy and enthusiasm for The Jesus Movement (so named by our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry) and the bonus of her grounding in music, both Sacred and Operatic. Her focus on the connection between arts, religion, social justice as well as expertise in pastoral counseling brings new tools for the many gifts of the people and ministries of our parish.