History of St. James Episcopal Church
St. James Episcopal began in a stone building on College Street in downtown Greenville. It moved to its current location on Piney Mountain a generation ago, where a Parish Life Center was recently added to the campus.
St. James marked its 100th anniversary in 2004. Read on to learn more about the first century of St. James Episcopal...
A Downtown Mission
In 1903, when Greenville was a community of less that 25,000, the Reverend Dr. Alexander R. Mitchell, rector of Christ Church Episcopal, established a mission in what was then the northeast corner of the city. Taking its name from that of Greenville's first Episcopal mission, the St. James congregation held its first service on August 14, 1904, in a small wooden church (formerly Baptist) on Rutherford Road near Buncombe Street. On the same date, the Women of St. James were first organized as the St. James Guild. In January of 1915, through the donation of property by Miss Eliza Powell and the work of many clergy and laity, the congregation held the first service in its new home, a beautiful granite church which still stands at the corner of Buncombe and Lloyd Streets.
A New Parish
Despite frequent changes of clergy, the mission continued to grow and flourish. In 1921 Dr. Mitchell, seeking a change of climate, returned to St. James from his position as Archdeacon of the Charleston convocation. St. James became a parish in the spring of 1922 and was admitted into the Diocesan Council. Dr. Mitchell continued as the church's first rector until his retirement in 1948; he died the following year, having spent 63 years in the Episcopal ministry.
Growth and Outreach
In June of 1948, the Reverend John A. Pinckney became the second rector of St. James. The same year saw the addition to the staff of Mrs. Wales Lowery, Jr. (Martha), who would be Administrative Secretary and more for the next 42 years. During Mr. Pinckney's tenure, the parish was increasingly active in community ministry and Diocesan programs. In 1949, St. James opened a day school in the newly constructed parish hall. Ten years later, the school had outgrown this building and was relocated to larger facilities at Christ Church; it continues today as Christ Church Episcopal School (K-12). Mr. Pinckney left St. James in 1959 to become Archdeacon of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, and in 1963 he was consecreated Bishop.
A Move to Piney Mountain
In September 1959, the Reverend Robert G. Riegel came to St. James as its third rector. Two years later, St. James opened a kindergarten, which at present operates independently as the St. James Day School for 2, 3, and 4 year olds (with after-school care and a special summer program). As the congregation grew, space became increasingly a problem. After repeated efforts to purchase nearby property were unsuccessful, a generous donation of land by Miss Susan Pauline Batson permitted the parish to move to Piney Mountain Road. The original building, which housed Mitchell Hall ("the sanctuary"), offices, kitchen, library and classrooms, was completed in 1965. The original mortgage was paid off in 1972.
Early Years on the Mountain
Over the years many alterations were made to this structure, such as the creation of a chapel, the establishment of the Pinckney Room for receptions, and the dedication of a new electronic organ. Mitchell Hall was an all-purpose room in which altar furniture from the old church had been incorporated into the contemporary architecture of the new worship space. Metal folding chairs with kneelers were used for worship services and removed for Bible School, square dancing, and other functions that required a larger area. At these times the altar was covered with folding screens.
Changes in Worship
Alterations in the forms of worship took place during these years as well: trial prayer books succeeded one another, the altar was brought out from the wall so that the priest could face the congregation, children were brought to the altar rail to receive communion or to receive a blessing. We began using the new Book of Common Prayer in 1979 and the revised hymnal in 1982. Because of Mr. Riegel's concern and the many hours spent discussing the reasons underlying the changes, St. James got through this challenging period with good grace.
Parish Life Strengthens
Although the congregation continued to grow, it was decided not to build a permanent worship space as had been originally planned when the move to the mountain was made. This decision allowed St. James to continue its tradition of outreach in the community and beyond. It also allowed for the addition of assistant clergy, successively the Reverends Frederick C. Byrd (later Archdeacon of this Diocese), David E. Stewart, Jr., John B. Lipscomb (now Bishop of Southwest Florida), Charles S. Foss, and Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr. The years of Mr. Riegel's rectorate were marked by strong preaching and the strengthening of parish life. In 1987, after 28 years of service at St. James, Mr. Riegel left to become Canon Missioner at Trinity Cathedral in Columbia.
Education and Fellowship
The Reverend Harry A. Woggon, who was called to be Interim Rector, guided the parish through the search process; and in 1988 we welcomed the Reverend Robert A. Boone, Jr., as our fourth rector. The following 10 years saw a renewed emphasis on education and fellowship. The music program grew and flourished, and the liturgical year was enriched by the addition of The Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. The Disciples Program provided spiritual growth and intensive Bible study. Parish life was enriched by the addition of two assistants, first, the Reverend Michael P. Szymanowski and, later, the Reverend Susan L. Hardaway.
A New St. James
In 1997 ground was broken for our long-awaited Parish Life Center, and renovations were begun in Mitchell Hall. For many years the parish had dreamed of using the splendid stained glass windows from the Buncombe Street Church, ten of which tell the story of Jesus' life. Now they were installed in the sanctuary, behind the altar and on the facing wall, with backlighting which allows them to be viewed day and night. Another major change for the congregation was having pews at last. All these improvements were enjoyed for the first time on February 22, 1998, when our Bishop, the Right Reverend Dorsey F. Henderson, Jr., joined us for a festive dedication service. In March 1998, the first of many parish dinners was held in the Parish Life Center, with its gleaming new kitchen. The basketball court offers recreational opportunities for all ages, and a large meeting room is used for Christian Formation classes, adult and youth group activities and many others.
A Call to Missions
In December 1998, Mr. Boone left to become rector at Church of the Ascension in Hickory, North Carolina. Under the interim leadership of the Reverend Tom Davis, a search for a new rector was begun. The Reverend Timothy M. Dombek joined the parish in August 2000 and with his coming a new era of energy and excitement was inaugurated at St. James. The Reverend Sally F. Parrott came to the staff as Assistant Priest in 2001. The parish has grown to become the second largest in Greenville and the 13th in size in the diocese of Upper South Carolina. Conscious of the need to grow toward a program-oriented parish focused on mission and outreach rather than maintaining the status quo, St. James in 2001 developed Mission and Vision Statements and through a series of parish-wide discussions chose specific strategic goals to enable us to put our vision into action. As we approach our 100th anniversary, St. James is a vibrant, active parish which seeks to support worship and ministry for each of its members while opening our church community to all God's people.