Locked Out St. James Congregation Gets Temporary Home

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Rev Voorhees Service2The congregation of St. James the Great Episcopal Church in Newport Beach won’t have to walk on grass for their next church service.

The congregation, which has been locked out of their Lido church facility since July and has been holding services in a nearby park, has found temporary shelter at the Gray Matter Museum of Art in Costa Mesa and will hold services there beginning this Sunday, Oct. 25.

“We are deeply grateful to the Gray Matter Museum for their kindness and hospitality in making their space available to us,” said Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees, vicar of St. James the Great.

The Gray Matter Museum is at 485 E. 17th St., at the corner of Westcliff Drive, in Costa Mesa (at the border with Newport Beach). Because of ongoing museum programs, the St. James the Great services will begin at 9:30 a.m., not 10 a.m. as they have previously. Anyone who wishes to attend is welcome.

Since being locked out of the building and grounds by their bishop, who plans to sell the property to a local condo developer, the congregation has been holding services outdoors in a small park, but the approach of cooler and wetter weather had made finding an indoor venue increasingly critical, Voorhees said, and the Gray Matter Museum’s offer of space is a godsend.

“We also are forever grateful to the city of Newport Beach for letting us use the park, and to the residents of the 601 Lido tower for their support,” Voorhees said. “And we are overwhelmed by the tremendous support from the community.”

In May, Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno announced to a stunned congregation that St. James the Great would be sold to a developer, Legacy Partners. Bruno offered no alternative site for the congregation to hold services.

At the end of June, amid a rising chorus of criticism of the proposed sale of the church building for condo development from the congregation, the local community and members of the Newport Beach City Council, and despite objection from the property donor that requested its deed restriction to church uses be honored, the bishop had the locks changed on the building and grounds, preventing worship services and other religious uses there.

According to a press release from St. James the Great Episcopal Church, Bishop Bruno has sued the Griffith Co. for objecting to the sale, and has carried out a campaign of legal harassment of critics, seeking depositions of octogenarians, a Brownie troop leader, Rev. Voorhees’ husband and many others. Meanwhile, escrow has not closed and the church remains unsold.

The surprise sale agreement, the lockout of the congregation and related actions have resulted in formal charges being referred to the national Episcopal Church leadership, which has accepted them and begun a formal review that could result in the bishop’s censure or removal.

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