From its beginning in an old boathouse in West Newport where 25 people met in a building constructed on poles for protection from high tides, the people of St. James Church have loved God and longed to share that love with others.
“God has been at work in and through St. James’ people for a wonderful 70 years,” Pastor Richard Crocker said. “We look back with thanksgiving and we look forward with expectation and faith. We remember God’s faithfulness through the generations. Church is like a family; it is greater than a lifetime of shared memories of what God has done. We have much to be thankful for and many memories to recall. God has done great things.”
Last Saturday was a day filled with events to celebrate the seven decades that St. James Church, the church by the bay, has been an integral part of the community.
It was in that spirit of community connection that church members participated in different service projects in the morning.
“We coordinated service projects instead of spending a lot of money on a lavish birthday party,” said Beth Borbon, Children’s Ministry Director. “Giving back to the community is a passion of ours. We researched the areas of need in the community and put together service projects to give back in a variety of ways. For example, we wanted to serve local schools, because they do so much for the community. We ended up cleaning up and beautifying the grounds at Mariner’s Elementary School.”
Beth explained that the other projects were putting together “Love Lunches,” brown paper bags filled with nonperishable items to distribute to those in need, beach clean up around the Newport Pier, and offering prayer to people around the pier if they were interested.
Pastor Richard welcomed the group to the afternoon worship service before the busy day of activities culminated in a spaghetti dinner. Throughout the service, longtime parishioners told stories as they recalled God’s faithfulness and significant events during the different eras of St. James.
“I love a party, I love a celebration and I can’t think of anything more exciting than being here to celebrate St. James,” said church member Jim Dale. “There were great activities earlier and there are a lot of honored and special guests with us now. We want to honor the spiritual leaders who have made such an impact on St. James. ”
The service focused on God’s faithfulness through the years as well as acknowledging past Rectors and others who played pivotal roles in the growth of the church. Other community guests present for the momentous occasion included Joe Sturgis, on behalf of California State Assemblyman Don Wagner, Mayor of Newport Beach Mike Henn and Councilwoman Wendy Leece from Costa Mesa.
Church member Bill Dunlap began the trip down memory lane by explaining that before officially becoming a church in its present location in 1941, a committed group of people met in an old boathouse for four years before it burned down, which caused them to relocate to Lido Theater. From there they met in various homes on Balboa Island, and then moved to the Ebell Club on the Peninsula before coming to its home on 32nd Street where it has been a beacon for the last seventy years. Bill creatively summarized almost 20 years of the church, which included his own entrance into the church 50 years earlier as a 13-year old.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” he added.
Others continued sharing memories from each decade of the church by recalling God’s presence and power, which was evidenced in prayers answered, programs introduced, and people’s lives changed. Anybody who has lived seventy years encounters challenges in the many different seasons of life, and the same is true of churches. The different speakers acknowledged the struggles and sacrifices along with the beautiful successes of the church, focusing on God’s faithfulness throughout every chapter.
“This is our heritage, our history, our God at work in our lives,” church member Pam Svalstad remarked.
“We are a praying church,” Pastor Richard said during his closing remarks. “This is a church that loves Jesus Christ. We are a people inspired and empowered by God. Our lives have been blessed by God so we can bless others. We can bless others for the next seventy years, starting tomorrow.”
For further information, go to www.stjamesnb.org.
Cindy can be reached at [email protected]