History of St. James Church
After more than 100 years, St. James’ still bears witness to a living faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. St. James’ Church will soon celebrate it’s 105th birthday. The Journal of the Seventeenth Annual Convocation of the Missionary District of New Mexico and Southwest Texas, held June 5-6, 1909 credits St. James’, an unorganized mission, with 9 families, 32 baptized persons and 21 communicants. After many setbacks and problems, the church sold its building at 5th and Mitchell street in 1938 for enough money to pay off debts with a balance of $5,000. In 1942 the church was reorganized and opened its doors at 12th and Main Streets in what is now the parish hall. In 1943, St. James’ was acclaimed by the diocese as “the most outstanding development” for the year, and in 1944 St. James was admitted as the 10th parish of the diocese.
In 1949, The distinguished New Mexico architect, John Gaw Meem was asked to design a new church in the traditional mission style of the Southwest. Mr. Meem, son of an Episcopal clergyman and a member of the Committee on Church Unity, designed the Seal of the Diocese of New Mexico and Southwest Texas, as well as St. John’s Cathedral in Albuquerque. The adobe bricks used in the construction were made in Clovis and vigas were brought down from Santa Fe and rough hewn with a hand adze. Every possible effort was made to construct an authentic Southwest mission, including the use of wooden pegs rather then nails. As you walk into St. James’ today you may be struck by the humbling and awe-inspiring simplicity. There are no stained glass windows, no murals, no elaborate baptismal font. It is ornate only in its simplicity and is today know as one of the most beautiful small churches in the country.
In 1993, James Ridgeley Whitemen once again shared his woodworking talents to enhance St. James. Mr. Whitemen agreed to build and carve a new freestanding altar (He was 83 at the time!). The original wooden cross above the Altar was replaced in August of 1997 by the 4’ X 6’ hand-carved Italian lindenwood Risen Christ that now extends loving arms as you enter. The original bell in the tower remains in place; however, the bell that calls the congregation to worship is an authentic locomotive bell donated by the Santa Fe Railway System. In 1997, a new digital organ was purchased. The following year the organ was augmented with three ranks of pipes, placed on the north wall of the Church.