Saint James Church has a long history on James Island. In November, 1706, the assembly of South Carolina appropriated money to establish six churches. Saint Andrew’s Parish included James Island; and the Anglican congregation on James Island was active and recognized as a separate church by 1720. The congregation met in a house with the rector of Saint Andrew’s Parish, Rev. William Guy. In his report of August 1, 1722, plans for the building of a chapel were mentioned. That chapel was probably completed in 1722.
James Island was remote in the early years and the parish went into disuse several times. The first of these times was during the American Revolution when it appears there was no priest from 1773-1787. The records were destroyed with the building, making little else known about the church. During that time the chapel building was destroyed and the third chapel building was completed in 1787. When the Diocese of South Carolina was established after the American Revolution, St. James became St. James Episcopal Church.
In 1862 services were discontinued because of the Civil War. The church was destroyed by fire in 1864 unrelated to the war and services were held in the Presbyterian church after everyone returned. From 1864 to 1899, few services were held, but in 1898 Saint James was organized as a mission of The Diocese of South Carolina once again. St. James Episcopal Church played an important role in providing farming jobs to many unemployed members of the community.
In 1946, Rev. Edward Brailsford Guerry (1946-1960) held regular weekly services for the first time since 1861. He built both a parish house in 1949 and a bigger new church in 1959 (completed in 1960 and consecrated in 1964). Both these buildings still stand today. In 1968, under Rev. Charles Duvall (1962-1971) the congregation grew significantly requiring the parish house to be doubled in size to add Sunday school and office space.
Some members and leadership of the church decided in 2013 to take the church out of The Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church, and in 2017 they joined the Anglican Church of North America, which originated from the GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference), a movement against the growing inclusivity of The Episcopal Church. The breakaway churches and leadership sued The Episcopal Church and its associated diocese in South Carolina to take the churches and form a new denomination, but after nearly a decade of court decisions, St. James Parish Church was ultimately returned to The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina, where it had been rooted for centuries.
As we begin to write this next chapter in the beautiful, complicated story of St. James Episcopal Church, we seek to create a welcoming space for all people to come and worship the Lord and serve Him and our community. Thanks be to God!
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