DOWNINGTOWN (July 27, 2018) State Senator Andy Dinniman recently recognized Saint James Episcopal Church on its 175th Anniversary.

Dinniman visited the church on Wednesday, June 25, to congratulate the congregation on its 175th Anniversary Celebration, which coincided with the Feast Day of Saint James the Apostle.

“Saint James Episcopal Church has a rich history in the Downingtown area and has grown to serve as a beacon of faith for so many,” Dinniman said. “I want to thank all of the clergy, staff, patrons, supporters and congregates, past and present, for their ongoing contributions to the community. Best wishes for another 175 years of growth and success.”

Dinniman also presented the Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez, XVI Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, and the Rev. John Symonds, Rector of Saint James Episcopal Church with an official Senate Citation in honor of the milestone anniversary.

In addition, he invited Father John to serve as official Senate Chaplain for the day in Harrisburg this fall.

Saint James Episcopal Church grew from humble beginnings, when in the fall of 1842, the Rev. Gregory Bedell, then Rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity in West Chester, conducted a service of worship in the home of Dr. Andrew Wills for a group of Episcopalians living in Downingtown.

That same year, the Downingtown Episcopalians invited the Rev. William Augustus White of Boston to come to Downingtown to serve as the rector of a new Episcopal church to be named after the Apostle James.

Plans for the building of a church were drawn up, and on June 20, 1843, the cornerstone of the church building was laid. The building itself was of classical design, with no steeple nor stained glass windows. It was completed in just four months at a final cost) of just under $2,000 (including the land), and was consecrated on October 26, 1843, by Bishop Onderdonk of Pennsylvania.

In 1863, the church building underwent a major renovation, taking the appearance it has today. It was enlarged, the wings, sanctuary, and steeple were built, and various memorial stained-glass windows were added.

Over time, an office wing and a parish hall were added to the original building. A community Nursery School (today’s Saint James’ Preschool) came into being under the leadership of Richard Lee Bartholomew, rector of St. James’ from 1962 to 1992. He also presided over the building of St. James’ Place, a housing facility for low-income elderly tenants, which opened its doors in 1979. Since that time, its forty apartments have always been filled.


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