Our ancestors, Anglicans, were worshiping in Amesbury as early as 1711. The congregation gathered in members’ homes; worship was led by laymen or clergy borrowed from other parishes. The first Church of England parish was built around 1745 in what is now known as Union Cemetery.
Around 1760, King George III’s Chapel was built in the Pond Hill section of town – which at that time was the center of Amesbury. Services were held there through the early years of the Revolutionary War. However, in 1778, the Rev. Moses Badger of Haverhill conducted a service which included prayers for King George III. The congregation no longer wanted to support England and Town authorities closed the Chapel and the parish disbanded. The Chapel blew down in 1810. There is no record of an active Episcopal community in Amesbury until after 1825.
In 1827, St. James Episcopal Church was first organized in the Mills section of Amesbury. St. James received its Charter on October 8, 1833. Services were held first in Franklin Hall, located in Market Square at the site of the current Associates Building, and then in the Vestry Building of the Calvinist Baptist Society on Market Street. The Vestry Building was purchased and moved to the present Main Street site in 1835. It was consecrated on October 22, 1836 by the Rt. Rev. Alexander Griswold, Bishop of the Eastern Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.
By 1845, the parish had outgrown this building, and the first Building Fund Committee was established to procure funds for a new, larger Church. Within a year, the new church was built, and it was consecrated on November 5, 1846. The original building was sold to the Universalist Society for $24.50 and moved to Friend Street. The new church building cost $5,415.79.
On March 18, 1899, a fire started at the Opera House, directly across the street from St. James. Much of downtown Amesbury was left in ruins, including St. James Church. The parish resolved to build a new and larger Church. The current building was consecrated on May 7, 1903.
The building was damaged in another fire on April 30, 2001. St. James services were held at the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Main Street until Christmas of that year, while repairs were made.
In 2007, the congregation completed a significant restoration and reconfiguration of the Parish Hall, creating two Godly Play areas, a nursery and a toddler room. This project, performed almost entirely by parish volunteers, enabled St. James to offer its children age-appropriate opportunities to participate more fully in the life of the Church.
The Strategic Planning Team gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Edith Poor in the preparation of this history.
Mission Statement: St. James is a strong and loving community that welcomes, encourages and empowers all to grow in Christ and to do God’s work in the world.
- Being part of an extended family with “brothers and sisters” who care about you.
- Participating in the life of a community where your concerns make a difference.
- Discovering companions with whom you can work to help bring to the world a greater measure of social, economic, and environmental justice.
- Increasing your capacity for open and honest relationships with other people.
- Approaching God directly, while growing and learning through traditional and alternative worship and prayer.
- Having the place to celebrate the joys of birth, marriage, family and success as well as to find support in the sorrows of death, divorce, and failure.
- Finding your roots in the rituals and traditions of an Episcopalian-Anglican faith with a rich history.
- Growing in awareness of your personal values and your potential as a human being.
Download a PDF copy of our 2009 Strategic Plan.
On November 4, 2012 we bid farewell to our beloved Rector, Rev. Susan Esco Chandler as she ventures beyond St. James to spread her amazing gifts to others!
We are grateful to have been blessed with her ministry in this good place. Rev. Susan will be greatly missed, but her spirit will always remain with us.
On November 11th we welcome The Rev. Suzanne Colburn who will guide us in our journey into January 2012. Rev. Colburn is warm, engaging, and energetic, and we look forward to a joyous holiday season with her leadership.
In January Rev. Colburn will move on to become the Interim Priest at another parish. During the time she is with us, we will be working with the Bishop’s office to find a longer term Interim Priest, who will guide us for a year or so while contemplate where we are as a parish and how we hope to grow. During this transition, we will carry out a thoughtful search process to find the right Rector to lead us for the future.