St. James Episcopal Church is a historic Church finding new life in the 21st century. It was established in 1704 in "Newtown" by the Rev. William Urquhart, a Church of England clergyman who was also rector of the first Churches in Jamaica and Flushing. The history of St. James is tied to the early history of the Episcopal Church as one of its earliest rectors was the Rev. Dr. Samuel Seabury who later became the first Bishop and Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Another figure of significance was the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Moore who became the first president of Columbia University.
Once a Dutch neighborhood, Elmhurst is now a multicultural and pan-Asian community with a rapidly-growing Chinatown and clusters of Southeast Asian neighborhoods. At some point in its modern history, St. James departed from the mainstream Episcopal Church but in 2008 was won back by the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. The task of reviving the congregational life and vitality of the church has been a challenge and a number of clergy have been assigned.
On April 1, 2013 the Rt. Rev. Lawrence Provenzano invited the Missioner for Asiamerica Ministries, the Rev. Dr. Winfred Vergara to serve as a part-time priest-in-charge and Rev. Paul Lai as associate priest to help St. James mission. The Rev. Vergara reorganized the mission to revive the three areas of ministry assigning lay coordinators to take care of the (1) Aesthetics - Building & Grounds (b) Spiritual- Liturgical Life and (c) Mission-Outreach.
In order to win back those who have left the church and attract new members, the Sunday Service instituted Healing at 10:30 A.M. and strengthen the multiracial Eucharist at 11:00 A.M. On Vergara's first Sunday service on April 7, 2013 the attendance and offertory doubled. On the second Sunday, he announced his vision of helping the church to become a "healing, welcoming and serving community" in Elmhurst. In his sermon 4/14/2013, Vergara said:
'Many years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. announced his dream that one day black boys and white boys will walk hand in hand. As he dreamt the dream of integration and unity, MLK also prophesied against the American Church of his time. He called the 11 o’clock on Sunday as the 'most segregated time in America' because the blacks and the whites were holding purely black and lily white worship services. Today, here in Elmhurst, the dream of MLK will have a new significance: we dream not only that blacks and whites but brown and yellow, red and mulato, mestizo----and all colors of the rainbow and all genders and people from all walks of life---will be welcomed in this Episcopal Church. Let us heed MLK’s prophesy by radically welcoming ALL PEOPLE to our Healing Service at 10:30 A.M. and removing every trace of segregation in our 11:00 A.M. Eucharist. 'Though we are many, we are one Body because we all share in one Bread.''
We hope that St. James Church in Elmhurst will rise again and become a viable Episcopal parish in the 21st Century. Please join us in prayer to God that the Holy Spirit will do it again. Revive this Church, O God in the name of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.