On October 6th, 2019 St. James Cathedral celebrated its 140th year of ministry and faith in Fresno during a luncheon hosted by the Preservation Committee. The luncheon included a collection of table-top historical exhibits documenting the history of St. James. The gathered was kicked-off by Dean Ryan Newman and also included prayer by Bishop David Rice. Attendees enjoyed a delicious catered meal and were invited to browse the extraordinary historical exhibits prepared by Preservation Committee volunteers. “It was an exceptional celebration of St. James’ history,” said Dean Ryan. “The Preservation Committee brought to life the story of St. James.” The Preservation Committee worked diligently to curate, preserve, and display the important artifacts and elements of our collective history. Marshall Johnston, a member of the St. James community and a Professor of History at Fresno Pacific University, reminds us, “The Anglican way, the three-legged stool, is scripture, tradition, and reason, and two of those demand that we try to engage and understand the past. It's hard to know where we're going if we don't know where we've been. And the past doesn't repeat itself, but the future sure resembles it.”
For a year, members of the Preservation Committee have worked diligently to bring the Cathedral’s history to life. Over the months the committee met regularly to lay down the groundwork for a celebration of St. James’ past and hopes for the future. For months they poured over documents, emptied cabinets and boxes to uncover pictures, journals, and floorplans to display. As they worked, they learned more and more about who we were, where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. Seeing where we began as a congregation has painted a vivid picture of the path we’ve been on and hints at where we’re heading in the future. To mark the occasion, during both the 8:00AM and 10:00AM services the clergy offered a special prayer celebrating the past, present, and future of St. James. The text of the 140th Anniversary Prayer is in italics and throughout this article. “O God, the source of all beginnings: we thank you for bringing us to this new day. On this occasion we mark the 140th anniversary of St. James Episcopal Church, we give thanks and pray for those in the past, present, and future who have called and will call St. James their spiritual home.
As the Cathedral, St. James is in the unique position of having to live out an example of stewardship, commitment to Christ, and social justice for not only the greater Fresno community but also for the entire Diocese of San Joaquin. The Cathedral has existed in some capacity since California became a state in 1850. The earliest Episcopalians to call California’s Central Valley home congregated at Fort Miller, welcoming the Bishop of the Diocese of California (which covered the entire state at the time), Bishop Kip, in 1855. When towns and cities began cropping up along the train line that bisected the state people moved to Fresno and began meeting in tents and home churches.
We remember especially the brave women and men who courageously laid the first cornerstone of St. James and brought to the people in this Valley a community dedicated to proclaiming the Good News of your Kingdom. We are grateful for those who labored to sow the first seeds of your Church and for those who you called together to be the Body of Christ. For those who gave so generously of their time, talents, and resources so that future generations of the faithful could worship and witness your love in your Holy Temple.”
Just thirty years after California was granted statehood the St. James Mission Church was organized in Fresno. By 1881 bricks were being laid on Fresno Street giving the St. James church a building to call home. For the next twenty years the St. James parish church grows and becomes a formal part of the new Diocese of San Joaquin. In 1910 the Missionary District of San Joaquin is established, and Fresno is named the See City. During the luncheon, photos of our first Bishop and Dean were on display along with a panoramic of Downtown Fresno at the time of early development. The Seal of the Bishop stood in front of a picture of the St. James Choir on Easter 1897. If one were to look through the photo album at the center of the table they would see photos of Zoe Eden, who later donated money for the hall named in her honor, driving her friends White Steamer Automobile. A story of Bishop Kip’s visit to the Valley and the beginnings of ministry in the Valley sat prominently in the very front drawing the eye. In times of joy and in times of great disruption, your love was never-ending O Lord. We give thanks and pray for those in this present generation who continue to labor in the fields of your Kingdom. Sending each of us out as sowers of your good news, workers of healing, and caretakers of new life. Equip us for service, enliven us with your joy, and help us remember and trust that it is you who will bring in the harvest.
In 1911, just thirty years after its organization St. James was named a pro-Cathedral and consecrated on October 27. On the second table titled “Named Pro-Cathedral” the document bearing the Seal of the Bishop which appointed St. James the Cathedral sat center stage. Around this framed document were photos of the early church, the people who participated and led the services, as well as a map of the San Joaquin Valley. The beautiful church, built in 1881 had been replaced by an equally beautiful church on the same spot, Fresno and N Streets, at the turn of the century. If one were to look closely, they would see the article relating the story of the high altar and its dedication to Bishop Kearney in 1938. That same altar still resides in St. James Parish Hall and is used during Eucharist every Sunday.
Lord of all, we offer our unending praise for the goodness and faithfulness of your reconciling love and hope that you have made known to us in the broken bread and in the wine. We humbly ask that you continue to feed us from this table so that we may be empowered by the Spirit to proclaim in word and example your Good News as we seek and serve all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves, and as we strive for justice and peace, and respect the dignity of every human being.
The Forum of Better Understanding, a ministry of Dean Malloch, received a table all its own.
The Dean smiles out at the viewer from a framed photo towards the top of the table, the picture above it showing the forum at work. Dean Malloch met with Rabbi David Greenberg and Monsignor James Dowling to foster ecumenical understanding and relationships from 1937-1954. The City of Fresno recognized the importance of their shared ministry and erected a statue commemorating the men and their contributions to the Fresno community. Photos of that state, and its plaque, featured prominently on the table. Mr. Patrick Fennacy dedicated an authentic microphone used by the forum to the event as well as the photographs of the statue and plaque.
In this time and place, O God, bless us with the audacity to not only survive but thrive as a community of faith, especially beyond these walls. God of all strength and wisdom you go before and behind us, you are our light and our shield; guide our path, be our clear sight, lift us up in your Gospel joy, and bless the work we do in your name and honor as we are called to build up your Kingdom for future generations.
The next one hundred years of growth, building (literal construction projects), and change have led the current St. James, who call Cedar and Dakota home, to where they are now. Plans for expansion were in the works in the 1940’s and in 1951 Sanford Hall was built. To commemorate this occasion St. James purchased new china and cutlery. If one were to pick up the spoon on display with the table setting, they would see St. James engraved on the handle. After the Great Central Valley Earthquake Sanford Hall was used to hold services because the main church was badly damaged and condemned by the City. This led to the purchase of property at Cedar and Dakota. Thus, a natural tragedy ushered in another era of growth, expansion, and renewed faith for St. James. On the board standing to the back of the table one can see the drawings and floor plans for both Sanford Hall and the new Cathedral building.
Lead us and guide us O Lord to bring your vision, your hope, and your love to future generation who will call this Valley and this Cathedral their home. Enable our children and our children’s children to hear and to speak new words of hope and praise. May your light fill this sanctuary and your radiance shine into the community. In the minutes, days, and years to come, draw all to the brightness of your love and mercy.
At St. James we know children are our future. At the 140th Celebration the youngest members of our church were invited to celebrate the birthday of St. James, wear party hats, and claim a goody bag to mark the occasion. A giant birthday card, artfully decorated with stickers, crayon artwork, and colorful doodles now sits in the Cathedral Narthex. Glory to God, whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory to God from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.”
On the final table one could find pictures of our recent clergy, beautiful pictures of the Cathedral, and photos of our ministries. Celebrating the current, living history of the Cathedral is an important part of preservation. Every person who calls St. James their spiritual home is part of making history. In 140 years, people will look back to us and see what struggles we’ve overcome, what dreams we had, and what we were able to achieve. St. James is proud to be part of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, the Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion. The Cathedral is committed to a vision that honors and loves all, welcomes all, and shares the love and Good News of Christ. Part of that call is supporting social justice in our community. The Food Pantry of St. James, Reel Pride Fresno, Faith in the Valley, and many more ministries work to show forth love, radical welcome, and the true meaning of being a Gospel-centered faith community in Fresno. The displays from the 140th are currently on display in the 10th street building which sits to the west of Zoe Eden Hall and will be available for viewing on Sundays and at special times.