St. James Episcopal Church
New London, Connecticut
Parish Profile - 2016-2017
St. James is called to serve God, Christ and the community of greater New London.
Our rector transition process comes at a time when the Episcopal Church in Connecticut is in the early stages of converting former deaneries to a six-region structure designed to foster inter- and intra-regional collaboration between Episcopal parishes, ecumenical church partners, local and state agencies, and interfaith and service-sector organizations through Ministry Networks. This Parish Profile of life in the St. James community hopefully reflects not only on life within the church walls but also on our deep commitment to God's mission through the activities of our Lord's Pantry, Jumble Shoppe, Community Meal and other parish ministries, and through our longstanding involvement with area service organizations such as the Covenant Shelter, Homeless Hospitality Center, St. Francis House, Ecuadorian Mission and other programs. We acknowledge that we can always grow in all we do, and we look forward to a new rector to join us in this growth opportunity.
Who We Are In God's Mission
We are a community of Christians who seek a deeper faith in God and who look to the Bible for guidance in our lives. We participate in God's mission, imitating the life of Christ Jesus in all that we do by following His admonition to “love God above all else and love our neighbors as ourselves.” We have hope that the world can be a better place, and we believe that God's love is the answer. We find spiritual growth and meaning in our lives through worship, fellowship within our parish, and community with the larger city of New London.
We encourage all people to join us in experiencing the transforming love of God in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit, for God's people are a tapestry of race, color, national origin, ethnic background, socio-economic status, marital status, ability, sexual orientation, gender and age. St. James strives to see Christ Jesus in everyone and we respond to all of creation in loving service.
Becoming God's People
Parish members worship together and attend to the mission of the Church by service to the greater community. Regular attendance at services is the usual practice for most members. When familiar faces aren't present we inquire, wondering if they are all right. When families return to the New London community for the summer, they are welcomed as the old friends they are.
The same strong commitment to service to both congregation and community is demonstrated in the lives of St. James' members. The recent parish survey revealed that many parishioners participate in three to seven activities in support of mission life. Whether singing in the choir, serving in the Jumble Shoppe, serving as readers, ushers, greeters or altar guild members, we find our calling and commit ourselves to God's work.
St. James Church has had a colorful, almost 300-year history in New London, CT. During that time, the Parish has worshipped in at least three buildings and has developed a significant church presence in the New London community.
After the parish was organized in 1725, the first St. James Church was built across from what is now the Union Railroad Station in 1741. It was soon enlarged, with the addition of a bell tower and many more pews to accommodate its growing congregation. Unfortunately, the Church was a victim of the 1781 burning of New London by British troops led by Benedict Arnold during the American Revolution. After rebuilding, a second Church edifice was subsequently outgrown. In 1850 our current building was completed to house the expanded congregation. Many of the parishioners at the time were citizens who enjoyed the benefits of the very successful whaling and ensuing manufacturing industries in 19th and 20th century New London.
For a livelier and more detailed history, view Who We Are.
Our Locale - Context for God's Mission
St. James is located in downtown New London, within short walking distance of both the many resources mentioned here and our several community service partners. As the “smallest big city in America,” New London has many of the aspects and issues of any urban city, with many exciting opportunities for ministry and service collaborations. The City of New London is a diverse, friendly community with a rich history, extensive arts and music scene, ample housing options for a varied community, fine dining, public parks and numerous recreational facilities and activities. The Garde Arts Center and the Hygienic Galleries are major venues for national and international art exhibits, plays, movies, and live music. The internationally known Eugene O’Neill Theater is nearby in Waterford. The area is home to four colleges: Connecticut College, Mitchell College, the U. S. Coast Guard Academy and the University of Connecticut Avery Point campus. The US Naval Submarine Base is right across the river from New London.
Downtown New London is a unique transportation center with interconnected national and commuter train, ferry, and interstate highway services that provide easy access in-state and throughout New England and the entire US East Coast. The New London Public Schools, grades K through 12, are the State’s first and only “all magnet” public school system, providing fully integrated public education in math, science, literature, and the arts for children living in the city and anywhere in the State. New London is a multi-faceted, economically diverse city. Sophisticated business and international manufacturing companies such as General Dynamics/Electric Boat and a variety of other service and commercial retail and wholesale businesses exist in the area and are expecting substantial job growth (800 to 1000 new job openings are anticipated in the next year). The Pfizer Corporation has a significant presence in nearby Groton. Our city sits directly on the Thames River and Long Island Sound, with easy and extensive public access to these waterways.
St. James Episcopal Church stands on the corner of Huntington and Federal Streets in New London, CT. The Gothic Revival edifice was designed by architect Richard Upjohn. It was built in 1850 of red New Jersey freestone. Large stained-glass windows, six of which were designed by Louis C. Tiffany, light the Church sanctuary. A well-maintained, 4-manual Skinner pipe organ enhances the worship-inspiring space. On the lower level of the Church building is Hallam Chapel, the final resting place of The Right Reverend Samuel Seabury, who was the first Episcopal Bishop in the United States and an early rector of St. James. Also on that level are The Jumble Shoppe, our second-hand goods mission, as well as a meeting room and kitchen.
Our Parish House, The Seabury Center, is connected to both the main and lower levels of the Church building. It contains a large meeting hall with kitchen on its top floor, offices, Choir Room, Music Library and classrooms on the middle floor. Additional classrooms and our neighborhood food distribution center, The Lord’s Pantry, are on the lower street-level floor.
Next to the Church on Huntington Street is the Rectory, a fully renovated 1840 Greek Revival house which, along with our Church building, is listed on the National Historic Registry. It contains four public rooms on the first floor, with two additional floors housing five bedrooms and two and one-half bathrooms. Three additional Greek revival houses, not owned by St. James, line Huntington Street next to the Rectory and, together with our corner Church, make the striking architectural statement known as Whale Oil Row.
Our Memorial Garden in the courtyard on the southern side of the Church is a recent addition to the St. James campus. While no memorial stones or indicators of any kind are installed in the garden, memorial plates are mounted on the Memorial Garden Memory Board located in the Narthex.
Faith in Action
We engage in many ministries at St. James - within our property, in the local community and internationally as well. This has been a distinguishing mark of our parish for many years. In our annual stewardship request for involvement, we list eleven opportunities for ministry to the world beyond our doors, and for additional information about these view the Ministries page of our website.
For a listing of our dedicated church staff and other lay leadership positions, click here.
St James is an open and affirming congregation of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. St. James welcomes all who come with a warm greeting and a bulletin for the service or a program for the activity. Ushers offer assistance to those who need more orientation to the services. Electronic hearing assistance is available in the areas designated. The church is handicapped accessible. The Eucharist is taken to those who for mobility reasons request communion in the pew. The Eucharist is celebrated at all three Sunday services. The times of services are posted on the parish sign, on the telephone answering message, in the bulletins and on the St. James website. Everyone is verbally invited and welcomed for fellowship and refreshments following each morning service.
Click here for a copy of our 2016 Annual Report.
St. James in recent years has held three Sunday celebrations of the Eucharist: Rite I at 8:00 a.m. is a spoken, formal style liturgy with no hymns or music. Rite II at 10:00 a.m. is generally a formal sung liturgy with choir, hymns, anthems and organ/instrumental accompaniment. Most music is traditional hymnody and BCP Hymnal settings. The 5:00 p.m. liturgy is less formal with music on occasion. BCP Compline is sung once monthly in Hallam chapel. Daily Morning Prayer and weekly Evening Prayer are spoken as schedule allows. St. James has a tradition of high regard for formal liturgical practice, however there is some desire and openness to use contemporary Episcopal liturgies and hymnody. We generally share an active passing of the peace.
We have a Sunday School for children ages 3 to 10, run by a dedicated teacher and assistants. The Sunday School meets at 9:30 a.m., and the children join the 10:00 Sunday Service during the Offertory for Eucharist. A Wednesday evening Adult Education program is attended by a good number of parishioners. A Confirmation class for middle school and high school ages meets on the first and third Sundays at 6:00 PM, and an Adult Inquirers class is currently being held every other Wednesday evening at 7:00 PM.
We have an active prayer circle which welcomes requests for prayers from both parishioners and non-parishioners. Healing prayer is offered monthly at Sunday Services. We have a dinner group that meets monthly at area restaurants and organizes other activities such as baseball games, picnics and occasional field trips. The parish comes together to support spring and fall clean-up, a summer tag sale, a fall picnic and a holiday Wassail party. We support a music ministry for the community, known as “Music on Whale Oil Row,” offering several concerts each year. The Anglican Singers, artists in residence at St. James, sing Evensong several times a year.
Welcome to Our New Rector, Rev. Ranjit K. Mathews!
St. James joyously welcomes the Rev. Ranjit K. Mathews to be our Rector! Rev. Mathews currently serves on the staff of the Presiding Bishop as the Partnership Officer for Africa. He plans to begin his new ministry with St. James on May 15. His first service with us will be on May 22.
Prior to his work with the churchwide office, Rev. Mathews was associate rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Long Beach, California, a bilingual parish where he worked to build connections between the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking community members and led the youth group. Before that he was a theology lecturer at the Msalato Theological College of St. John’s University in Tanzania, and he has also served as assistant rector of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Milton, Massachusetts.
Throughout his work, Rev. Mathews has followed the example of Jesus’ ministry of presence, compassion, justice and reconciliation, whether in pastoral care, or in the diplomacy involved with the Anglican partnerships in sub-Saharan Africa, or in anti-war protests before the Iraq War, or in investigations of immigrant detentions, or in building community partnerships to address local needs.
Rev. Mathews was born in Brighton, Mass. and grew up in Sharon, Mass. He majored in business administration at George Washington University and received his Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York. As a seminarian, Rev. Mathews served at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Harlem and also studied abroad in Bangalore, India. His father, Rev. Koshy Mathews, is rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.
Rev. Mathews will be moving to New London with his wife, Johanna, and young son, Dhruv, who will be entering kindergarten this fall. In addition to his extensive world service experiences in Africa and Asia, Rev. Mathews brings to us an ability to speak Spanish and a working knowledge of Malayalam, as well as a love of New England sports teams, national and world politics, books, nature, travel, movies, hip hop music and playing tennis!