Our Past 100 Years

100 Year Celebration: 2011

St. James Methodist Episcopal Church  had it early beginning in the year 1906 in the large, two- story home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Broeker on Decker Road (now Claremont Avenue). Since transportation was such a problem, and having thirteen children of their own, the Broekers started a Sunday School for the children of the neighborhood and a Bible-study class for the adults. Mr. Broeker died in 1907, leaving his wife to carry on the work of the Sunday School School.

After the death of Mr. Broeker, Mr. Henry Rubright, a member of Simpson Chapel, came down the hill to the community known as Tekoppel. It was through the efforts of him and others that the Sunday School was organized in the No. 8 School House on Tekoppel Avenue, near the location of the old Rheinlander School. It opened on August 19, 1908, and was named the Guiding Start Sunday School.

The new Church was organized in 1911 with a charter membership of 21 members and continued meeting in the same school building until November 1912. The congregation of the newly organized church wanted Reverend St. Clair, the pastor of Howell Methodist Episcopal Church, to preach to them regularly. He offered to do this, provided the congregation would build a church on the four lots located on Culter Avenue (Hillcrest Terrace) and Tunis Ave. With generous donations of these lots, the congregation accepted his offer and proceeded with plans for a new church in the spring of 1912. The building was to be of frame construction, and the cost was estimated to be $4,200.

In the 1920s, two classrooms were added behind the pulpit at the north end of the church. A balcony was built in the rear of the sanctuary. Some of the woodwork from this balcony was used in a later remodeling of the church in 1950 to construct a stairwell behind the choir loft. 

During the pastorate of Leota Deam Sander (1929-1030) a parsonage was built, costing approximately $4,000. During the ministry of the Reverend Millard Brittingham (Kent Brittingham's grandfather) in 1938-1939, a basement was dug under the church to provide space for kitchen and more classrooms.  At this time, St. James listed 186 children and youth enrolled in Sunday School.

A special conference was held in 1939, called the Uniting Conference. At this meeting all three branches of Methodists agreed to merge, taking the name of "The Methodist Church," and dropping the words "Episcopal' and "Protestant" from their names.

In 1947, the Official Board began planning for a new building to house the ever-growing Sunday School. Plans were culminated in July 1949, and the building was completed by the spring of 1950. By this time, however, the sanctuary was too small accommodate the growing congregation for the church services.  During that same year, remodeling of the church was undertaken. Plans called for a complete reversal of the original floor plans: and, also the exterior of the church was bricked at this time.

The remodeled church provided a seating capacity of 200 and had all new furnishings.  The church had its formal opening on April 8, 1951. All the beautiful stained glass windows, the pews and the altar furnishings were donated by members and friends. For this grand occasion the beautiful cloth that covers the Communion Table was crocheted by Mrs. Hannah Garrett and is still in use today.

The total cost of building the Education Unit and remodeling the sanctuary amounted to $80,000. By the time of the opening, the balance of indebtedness on the Building Fund was $17,278.  The final payment was on December 14, 1953, and a dedication ceremony was held for the Educational Unit and the Sanctuary on April 11, 1954. 

Another big change took place in the hierarchy of the church in 1969. The Methodist Church officially merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church and became "The United Methodist Church." As a result of this merger, St. James Methodist Church became "St. James West United Methodist Church."

During the early months of 1970, the church purchased a home at 3310 N. Red Bank Road for a new parsonage. This made it possible to completely repair and redecorate the old parsonage, which then became known as "The Parish House." The church office was relocated to it.

About this time the new parsonage was purchased, several thousand dollars were spent to repair, redecorate and modernize the basement and Sunday School rooms of the church building. The newly decorated basement was named the Fellowship Hall.

A new Baldwin organ, a piano, and new Kuesten public address system were purchased in April 1976.  This acquisition was made possible by two separate $5,000 gifts from the estate of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Nunn. A new heating and air conditioning system was also installed in the church in June 1976 at a cost of $25,255.

In 1978, the Children's Department was remodeled and redecorated at a cost of $7,250.

In 1979, Gene Backes was added to the staff and became the first Youth Director, where he served for several years.

Redecorating the sanctuary began in 1981 with painting, new carpeting, folding doors and lighting, inside and out. The project was completed in 1983 with the refinishing of the sanctuary furniture and padding of the pews.

The next area to get attention was to ladies' restroom on the main floor. It was redone during the mid-1980s with volunteer labor and cash gifts from the members of the church.

The St. James West Christian Family Center (CFC) was officially completed and dedicated on September 10, 1990 at a cost of $284,000 for both the building and the furniture.

In September 1991, a decision was made to open a Preschool, and Susan Backes was made the first Director.

On April 5, 1993, it was voted to sell the old parish house to make space for a parking lot. The house was sold for $1,000 and was moved by the purchaser in June 1993. The church offices were moved to the upper floor of the CFC, where they are presently located.

In 1993, the Nursery and the Alpha Domus classroom were both enlarged and redecorated.  In November 1993, the Crusaders Class began a project of renovating the Fellowship Hall and its kitchen area. It was completed in 1994.

On November 13, 1994, the new Allan organ was consecrated and dedicated to the glory of Almighty God and for serviced in St. James West United Church as a memorial.

On December 14, 1994, the congregation voted to purchase a lot in the Willow Creek subdivision and build a new parsonage there. An open house ceremony was held on November 12, 1995 when the new parsonage at 9200 Meghan Court was finished. On November 19, 1995, St. James West began preparations for Miracle Sunday II, scheduled to be held on November 24, 1996, by requesting pledges for the amount needed to erase the debt on the CFC.

On November 24, 1996, we had a Miracle Sunday II celebration of paying off the debt of the Christian Fellowship Center (CFC).  A special Miracle Sunday II offering was taken and, at the end of the service, a special announcement was made, "There was now enough money to make the final payment on the mortgage!"

On November 27, 1997 the loan on the new parsonage was paid in full, much sooner than had been anticipated.  For the first time in many years, the church was now debt free!

April 14, 2005, the building at 3031 Hillcrest Terrace was demolished and turned into additional parking, and the property at 3029 Hillcrest Terrace was sold.

In 2006, the parsonage at 9200 Meghan Court was sold for $143,000.

Also, in 2006, the Handicap Accessible Ramp was installed and a large amount of operation debt was paid off. This was made possible from the bequest of June Anthony. 

In 2007, repairs were made to two of the stained glass windows.

In 2008, the Sanctuary was remodeled by moving the old choir loft and exposing the beautiful stained glass windows in the church.

May 19, 2009, we purchased the property at 3032 Forest Avenue for $55,425 and turned it into a parking lot for additional parking spaces. In 2010 the sound panels were installed in the CFC.

May we continue to carry on the tradition of hard work, ever building upward, as we go forth into the future. Let us always be friendly, show compassion and love, continue to pray fervently and regularly, and to serve God while we serve our brethren.  We must strive to continue to be a steadying influence in our community, and to give a helping hand to those in need.


  March 2021