For nearly 35 years, St. James the Apostle has served the communities of Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Maricopa and Ahwatukee. We offer both traditional and contemporary worship styles and use the Book of Common Prayer as the foundation for our worship. We invite you to stand, kneel, or sit for worship and prayer. As Episcopalians, we believe in a loving, liberating and life-giving God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
St. James got its start in living rooms in 1985. As we grew, we moved to a local high school, then a Jewish synagogue. Six years later we purchased property and built our current church building. We added an education wing a few years later and established the St. James preschool serving the local community. In the early 2000’s we affiliated with a startup Episcopal church meeting in a local Ahwatukee school, welcoming that congregation and its clergy into the St. James community but continuing services at the school.
In 2005, disagreements within St. James on the proper response to tensions in the larger Episcopal and Anglican communities led to a split. Roughly 80% of the parishioners chose to leave St. James, partly in response to the consecration of an openly LGBT Bishop and partly due to the unsure future ahead.
Just before Easter Sunday in 2005, then Bishop Kirk Smith of the AZ Diocese was quoted in a newspaper article saying: “It is important to realize that people leave the church, but churches don’t leave the church, if there are people at St. James who feel they cannot stay any longer, obviously they are free to leave, but the parish will continue.” Those of us who stayed exemplified the significance of our Big Red Doors; all are welcome at St. James.
There is no question that recovery from such a split was difficult. The loss of such a large number of parishioners devastated programs. The abrupt ending of long-time friendships left many bewildered. The financial impact of the split combined with a dramatic increase in state licensing costs led to the difficult decision to close the St. James preschool. In order to survive, St. James became a mission church of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona.
St. James slowly rebuilt, remaining true to the values of those who continued to make it a spiritual home. Our congregation has grown. The education wing is now used by Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC). And in October 2019, we exited mission status and regained recognition as a full parish. Sure, we’re still a bit wobbly in the knees, but we’re standing tall again, looking forward to the next chapter in our history.
This journey illustrates our strength and resolve as a church. We have shown that the love and support people have for one another, regardless of backgrounds and differences, is what makes a church. We practice what we preach, we have fun infellowship and we love one another without exception.
The St. James congregation was provided a survey to further examine who we are, where we live and why we worship at St. James. The results showed that liturgy and friendships are an important part of what has brought people to St. James. Additional reasons included support in real-life situations that range from serious medical diagnoses and death, location and the welcoming and accepting environment. The most common reason for staying is the sense of community that people feel.