“St. James’ Episcopal Church standing the test of time”

SJECThe Cedartown Standard – July 29, 2004 (p.30)

By Aimee L. Harmison

The little blue church on the hill may be small in size, but it has a enormously impressive history behind it.

St. James Episcopal Church has rolled along with the times and managed to stand sturdily for over one hundred years at its location on West Avenue.

It is a church that has seen the turn of the century and the entrance into the new millennium.

For 125 years, the church has been a place of worship and spiritual respite for local Episcopalians. St. James took form when Cedartown resident and New York native Mrs. A.G. West invited several dedicated Episcopalians to her home for worship services. West, along with her husband, continued to work with this group of locals, oftentimes worshipping in a different home each week, until St. James was built in 1883.

The first service held at St. James was in April of 1884. Kathleen Bates, co-chairman of the church’s 125 anniversary celebration and longtime member of St. James, estimates the cost of constructing the church to be about four thousand dollars.

“Two thousand dollars was raised by the congregation to build the church and Mr. A.G. West provided a matching fund grant,” stated Bates. The church, as Bates explains, was built in Carpenter’s Gothic architectural form.

“Carpenter’s Gothic is a form quite common to small churches around the country,” related Bates. “A lot of times, you can see this type of quaintly built church featured on Christmas cards and such.”

Narrowly missing the tornado of 1993 that wrecked havoc on several other churches on West Avenue, St. James has had a service every Sunday since its beginning, except for a few times when ice prevented safe travel, said Bates.

There are no newly upholstered church pews of fancy chandeliers that dangle from the rafters inside the church nave, as some contemporary churches have today. The building is pretty much the same as it was back in the late 1800s. “Most everything in this church has been donated in memory of someone,” said Bates. “These candlesticks were donated by Sterling Holloway’s family.” Holloway was a member of St. James and is best known as being the voice for the Disney character Winnie-the-Pooh. The majestic stained glass windows featuring bright cobalt blues and rich verdant greens, bear the names of influential earlier members such as the families of Sam Goode, A.E. Young, F.P. Noble and Arthur Nutall.

St. James has had a number of vicars during its existence – and at one time, during the 1930’s depression, had no vicar at all. “The Bishop licensed Mr. John L. Tyson and Mr. William Parker as lay readers (church members who can lead worship services). That was how these church doors stayed open during the depression,” recalled Bates. Two vicars went on to become Bishops after their stint at St. James and one minister, Bishop J.B. Walthour, passed away at the pulpit one Sunday during the 1950s.

The pulpit where the Bishop passed away still can be seen inside the church today.

The Reverend George Benedict, who ministered at St. James from 1896 through 1897, began the Benedict School, a prominent facility of education in Polk County for many years.

The congregation of 54 is now led by the Reverend G. Donald Black, who came to the church in August 2002.

Glancing up at the large wood rafters, Bates smiled. “When I come in here, I can feel all of the love and dedication surrounding this place. This church is really a part of our community.”