Saint James' Church
Founded in 1853
St. James' in the Nineteenth Century
The colonial settlers of Long Branch, in the 1660’s, were English farmers and members of the Church of England. Anti-English sentiment following the Revolutionary War provided impetus for most of the population to disavow the Church of England and to become practicing Methodists. By the early 1800’s the only church in Long Branch was a Methodist church. However, by the mid-nineteenth century Long Branch was emerging as an important seashore resort. Seasonal homes and large Victorian hotels provided accommodation for the influx of summer residents.
At that time, the nearest Episcopal congregation was Christ Church in Shrewsbury. Under the leadership of the rector, the Rev. Harry Finch, Christ Church began a missionary effort in Long Branch in the summer of 1850. For the next few seasons, Episcopal worship services were held in the parlors of the Allegheny House hotel. In 1853 a subscription paper was circulated among residents and summer visitors to raise the funds necessary to establish an Episcopal church in Long branch. These efforts resulted in the formation of Saint James’ Church in February of 1854, with the Rev. Harry Finch as the founding rector.
The first church, a classic wooden structure, was dedicated in August of 1855. It was located on the north side of Broadway between Second Avenue and Memorial Parkway. For the next forty years, Saint James’ flourished, as did Long Branch, America’s premier seaside resort, and a destination for Presidents of the United States.
The Twentieth Century
By 1895, this continuing growth led Saint James' to plan a new, larger, stone church. Property was purchased on the south side of Broadway at Slocum Place, a little more than four blocks inland from the location of the original church. However, it was not until December of 1910 that plans for the new church were formally adopted and construction began.
On September 29, 1911, the first services were held in the new parish hall. The cornerstone of the church was laid in July of 1912, and the new church was formally dedicated in April 1913.
Saint James’ continued to grow during the long tenure (1914-1949) of the Rev. Morton A. Barnes, the Parish’s seventh rector. During this time, the Lord blessed Saint James’ with several generous memorial gifts, and many fundraising activities on the part of the congregation served to beautify the church and reduce debt.
In 1939 Saint James’ retired its mortgage and the church was officially consecrated in February of that year. In 1962 an educational wing was added to the parish hall. This addition expanded the facilities available for Christian education, and also provided a choir room, a workroom, an informal meeting room, an enlarged kitchen, and offices for the clergy and parish administrator. In 1975, the installation of the remaining stained glass windows was completed.
The church is a place and a people, a place for worship, fellowship, ministry and service.