Friday, June 26, 2015

Another Historic Paso Robles Church, St. James Episcopal

St. James Episcopal Church, Paso Robles, CA - ©B. Radisavljevic
St. James Episcopal Church got its start in 1891, just one year after the city of Paso Robles itself was founded. Unlike most Episcopal churches at the time, it was started by local demand rather than because the Department of Missions wanted to establish a church there. Six women were instrumental in bringing the need to the attention of the Diocese of California.

In the early 1900's when there was much anti-Asian prejudice, St. James supported full citizenship for American Asians. During the depression,  the church resisted demands from local authorities for segregation and integrated its soup kitchen. These were both historic stands during that period.

St. James made history in other ways, as well. In 1921, the Rev. Charles Thackeray, then vicar of the church, started a social event to bridge a developing division between the residents who lived in town and those who lived in the surrounding countryside. Everyone was welcome to participate, commercial activity ceased on that day, and money wasn't needed. This was a forerunner to the first Pioneer Day celebration in 1931.

St. James has the oldest pipe organ on the West Coast still in regular use-- a Stevens organ dating from 1863. My brother used to like to go to church with Mom when he was visiting just to hear that organ.

In the 1980's St. James began the ministry we now know as Loaves and Fishes to distribute food to those in need. Today other churches also support this ministry, but St. James deacon the Rev. Jacqueline Sebro is still its director. For further details on the church's history visit the St. James website, which is where I gathered these facts.

I have a special fondness for this church, because my mother was a member there for the last years of her life after moving to Paso Robles. They made her feel welcome and she made most of her local friends there.