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Nov 29, 2012

St. James' Celebrates 75 Years with Gala in Houston

St. James’ Episcopal Church in Houston celebrated its 75th Anniversary on November 4 with a spectacular Gala at the Bayou Events Center downtown.  The day began with a spirit-filled worship service in the sanctuary. A full procession complete with a Parade of Banners opened the service. The guest preacher was the Rt. Rev. Telesporo Isaac, retired bishop, Diocese of Dominican Republic. Newly crafted stained-glass windows were revealed and blessed by the bishop. The windows, adorned with musical instruments, frame the choir stand and band area. A cake and punch reception followed the service in the Parish Hall where members and guests walked through and viewed the recently renovated hallway and restrooms.


Photos by Ewart Jones 


Later that evening, nearly 400 people attended the anniversary dinner gala and auction at the Bayou City Event Center.  It was indeed a momentous affair.


With Melanie Lawson as the Mistress of Ceremony to guide all through the program, the Rev. Victor Thomas gave the invocation followed by welcoming remarks from Bishop Andy Doyle.   (picture)


The Gala Committee, chaired by Cynthia Wyllie, planned the event with great detail from the invitations to the venue. A commemorative souvenir journal was published that contained the history of St. James’. In detailed format, the history was authored by Bettye White, Gladys Forde and Evelyn Thornton, which should stand as the hallmark for positive change in the Diocese of Texas. All three of these women have 50 years or more of St. James’ church affiliation. 


As Bishop Doyle stated, “Over the last 75 years, St. James’ has been blessed with the ministries of a series of outstanding priests and rectors, The Rev. Messrs. Clarkson, Bagby, Johnson, Bardin, Sanders, Tucker, Campbell, and Cutter. St. James, Houston, is the first integrated Episcopal congregation in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, and we all should be proud of its record of community leadership.”


St. James’ is deeply grateful for the diocesan support as shown in the commemorative souvenir journal with descriptive words of great wisdom by Bishop Doyle, Bishop Dena Harrison, Bishop Jeff Fisher, The Quin Foundation, the Protestant Episcopal Church Council, and the Commission on Black Ministry. A proclamation from the Texas Senate as well as, congratulatory statements from the Texas House of Representatives and the City of Houston Police Department was represented in the journal.


The Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee presented the Rev. Thomas with a U. S. Congressional Proclamation after calling to the stage all veterans (and there were about 30) to present the American Flag, that had been flown over the Capital in Washington, D. C. in honor of the church’s anniversary. 


There were 18 members who achieved 50 years or more of committed service and they were acknowledged.  Special honors were given to two life-long members, Bettye White (who held many capacities – vestry member, financial secretary, choir, and historian), and Louise Chapple (who has been a stalwart with the Altar Guild for nearly 45 years, and is now its Directress)   (picture and/or picture of group)


Music was provided by the church’s Contemporary Jazz Ensemble throughout the event and everyone enjoyed the elegant sounds. A picture slideshow and video of members’ testimonies was viewed during the dinner. The evening included a silent auction and a spirited live auction.  Fabulous trips, catered dinner parties, and other items were auctioned off in a bidding frenzy. Funds raised from this celebration will be used to forward the programs and ministries of the church.


Through the generosity of sponsors, members and friends, the celebration of this 75th anniversary is an expression of an enduring commitment to the church’s mission of providing enlightenment and hope to its members and others.


Bishop Isaac closed the event with a solemn benediction, and Thomas summed up the event with these words, “Praise God for St. James’ and congratulations to our parish for 75 amazing years of ministry. This is a time of celebration, thanksgiving, and joyful remembrance of how St. James’ has blazed a trail in the city of Houston and in the Diocese of Texas”.