Saint James’ Episcopal Church: Who We Are
Saint James’ Episcopal Church is a caring, committed congregation of believers in Jesus Christ that faithfully upholds a tradition that dates back to 1830. Our love of God inspires us to warmly receive all His people at our sacred place of worship and to reach out into our beautiful Finger Lakes community.
The recent retirement of our priest after 10 years brings us to a cross-roads discerning God's future among us. As we search for a new rector, we are grateful for the past as we build toward what God is calling us. We are eager to expand our Christian ministry in new ways, especially in our outreach to youth, millennials and young families.
Our Seneca Lake community is showing fresh signs of promise. Watkins Glen has long-established tourist draws of Seneca Lake, the dramatic gorge at Watkins Glen State Park and a world renown auto-racing program. Furthermore, in recent years, the spectacular growth of the local wine industry has driven a new spike in tourism. We hope God will lead us to a rector for St. James’ who can help us tap into these new and old currents of energy in creative ways. That may well involve social media and other non-traditional methods of reaching younger people at their points of interest.
What We Seek in a Rector
We are looking for a spiritual leader and shepherd. He or she will guide us in defining our spiritual paths in the context of the basic tenants of our Episcopal faith, as expressed in the Nicene Creed and the Book of Common Prayer. To be relevant, this spiritual quest must actively engage with current social and political issues.
We seek a rector who genuinely likes people and has a energetic, outgoing personality. These characteristics will be significant in reaching out to those who wouldn’t normally be expected to walk uninvited through our doors to worship on Sunday morning. Our new rector will lead us in new initiatives to meet people where they are, whether they are farmers, sailors, gorge visitors, bikers, car race fans or other guests at local hotels and B&Bs.
We expect our rector to be a true “unifier,” one who openly welcomes everyone into our church. We do not have litmus tests, whether political, social, economic, sexual or doctrinal. We believe it is our calling to reach out all people, including LBGT (gays, lesbian, bisexual or transgender), divorced or any other person who has endured exclusion in society or church.
Our rector should be highly responsive to the needs of our parishioners, most of whom are seniors. He or she will be deeply committed to visitation. That high level of involvement should include reaching out to those in crisis, to the sick and to shut-ins. It may involve providing them communion. The rector also should be enthusiastically involved both with active worshipers and with those who are on the church roll but rarely or never attend services.
Our recently departed rector was active in the local Chamber of Commerce, Habitat for Humanity and the Community Dispute Resolution Center, among other groups. These types of roles raise the church’s visibility in the community and are much encouraged.
Our Parish Personality
We are an authentic, warm, friendly group without significant division or tensions. We are close-knit.
We openly welcome visitors, whether they be tourists likely to be one-time guests or prospective new members. We are particularly eager to invite and encourage families with children to join us. We invite all who attend our regular 10:45 Sunday service to join us for coffee and snacks in the adjoining parish hall, and many visitors take us up on it.
We are a generous group — generous of treasure, time and talents. We pitch in for various church projects, ranging from fund-raising dinners to group cleanups to church bazaars. Also, we actively support each other outside the church.
We have two highly competent wardens and a committed vestry, who are eager to begin working closely with the new rector in growing the church.
We are closely affiliated with two other Schuyler County organizations: St. John’s Episcopal Church in Catharine, about 7.5 miles to the southeast of St. James’, and to St. Paul’s Episcopal Mission in Montour Falls, about 4 miles to the south. St. John’s conducts regular Sunday worship services, while St. Paul’s does not.
Certain Duties of the Rector
- Help us discern, develop, and implement a vision to connect with new and old missional energies in this burgeoning region of tourist presence and activity.
- Conduct Sunday morning services at both St. James’ in Watkins Glen and St. John’s in Catharine. The two churches often hold joint services, typically once per month at alternating sanctuaries. We also hold special services on Ash Wednesday, Holy Week (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil) and Christmas Eve.
- Schedule daily prayer, Bible study sessions and Christian education programs in accordance with the wishes of parishioners of both congregations.
- Produce the weekly bulletins for worship and a monthly parish newsletter (with the assistance of office administrator Beth Palmer Vann).
- Help coordinate hymns and occasional guest music for weekly services with organists Richard Prochazka and Beth Palmer Vann.
Other Details about St. James’
- History. Our congregation first gathered in Watkins Glen in 1830. As the Erie Canal opened up and linked to several of the Finger Lakes, new boat traffic on Seneca Lake spurred growth in Watkins Glen. St. James’ Episcopal built its existing sanctuary during the Civil War. It was the town’s first brick church. Its early leaders had ties to the Schuylers, a politically connected family in Albany during the American Revolutionary War. For details, see here.
- Leadership, Programs, Organization. Father Michael Hartney retired as our rector on April 30, 2016. Mother Sandra Curtis of Hammondsport is serving very capably as our interim priest during our selection process. For details about our wardens and vestry, our Tower Fund, our outreach ministries, see here.
- Financials. For details about giving and expenses for St. James’, St. John’s and St. Paul’s, see here.
- Community and Diocese. Schuyler County’s economy is driven largely by tourism. The gorge at Watkins Glen State Park attracted some 800,000 visitors in 2015. Seneca Lake attracts boaters, swimmers and fishermen. The race track, Watkins Glen International, was voted best NASCAR track in the country last year by USA Today readers. This year, in addition to a major NASCAR race, Formula I racing is returning after an absence of many years. For details on the local attractions and county demographic data, see here.