St. James Episcopal Turns 50

St. James Episcopal Turns 50

Potomac Church on Seven Locks Road travels the “Via Media” or Middle Way.

— It’s been a busy time at St. James Episcopal Church in Potomac; the Fall Rummage Sale takes place Friday-Saturday, Oct. 4-5, 2013, the Blessing of the Animals is on Oct. 6, 2013, at 5 p.m., and the church just celebrated its 50th anniversary on Sept. 21 and 22 with a family dinner and concert by Jason Gray.

St. James Rummage Sale

St. James Episcopal will hold a rummage sale Friday, Oct. 4 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 5 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will include clothing, linens, jewelry, collectibles, books, kitchenware, household items, toys, tools, baby gear, bicycles and sports equipment. Whatever is left over from the Rummage Sale will go to Interfaith Works, which supports the unemployed and homeless. Families recently collected school supplies and filled about 50 backpacks for its Backpack Project, which are also distributed to Interfaith Works.

St. James was founded in July 28, 1963, when nine families met at Green Acres School. They branched off from mother congregation, St. John’s Episcopal Church – Norwood Parish in Bethesda/Chevy Chase, in southern Montgomery County. In 1966, ground was broken at 11815 Seven Locks Road, with the Rev. David C. Lord as its first rector; he stayed until 1979. The second rector was the Rev. Robert S. Creamer Jr. until 1992. The third rector was the Rev. James Rains who stayed until 1998. The fourth and current rector, Cindy Baskin, joined in 1999.

Fifty years ago there weren’t as many two-income families where both parents worked, said Baskin. On Sundays, stores weren’t opened; there weren’t sports games or band practices. “There was a time when the culture supported church stuff,” said Baskin, the rector for 14 years, who guides a staff of mostly volunteers and oversees an operating budget $700,000.

“It’s a lot harder to do church now, than it was 50 years ago,” said the Minneapolis native. “Because 50 years ago everybody went to church …. Now the people who are here come to church to get a deeper relationship with God and to get a deeper sense of themselves.”

Today, St. James is a worship-centered denomination — focusing on liturgy, contemporary music and blended services for its 350 members. They meet on “Religion Row” — alongside Beth Shalom Synagogue, Seven Locks Baptist, and Geneva United Presbyterian. The “Pot-Rock” group as she calls them, is more derived from Rockville than Potomac — with a mix of Caucasian, European, Philippine, and African Americans.

Children’s School Turns 20

St. James is also celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Children’s School on Friday, Oct. 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. with a silent auction and raffle, and catering by Ridgewells. It will include a DJ dance party for ages 7-17-plus; and The Great Zucchini for children. RSVP to 301-762-3246 or schoolstjames@com....

According to Baskin, her No. 1 mission is: “We try and provide meaningful worship where people can hear the word of God and how it relates to their life. Are the Bible stories written 2,000 years ago still relevant? I think so.”

Three services are offered on Sunday: 8:15 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 5:30 p.m.; and Christian Education for adults at 9:15 a.m. There’s a Children’s Arts Program at 9:15 a.m. for fifth-grade down. A Youth Group meets Sundays 6-8 p.m. for high school and middle school ages. Also have adult education at 9:15 a.m.

The Christian Education classes for children and adults offer a number of outreach ministries. In 2014, the Youth Mission Trip will take students in grades 9-12 to Puerto Rico for a week to repair and build houses.

The church is known for its Christmas Pageant and Feast of Light — celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6. In the spring, it offers a six-week Spring on Earth Stewardship with six events focusing on biodiversity, water, climate change.

The church also rents its building out on weekdays to Celebrate Ability, an after-school program for autistic children. It also rents out to eight, 12-Step programs — like AA and Food Anonymous. A Bridge Club of 100 seniors meets four days a week from 11-3 p.m. to play bridge.

“This is a win-win. It gives them a place that’s convenient, it helps us financially,” said Baskin.

Children’s School

The St. James Children’s School caters to 90 children, ages 6 weeks to 6 years old, including a full kindergarten, five days a week, from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The staff of 32 teachers (18 full-time, 12 part-time) is guided by Director MaryLou English, who has been there from the start. “I think we’re able to have a warm, loving atmosphere with creative activities for children,” said English, married 43 years to artist husband Craig.

The academics, which includes conversational Spanish, begins at age 3. Children can also take piano lessons, Tumble Bus (gymnastics), and soccer lessons. Upstairs is a martial arts (karate) business that rents space and offers lessons.

“We’re able to give a one-on-one atmosphere where they feel loved and appreciated,” English said. “We’re able to give attention where the children need it.”

Baskin calls church members “mainstream,” serving both liberals and conservative — theologically and politically. “The Scriptures don’t come out with who you should vote for in a presidential election,” she said. “They’re not going to hear from me, here’s how you should believe on social issues like abortion, same-sex marriage or capital punishment.”

For those discussions, St. James offers “Contemporary Issues and the Gospel,” on Sundays, tackling current topics. “It’s designed to encourage people to reflect on their own spiritual journey to help interpret what’s going on in the world.”

She added: “We believe God gives people brains to think with,” she said. “We welcome questions. And the Episcopal Church recognizes there are often a lot of shades of gray.” Episcopals are more comfortable in recognizing that the world is more complex, what she calls “Via Media” or the Middle Way – where absolute clarity is not always easy to discern.

Church member Holly Winzler agreed. She likes that St. James offers opportunities to participate and serve on many different levels. “To have opportunities to serve, in social justice capacities and Christian education …. learning about the different ministries, volunteering, becoming more aware and exploring the ‘Via Media.’”

Church members also minister by offering financial help to people in Bon Samaritain and L’Acul, Haiti, where they build wells and support the school lunch program. And St. James works with St. John’s Church in Connecticut, which sends its volunteers to Haiti.

There’s also a Prison Aftercare Ministry at the Detention Center on Seven Locks Road, which used to be a major outreach with volunteers ministering to inmates to help cut down on recidivism, but that program has since moved out to Clarksburg.