The following is taken from “Becoming the Diocese of Olympia”, compiled by Diane Wells, Diocesan Archivist
In 1890, St. David’s Episcopal Church was started in what is now Sedro-Woolley under the direction of the Rev. Philip Oxnam. The congregation met in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in the town of Sedro. The Rev. L.W. Applegate served St. David’s and St. James in Fairhaven from 1890 to 1893. The Rev. Henry Badger served from 1893-94.
In 1898, Sedro and Woolley were consolidated into one town. Between 1894 and 1918, the church was served by the Revs. Sutton, Barnes and Buzzell. During that era, the name of the church was changed to St. James and in 1907 the present building was built.
The Rev. Leslie Rolls served from 1918 to 1923. He was followed by the Rev. W.B. Turrill.
In 1926, the Rev. Walter Horn began the longest tenure of any priest at St. James. During his ten years as vicar attendance grew, dances were held in the basement of the church, and St. James, with its covering of ivy, was “the” church in town.
Following this period, the congregation was served by the Rev. C.H. Boddington, a missionary from Japan. He was at St. James less than a year when he was recalled to Japan prior to the war, and the church was forced to close its doors. From 1937 through 1941, parishioners from St. James attended St. Paul’s in Mount Vernon.
The church reopened at the end of 1941, with the congregation meeting in the room in which the organ pipes are now housed! For four and a half years, the Rev. O.D. Smith served Mount Vernon, Anacortes and Sedro-Woolley during the school year. During the summer months, these churches were closed while Smith went to Orcas Island to conduct services. From 1946-1951, the Rev. William Forbes served the three churches. He took over Mount Vernon exclusively when it became able to support a full time priest.
The next priest, the Rev. Chester Falby, worked hard in his one and a half years to get the Sedro-Woolley congregation to be self-supporting, but the money did not materialize. The next several years were “fun” times, especially for the young people, under the leadership of Rev. Glion Benson, who served until 1956. Fr. Forbes then returned to Sedro-Woolley, staying until 1959.
The Rev. Edward Caldwell filled the pulpit from 1959-63. Coming from New York, he brought a different culture to the church. Beginning in 1963, the Rev. George Foster Pratt drove down each Sunday from Canada where he ministered to prisoners and groups of alcoholics.
The next priest was the Rev. Johannes G.J. van Moort, who stayed for one year. In the fall of 1968, the Rev. Arthur Val Spinosa began his term serving Anacortes, the up-river missions and Sedro-Woolley. Six months after he began his ministries, he suffered a fatal heart attack. Grieving Fr. Spinosa’s sudden death, the church welcomed the Rev. William Copeland in October 1969.
The next priest, the Rev. James E. Price, came from Snohomish. The Rev. Homer Smith took over in mid-1974. When he announced his departure in early 1978, the congregation attempted unsuccessfully to achieve parish status. In May 1979, the church enticed the Rev. David Close to St. James to become its very own priest. In 1979, pledges rose to $32,077. Over the following seven years, pledges remained in the $40-$46,000 range. A newly converted office and classroom annex was named “Parker House” in honor of the years of service donated by Bob and Mae Parker.
In 1999, the Bishop’s Committee of St. James voted to become part of the Komo Kulshan Cluster, a collaboration among Episcopal and Lutheran churches in the Skagit Valley. St. James is joined by four other congregations in the Cluster: Celebration Lutheran, Anacortes; Christ Church, Anacortes; La Iglesia Episcopal de la Resurreccion, Mt. Vernon and St. Paul’s, Mt. Vernon. Each congregation reflects a distinct identity and mission all the while learning with and from each other and enlarging the scope of resources and activities available to all five congregations.
In 2010 a structural analysis of the church was conducted. At that time the recommendation was to vacate the building until its safety and stability could be evaluated further. Regrettably, the final assessment was made to condemn the building and relocate the congregation. The congregation is now worshipping at the Central United Methodist Church. The congregation holds fast to the knowledge that people rather than buildings constitute the church. They are “small, but mighty” and look forward to the future with the conviction that St. James will continue to spread the Gospel in the Skagit Valley as it has done for over a century.