From its inception, Saint James has been blessed to be a blessing. The first pastor of Saint James, Carl F. Bolle, arrived in February, 1928, to begin the work of organizing a congregation in a basement church at the corner of Cherokee and Annapolis Streets. On April 28, 1928, Saint James was formally organized as a congregation of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and a daughter congregation of Emanuel Lutheran Church. Its membership was 27 communicant members. A month later, a Ladies’ Guild was organized with 18 members.
In 1938, Saint James was blessed with sufficient resources to pay off the mortgage on the basement, and it became a self-supporting congregation. Saint James secured the kasota stone for its exterior from the ruins of the St. Paul Court House which had been located on Wabasha Street. The stone was stored on the church’s property for ten years awaiting its use in construction. In 1940, a building committee was formed to plan for the church’s superstructure.
Construction began in the fall of 1941. In May, 1942, the congregation moved its services to Sibley Junior High School (now Heritage Middle School). For 15 months, it worshiped there, while construction continued. In October, 1941, the corner stone was laid at a service in which the sermon was preached by Pastor G.A. Ernst, of Emanuel Lutheran Church. On August 22, 1943, the new sanctuary was dedicated to the glory and service of God.
The Priscillas, a service group of ladies who met in the evenings, was organized in 1949. A second worship service was added in 1951 to accommodate increasing church attendance and, in 1953, a fund drive was undertaken to expand the facilities. At the same time it was decided to build a parsonage at the corner of Cherokee Avenue and Annapolis Street in St. Paul.
The Altar Guild was organized in 1955. The next year the new educational wing and parsonage were dedicated. When Saint Croix Lutheran High School was organized in 1958, its first classes were held at Saint James. Classes were held at Saint James from 1958 to 1960, until the high school moved into its own building on Crusader Avenue in W. St. Paul.
Vicars served the congregation when Pastor Bolle was the only pastor. Jerome Kingsbury (1956-57)and Julius Young (1957-1959) were succeeded by Burton E. Stensberg (1959-1960), Helmut Flegel (1960-1961), and Richard Weeks (1962-1963). In 1963, Alfred Pieper was called to serve as a full time Education and Youth Director. For five years he faithfully served the congregation and its youth, before resigning to teach full-time in the public school system.
For forty years, Pastor Bolle was the only pastor at Saint James. In 1968, the congregation called Iver C. Johnson from Bethany Lutheran College, and he was installed as the second pastor of Saint James on Thanksgiving Day of that year. Marc Schroeder served the congregation as a vicar in 1974-1975, after which the congregation decided to call another pastor to work especially with youth and evangelism. In 1975, Richard Stadler was called to join the ministerial team from a mission congregation in Nashville, Tennessee. He was installed on October 19, 1975.
In the late 1980’s, Pastor Bolle fully retired. Pastor Johnson entered partial retirement in 1989, and Pastor Stadler was called to serve as Senior Administrative Pastor of the congregation, a position he held until September 1, 2013, when he moved into partial retirement and accepted a Call to teach a Sunday morning Bible class and conduct and preach for the Monday Evening SonRise Worship services and help out in other ways as needed by the full time pastors. He was installed into that part-time service on September 1, 2013, the same day that Pastor Albrecht was installed to be the new “Lead Pastor” of Saint James.
Pastor Albrecht had been called in 1990 from a mission congregation of the Wisconsin Synod in Houston, Texas. He accepted the Call to join the ministerial team as associate pastor and was installed on September 9, 1990.
Throughout its life, Saint James has been blessed with talented organists and choir directors, musicians and youth workers. Currently, Thomas Rowland serves as organist, senior choir director and music program coordinator. Winifred Farley directs a junior and a senior handbell choir and accompanies the women’s ensemble and other groups.
In the fall of 1994, Siri Johnson became the congregation’s part-time youth worker. She continued in that position for eight years.
The congregation has also been blessed with dedicated office staff over the years. Vera Zimmerman began in 1953 and served in the office for over 25 years before retiring. Marlene Schindeldecker was then hired as Administrative Assistant to usher Saint James into the computer age. Marlene retired in 1997 after 11 years of dedicated service. Marcia Grafft also worked in the office. Betty Achterberg and her daughter Heather Olson shared the position of Administrative Assistant during the 1998 church expansion project as they labored in the midst of noise, relocations, dust and debris. After them, Paula Goetzke and Virginia Genz shared the oversight of the office as Administrative Assistants, and now Heather Wald keeps the office running smoothly.
In 1995, the congregation was suspended from membership in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, because it would not endorse the synod’s adopted position on the roles of men and women. For over ten years, the congregation’s pastors, elders and members had communicated their concerns to the synod through all appropriate channels regarding its published statements about the roles of men and women. The congregation simply could not endorse the claim that God had established at creation a moral law by which men were created to be the “heads” of women and women were created to be “submissive” to men. Since June 4, 1995, Saint James has been an independent evangelical Lutheran congregation, not associated with any synod.
Saint James continues to support Saint Croix Lutheran High School and remains committed to supporting Christian education on every level. It is also committed to Christian mission work locally and throughout the world. Each year, at its budget meeting, Saint James commits itself to supporting over a dozen missions worldwide.
The 1998 Expansion Program made the entire facility handicap accessible. Off-street parking, new classrooms, an elevator, a ramp and handicap-accessible restrooms were all included in the expansion.
After Pastor Johnson’s full retirement in 1996, the congregation decided to engage a part-time, interim visitation pastor and, in 1998, called Ralph Rokke to assume those duties. In 1999, Saint James called Pastor Rokke to become the third full time pastor at Saint James, especially concentrating his efforts among the elderly and in the area of stewardship. He was installed on July 23, 2000.
Saint James has always had a heart for its youth and their development. In 2001, the congregation called Troy Miller to serve as a full time youth director. After working with the youth and families of Saint James for 18 months, Troy accepted a call to serve as youth director at St. John’s Lutheran Church, in Austin, Minnesota. Pastor Stadler shepherded the youth program until the congregation called Fawn Fosterling to be its full time youth director. When Fawn resigned in July, 2006, Pastor Stadler again shepherded the youth program until the congregation engaged Terese Thune in January, 2008, to serve as its interim part-time youth director. The congregation called Terese to serve as the full time Youth Director of Saint James. She accepted the Call and was installed in that position on May 14, 2010.
In November 2014, Saint James called Pastor Dale Critchley to fill the gap left by Pastor Stadler’s partial retirement as third full time pastor. Pastor Dale focuses primarily on youth & family ministry and evangelism and also serves as webmaster.
Many members have contributed positively to the spiritual life at Saint James in a wide variety of ways. As Saint James carries on the Lord’s work in the 21st century, its members look back with gratitude on all the ways God has blessed them. They also look forward to all the opportunities God will grant them in the future to be a blessing to each other, to His Church and to His world.