Who We Are
A Brief History
St. James was founded in 1844 as the first Episcopal Church in Baton Rouge, and the fourth in Louisiana. We've always been on Fourth Street, although the street was at one time called Church Street. The first church was a white frame building, seen in this photo to the left of the Easter parade lined up in front of the old rectory.
Our Gothic revival church at the corner of Fourth and Convention was built in 1894 and is a landmark in Baton Rouge. Designed in the traditional cruciform style with an eastward altar, the red brick with red-tinged mortar is a classic look; the interior is a stunning array of mahogany beams and buttresses. The altar is surrounded by three Tiffany windows; the life of Christ is portrayed in stained glass windows surrounding the nave and narthex.*
While we've always been in the same place, St. James is a church on the move! It's a place to grow spiritually, a place to make new friends, a place to serve God with your own special talents. For over 150 years, St. James has continued its mission of service to members of the parish and the greater community of our neighborhood, the city and the world.
A Tradition of Service and Excellence
The St. James Episcopal Day School was begun in 1950. Our students from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade comfortably explore new concepts and share their ideas in classrooms that are warm, nurturing, Christian communities for learning. Teachers encourage even the youngest students to "learn by doing." Because each student develops and matures at their own pace, the teachers encourage each child to reach his/her potential with careful consideration being given to individual learning styles. Along with the academic curriculum the students are taught respect, responsibility, and values that are essential in helping the students become global citizens in the 21st century. In 2009, the St. James Episcopal Day School was the only private elementary school in Louisiana recognized as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. Extended daycare is provided until 5:30 p.m.
The Episcopal School of Baton Rouge grew out of St. James Day School. Fifty acres of land was acquired in 1966 in eastern Baton Rouge for what was originally a middle/high school. Today Episcopal School is a premier private coeducational institution.
A Tradition of Outreach
In January 1983, the first residents moved into St. James Place, a full service continuing care retirement community. Two former rectors of St. James, the Rt. Rev. Robert Witcher and the Rt. Rev. James Coleman, nurtured the idea for St. James Place.
St. James Episcopal Church had the vision to expand its ministry beyond downtown. It founded or assisted in starting four Episcopal churches in Baton Rouge: St. Michael's, Trinity, St. Augustine's and St. Luke's. St. James' initiative also resulted in the Episcopal Student Center, St. Alban's Episcopal Chapel, on the campus of LSU at the corner of Dalrymple and Highland Roads.
St. James Center for Spiritual Formation offers training to lay persons in the three sides of faithful life: spirituality, knowledge and action. Persons of various religious traditions are welcome to participate in the enriching programs offered by The Center, providing "food for the journey."
*An excellent source for the researched historical information of St. James Episcopal Church is Edward L. Bond's book published during our sesquicentennial year, "St. James Episcopal Church, Baton Rouge: A history, 1844-1994." Copies are available from St. James Episcopal Church.
More . . .
The Very Rev. J. Mark Holland was installed as the 23rd rector of St. James Episcopal Church in 2003. He thanks his wife, Liz, for introducing him to the Episcopal Church. A graduate of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, Mark earned his undergraduate degree from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, and then worked in the oil industry before discerning his call to the priesthood.
Liz and Mark are the parents of three children: son Christian earned his degree in Economics at LSU and now works in banking in New Orleans; daughter Micaela earned her finance degree at Tulane and is in her final year of the 4+1 accounting program, there; and daughter Mallory is thriving at Episcopal School.
Fr. Mark says baptizing babies brings him his greatest joy as a priest. He keeps pictures of all the people he's baptized under glass on his desk. (He's gonna need a bigger desk, soon!)
You'll nearly always find Fr. Mark in cowboy boots; most of the time in his priestly collar and, if in his car, with Handel's "Messiah" blaring. Otherwise, he may be wearing a bandana on his head looking as if he's hoping to get on a Harley-Davidson, all the while singing, from memory, the entire rendition of Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant."
The Rev. John Miller joined the staff of St. James in August, 2006 following service as curate of St. James Episcopal Church, Alexandria, LA. He serves as Associate Rector and Assistant Head of the St. James Episcopal Day School.
A native of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Fr. Miller graduated from McNeese State University in 1987 with a degree in civil engineering. He worked in a family construction business from 1987 until 2001. John's wife, Celene Milburn Miller, introduced him to the Episcopal Church while they dated in high school, and they were married at Good Shepherd Church, Lake Charles, in 1987. (Watch out for those Episcopalian girls -- we're two-for-two, here!)
John attended The University of the South (Sewanee), graduating in 2004 with a Master of Divinity degree. He was ordained to the priesthood on April 2, 2005 in the Diocese of Western Louisiana.
John and Celene have three children: a son, Cameron; and, daughters, McKenzie and Isabella. Celene was graduated from LSU with a degree in zoology and received her medical technologist license in 1987.
John has an infectious grin that might leave you wondering whether he's counseling the young Day School student on the road to righteousness, or in perfecting the ideal spitball technique!
Raised as a Methodist in a small East Texas town near Tyler, Mary Ann fell in love with the liturgy and practice of the Episcopal Church while in high school. She graduated from the Univ. of Texas - Austin in 1976 with a degree in Spanish Literature. After receiving her teaching credentials from The University of North Texas she taught high school in Texas cities near the Mexican border.
Mary Ann completed Education for Ministry (EfM) studies and received a Master of Arts in Religious Studies from The University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio before entering Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, graduating in 2002 with a Master of Divinity degree.
Following graduation she accepted a call to Oaxaca, Mexico, where she started an English congregation, Holy Trinity Church. She was ordained to the diaconate in Chicago, IL in 2004 and to the priesthood in 2005 in the Diocese of South East Mexico. Along with a retired priest, Mtr. Mary Ann began another mission in the neighboring state of Chiapas. A small church was built there with the help of two mission trip teams from St. James, Baton Rouge!
She wed William (Bill) Ashby 2002. His love is the rebuilding of old houses.
Mary Ann+ recently gave the whole of St. James parish a mighty lesson in prayer, love, support and miracles, when her nauseating headache turned out to indicate the presence of brain aneurysms. Mary Ann has not only survived, but thrived through emergency and reparative surgeries, and continues to impress the medical professionals and all those around her with her recovery! We are very thankful for her presence among us.
The Rev. Alina Williams, a native Texan, and cradle Episcopalian, arrived in Baton Rouge in June 2009, immediately after graduating from seminary, getting married and honeymooning in Napa, California. She met her husband at SMU's Perkins School of Theology, where they both obtained Masters of Divinity degrees in May 2009. Although she attended SMU, Mtr. Alina's loyalties lie with her alma mater, TCU. Alina+ was ordained in December 2011 as a transitional deacon, and in June 2012 as a priest.
Alina+ works with the Youth and Young Adults of St. James, focusing on worship, spirituality, service and fellowship.
She and her husband, Jared, enjoy weekly outings to the bowling alley, as well as spending time with their daughter, Palmer, and their two boxers. Jared serves as United Methodist elder at Carpenter's Chapel UMC in Prairieville. They hope that Palmer will grow up to be a Christ-centered, faithful young woman, who also loves to bowl!