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St. James Presbyterian Church History

Saint James Presbyterian Church was officially chartered on August 27, 1989, and we recently celebrated 30 years together. St. James was planted as a new church development by the Presbytery of Carlisle, with support from the Synod of the Trinity and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). It was hoped that St. James would be a regional church serving the rapidly growing Hampden Township area as well as adjacent communities, as it is readily accessible by roads and highways on the East and West Shores of the Susquehanna River.

The new church development called Claude G. Hughes to be the Organizing Pastor in 1986. The name “St. James Presbyterian Church” and the Bible verse that was associated with this name – James 1:22 – “Do not merely listen to the word… do what it says” – was selected by lot, yes picked out of a hat where it had been placed with four other name/verse combinations. A focus on mission has since been important to the congregation and is expressed in many different forms.

In our formative state the church had a Steering Committee made up of members of several other Presbyterian churches. Many charter members came from supporting congregations of Silver Spring, Mechanicsburg, Camp Hill, and Market Square Presbyterian Churches, and Christ Presbyterian Church, Camp Hill. The original congregation met in four locations, including the Dutch Pantry, American Legion, and Harrisburg Bridge Club in Camp Hill, and the Mount Zion Methodist Church in Hampden Township.

Organizing Pastor, Claude Hughes became ill and had to step down from his position in 1989. The late Rev. Ralph Snyder and the Rev. Myrtle McCall each served as temporary pastors until the Rev. James Reitz was called to serve as the pastor in January 1990.

Duering Rev. Reitz’s call, the building was expanded (discussed later). The congregation was known locally for its disaster-related mission work, with numerous week-long trips to areas affected by hurricanes or flooding beginning after Hurricane Andrew and continuing years later after Hurricane Katrina. During Rev. Reitz’s 2002 sabbatical, the church was led by the late Rev. Charles Idler. During leave from September 1 to December 3, 2011, with Executive Presbyter Mark Englund-Krieger served as acting Moderator and Rev. Kristal Smith serving as our Temporary Pastor. Rev. Reitz continued to serve the St. James congregation until February 2014 when he was called to another congregation.

The Session hired Rev. Jan Nolting Carter to serve as our Interim Pastor in April 2014. Rev. Carter served our congregation until April 2017. Under her leadership transparency at all levels and in all topics with a focus also on finance. We renewed a sense of mission identity through a series of leadership retreats and work through The Center in Baltimore, MD. Through study, deep conversation and retreats, the Session was abler to become a stronger leadership body. We changed worship to reflect a blending of both traditional and contemporary forms of worship as we moved to a single Sunday service.

In April 2017, the congregation voted to call the Rev. B. Ron Gilmer to be our pastor. Rev. Gilmer helped us to come to terms with the need to downsize our property in order to reduce our debt burdens. Property was then sold that allowed us to fully pay off our mortgage, Rev. Gilmer reported that he had accepted a call to another congregation and left as of November 30, 2018.

The Commission on Ministry appointed the Rev. Bill Beck to serve as our Moderator. On March 1, 2019, Rev. Bill Beck began to serve as our Temporary Part-time Pastor.

Rev. Roz Presby was called to be our interim pastor on September 1st, 2020. She served as a Part-Time Pastor from then until the hire of Rev. Anthony Saturno in October 2021.

On October 11th, 2021, Rev. Anthony Saturno began his call with St. James and is our current pastor today. His focus so far has been on rethinking mission and vision and strengthening the local impact of our church. This has also been a time of internal focus as we redefine our identity and what it means to be the church of God in 21st century.