Memories from the pews

January 06, 2001

Young Chang

Jim Dale's grandmother, Margaret Frick, taught him how to kneel on the

kneelers at St. James Episcopal Church when he was a little boy.

She taught him how to pull out the padded rests from the bottom, when

to kneel and what it means to pray with reverence. She held his hand as

they walked up to take communion and gave him a prayer book when he was

9. It was one of the nicest gifts Dale ever received, he said.


Sunday, he will sit in the pews at St. James and remember the feel of

the padded kneelers, the skin of his grandmother's hands and how she

talked to the priests even outside the church doors, for the last time.

The 54-year-old redbrick building, located at Via Lido and Lafayette

Avenue, will be deconsecrated at a 5 p.m. ceremony Sunday.

By next Christmas, the city's first Episcopalian church will be torn

down and replaced with a larger facility to accommodate the growing

parish, which has now reached 560 families. The building now fits only

about 300.

The project is part of a larger remodeling of the parish's buildings,

which include a new hall, day school and administration building that

opened four years ago. The congregation has grown about 20% since these

buildings opened, leaving little room for new parishioners, especially

the children.

The new church will cost about $3.4 million, but about $1.8 million

has already been raised, church leaders said. Congregants will attend

services at what used to be a bank across the street until the new church

is built.

For Dale, 50, this means the end of a lifelong tradition but the

beginning of a fresh batch of memories.

As a young boy living in Beverly Hills, he visited Frick every summer

in Newport Beach and attended St. James on the weekends. Now a local

resident, he has been an active member of the church since 1976.

Cousins were baptized there and late grandparents were given their

memorial services in the nave, including Frick.

"The life of the church at St. James has been profoundly impactful on

my life," he said. "I can picture and visualize so many things."

Betsy Shelton, a Newport Beach resident and member of St. James for

four years, remembers one particular service about the Holy Eucharist a

year ago. The message moved her.

"It just really took it to a more personal level," Shelton said. "I

really felt that I truly was in the presence of the Lord, at his table,

rather than just going through a particular liturgy and type of service."

When she thinks of St. James, she also smells the ocean. The church,

which Shelton describes as an "elegant, classic lady," is a bit musty at

times, with the smell of sea breeze flowing through the windows.

"So it just has a really comfortable feeling to it," she said.

For Dale, the church has the fragrance of incense.

"When we pray, the prayers are lifted to God in a sense," he said.

"The incense fills the church, and these are lasting memories for me."


WHAT: St. James Episcopal Church deconsecration

WHEN: 5 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: St. James, 3209 Via Lido, Newport Beach

CALL: (949) 675-0210

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