When the parish began in 1906, parishioners gathered in a room above a dance hall at 38th and Woodland. The first church building, a small frame structure, was built at 40th and Tracy in 1906, and enlarged in 1907. A year later, ground at 39th and Harrison was purchased as the site for the permanent church. Monseigneur Keyes obtained native limestone from the site of a bridge intended to span the Missouri River. The bridge was never erected. Instead, the stones were used in building the church. Construction began in 1911 and was completed in 1912.
As St. James celebrated its Centennial in 2006, the story of the stones took on a special meaning. Located today in the heart of Kansas City, the parish is challenged to be “The Bridge Church of Midtown”. It is our mission to be a bridge in an area that has suffered multiple divisions and dislocations over the years. While racial prejudice and economic disparity have defined the once-thriving Troost corridor as a dividing line, our faith community includes a broad spectrum of racial, ethnic, age, gender and income diversity that mirrors the global church. Our outreach reflects many creative bridging opportunities.
St. James has become a bridge in the neighborhood by belonging to Troost Alliance, supporting food programs at Bishop Sullivan Center and clothing programs at Troost39 Thrift Store, donating to Journey to New Life (a program for people exiting prison), offering hospitality through Bus Stop Ministry, arranging legal support for immigrants, growing a Community Garden, and creating a vibrant music ministry. We also have expanded our bridge to other countries. We partner with Manos Amigas, an outreach program for those living at the border in Mexico; and we participate in educational support to students in West Africa. There are many other ways each parish member is encouraged to be a bridge far and near.
Artwork: St. James, the Bridge Church of Midtown” as rendered by Chris Damico in wood. A gift of the artist.