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The spire of St James Church, Edinburgh Road. Photo: Bob McKillop

Each community group and organisation is founded on shared aspirations and beliefs and a common purpose. As each group interacts with the wider populace and other groups, it helps weave the rich fabric that makes a vibrant community tapestry. Accordingly even those who do not endorse every belief of another group have reason to celebrate its achievements as a contribution to the greater good of the community.

On Sunday 22 July, the congregation of St James Church welcomed all Castlecrag residents, via its new wheelchair accessible entrance, to celebrate the 60th (‘Diamond’) Anniversary of the first Church of England (now Anglican) service in Castlecrag. (A ‘church’ refers to a body of people professing the same Christian creed, not merely the edifice for public Christian worship.)

Originally in the Parish of St Thomas’, North Sydney, the Castlecrag area became the responsibility of St Stephen’s Willoughby, when that Church was founded. Archdeacon H S Begbie became Rector of St Stephen’s in 1921 and soon purchased land in Willoughby and Castlecrag. The Castlecrag site was on the corner of Edinburgh Road and The Parapet, but was subsequently sold when a new minister took over at St Stephen’s.

There were no services in Castlecrag until July 1947 when 16 people assembled at the home of Jack and Dorothy O’Connor. Worship at this venue continued for seven years. The name St James was chosen as younger brother of St John, the Willoughby sibling church. A Parents and Friends Association was also formed, making thousands of cakes and bottles of jam to raise funds for the Sunday School and proposed church building. By August 1949 a Building Fund was established and by April 1950 thanks to the generosity of Mr FW Turton, the rocky site on 184-186 Edinburgh Road was acquired.

On 24 July 1954, the lower church hall was opened and dedicated by Archbishop of Sydney and Primate of Australia, the Most Reverend H W K Mowll. This building served as a church, Sunday school and concert hall and centre of community activities. By 1956, the congregation had outgrown it and every Anglican family was approached for donations enabling a decision to build a new building and acquire adjoining land for a future church centre.

The present Church was designed by local architect John Brindley and features the acclaimed Bim Hilder foyer mural depicting scenes from Apostle James’ life. In November 1969 the Church Centre was dedicated by Bishop Hulme–Moir, a fitting climax to the work of Rev C E Reynolds, his planners and builders. The large debt incurred was repaid via musical comedies organized by Dorothy O’Connor with local youth, and Annual Art Shows organized by June and Barry Raymond. In 1987, St James Church was finally consecrated by the Bishop of North Sydney, the Right Rev D Cameron.

At the present, services are held at 8am each Sunday and the Sunday school has recently re-opened under the guidance of our youth worker Richard Sercombe. Bishop Peter Watson is the interim minister until Rev Robert Cameron arrives in February 2008.Each Christmas members carry out ‘Operation Caring Christmas’ delivering small cakes and similar ’goodies’ to residents who are unable to get out. If you would like to receive, or to give, please contact St James’ members.

Today, St James’ elegant design in light face-brick and stone tower topped by an unadorned wooden cross, floodlit at night, is a pleasing landmark and symbol of community cooperation that welcomes all. Please contact us on 9958 4377.

Bev Westwood and Esther Leslie, with Bruce Wilson