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Baltimore Church Celebrates Almost 200 Years, Focuses On Future

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Nearly 200 years of history is being celebrated at one Baltimore City church. The congregation was founded back in 1824 by free African-Americans.

Gigi Barnett reports members say they’re now focused on the future of Saint James Episcopal Church.

Nearly two centuries of the past and present collide at one of Baltimore’s oldest African-American congregations. St. James is the third-oldest African-American Episcopal church in the country, and this week, members say it’s time to celebrate.

“It’s been just a joy and privilege to, in some small way, to participate in the growth and stability of this community,” said St. James Episcopal Pastor Rev. Dr. Allen Robinson.

The church opened its doors in 1824 by Rev. William Levington. It started with one service, a day school and Sunday school. Slavery was in full effect.

“The idea that a freeman came out and established a church–had the nerve and the audacity to do it–and then for it to last 190 years. There are marriages that don’t last a year,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings. “I mean, think about it.”

Years later, in 1932, the congregation moved to its current location in the city’s Lafayette Square neighborhood.

“I joined this church when I was five years old,” said Ruth Fauntleroy. “So that shows you. I’ve been here forever.”

This year, Fauntleroy turns 90. She says what’s kept her at St. James for so long is that the members focus on feeding the hungry and helping the homeless.

“As long as they band together and as long as they love together, I think the church will survive,” she said.

The pastor says that’s the message for the next two centuries.

“Oh, I think the future looks bright,” Robinson said. “The scripture tells us that with God all things are possible. And as long as we keep that in front of us and ever before us in all that we do, I think St. James has a glorious and an illustrious future ahead of itself.”

If you’d like to learn more on the storied past of St. James Episcopal Church, there’s a display at the Enoch Pratt Free Library going on right now on the church’s history.

St. James hosted a community picnic after its service to celebrate.

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