BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A historic Baltimore church celebrates 190 years of serving the community.

Monique Griego has more on the legacy of St. James Episcopal Church.

A celebration of a legendary legacy. Saturday morning, the congregation of St. James Episcopal Church gathered at the New Shiloh Family Life Center in West Baltimore to honor the church’s 190th year of serving the community.

“We have been through a lot, but we have survived in a marvelous way. We deserve the celebration,” said church member Charlene Griffin.

The church, which has been housed on West Lafayette Avenue since the 1930s, is the oldest African-American congregation in Maryland and south of the Mason-Dixon line.

“St. James was founded during slavery in Baltimore City. It was a congregation in existence made up of free slaves,” said Rev. Dr. Allen Robinson, rector of St. James Church.

The church has always stood in some of Baltimore City’s most depressed neighborhoods. During its nearly 200 year lifespan, it’s helped the community through many struggles.

“Our people saw the Emancipation Proclamation, World War I, World War II, all the wars, the Civil Rights era,” Robinson said.

For many, the celebration is also about engaging a new generation of the church.

“We wouldn’t have been able to sustain ourselves for 190 years if it was not that we were passing this on to the next generation and so forth,” said church member Helen Griffin-Anderson.

Ninety-four-year-old Erla McKinnon joined the church 60 years ago.

“We’re always bringing young people along, and that’s what’s so important,” she said.

It’s that sense of community and willingness to help that keeps the church’s spirit alive.

St. James is the third oldest African-American congregation in the U.S.

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