In 1871, just six years after the civil war, a small group made plans to build a church in the Varina area. They began holding meetings at what is now called St. James Hall. It was here that the people decided to put their faith in God that he would make a way.
Seventeen years later in 1888, the Trustees negotiated the purchase of one acre of land called Varina Grove for the purpose of building a new church. The deed stipulated that the church had to be completed within two years or the land would revert back to the original owners. Through many sacrifices and faith in God; the conditions of the deed were meet and the new church was built.
St. James had several pastors between then and 1918 at which time Reverend Henry Randolph was elected and served as the pastor until 1923. After this time he and some of the members left St. James and organized the Antioch Baptist Church.
In 1923 God sent Reverend Obadiah B. Simms to lead the people of St. James. He served faithfully for eighteen years. Together he and the congregation accomplished many physical improvements including a baptismal pool, choir loft and elevated floors.
In 1945 the church was destroyed by fire and again tested the faith of the people of St. James. The church was not covered by insurance and the only items of property saved were the cornerstone and the church bell. The members were given permission to meet in the St. James School House. During this time various ministers were brought in to render services. The Search Committee brought in Reverend George Smith, III to preach one Sunday. After hearing Reverend Smith preach just one sermon, they voted unanimously for him to become the new pastor. Reverend Smith had a condition of his acceptance; that, he would not be installed until he helped build a new church in which to be installed. The members and Reverend Smith worked tirelessly to raise funds. At the onset they had $495 to begin work on the new building. They again placed their faith in God that he would provide a way. Some five years later dedicational services were held and Reverend Smith was installed as pastor. Reverend Smith saw the need for an educational building and in 1962 appointed a committee to oversee this process. Reverend Smith passed away in 1964.
In 1965 Reverend James Ealey came to pastorate. He introduced a tithing program, began mass installation of church and auxiliary officers simultaneously and is credited with completion of the Education Building in 1967.
Reverend Charles Hart served as the pastor of St. James from 1968 until 1970.
The highlight of his pastorate was the Mortgage Burning Service celebrated on October 18, 1970. In 1975 through 1976 Reverend William F. Richardson Jr. served as the interim pastor. He served both St. James and our sister church Rising Mt. Zion. A great orator and singer he emphasized the need for committed stewards and leaders in the church school.
In 1975 Reverend Dwight C. Jones was officially elected as the fourteenth pastor. Under the leadership of Pastor Jones, St. James developed into a multi-faceted suburban congregation. More than 100 years following the major building initiative of our fore-fathers, the purchase of five additional acres of land set the stage of another major expansion effort. This effort was the result of the increase in our congregations’ numbers and the expansion of the church program. Ground breaking ceremonies were held on Sunday, November 14, 1982 and on the third Sunday in January, 1984 we marched from the Old Sanctuary into a modern 400 seat Sanctuary. Rev. Dwight Jones served both St. James and First Baptist until his retirement in 2000, after 25 years of faithful service to the people of St. James. Together Reverend Jones and the members were able to accomplish a great deal. Some of his other accomplishments include: Completion of the Multi-purpose Building in 1997; the Day Nursery and After School Ministry; established the current Sheepfold Ministry; installed the first female deacon and trustee at St. James; instituted church wide discipleship program and reinstated the tithing program. In 1990, beautiful new stained glass windows which pictorially depict our history were installed in the Sanctuary. Also plans for our next major expansion were unveiled. This expansion would provide classrooms, meeting and fellowship space for the entire congregation. The D.C. Jones Usher Board and the D.C. Jones Multi-purpose Building are both named in his honor.
Under his leadership, 138 persons have accepted Christ as their savior. Pastor Sykes continues to promote Ecumenical involvement in the community to include the Varina Area Ministers’ Fellowship and membership in other affiliations.
St. James continued its search for a full time pastor. In November 2003, God sent a spirit filled preacher to proclaim the word, who although was youthful in statue, proved to be richly anointed beyond his years. He shared with us that his wife had recently given birth to twin girls and was therefore a little tired from being sleep deprived. Once the message had dynamically been delivered, we recall how we all wondered “WOW” what it would be like if was not tired. And in case the question still remains as to who this preacher was, it is our current shepherd, who still today preaches with that same fire and spirit we saw in November of 2003, the Reverend Kevin L. Sykes.
In December of 2003 Reverend Sykes was called to pastor the St. James Baptist Church. He was officially installed in April 2004 as the fifteenth pastor of St. James Baptist Church. Since arriving at St. James, Pastor Sykes has revitalized and introduced new ministries for the growth of our Church Family. Some of these ministries include: Discipleship Training Teams with the Deacons and Deaconess Ministry; introduction of a Publicity Ministry and launched the church’s website; increased the number of Trustees; advancement of our Youth Program and introduced an Interim Youth Minister; implemented the first Business Administrator for the church; revitalized with new direction for the Nominating, Constitution and Budget Committees and completed the installation of our Marquee that now points the way to this House of God. Pastor Sykes is incessantly and deeply committed to his calling with a passion and love for people and ministry. Under his leadership in the past eight years, through the divine leading of the Holy Spirit, he has introduced and implemented several leadership initiatives of the church to include: Ordained and licensed an Associate Minister to the Gospel Ministry; established a Finance Committee; introduced and launched the Church’s website; established two building fund campaigns - Project 2008 Building Fund Committee and the Eleven-Twenty Building Fund Campaign (January 2011); introduced a Building and Grounds Ministry (January 2011); established a Children’s Church (February 2012); procurement of media equipment for the D.C. Jones Fellowship Hall; and amortized, and will burn the mortgage of $650,000 for the D.C. Jones Fellowship Hall during the 141st Church Anniversary Celebration.
As Pastor Sykes continues to lead the people to a higher dimension in ministry, God has favored him and his ministry to also continue growing the church with committed and devoted leaders and disciples.
Our Church has built upon its history to be in a position to serve to serve this present age. With days that have passed and that have now become history, we are the people of "Generations To Come, A Burning Commitment To Grow, Proclaim and Serve Christ.