Education at Saint James’ Episcopal Church
Saint James’ Episcopal School is about to graduate its first Fifth Grade Class. This is a major milestone for the School and another educational landmark in the long history of Saint James’ Episcopal Church. From 1929 to 2015 Saint James’ Episcopal Church has housed and fostered education, not only on Sundays as is traditional, but during the week, raising generations of young people who practice the Christian virtues of service, compassion, and respect.
The Warrenton branch of the Calvert School, founded in 1928, was housed at Saint James’ from 1929 to 1943 with the support of the Rev. Paul Bowden. Several members of Saint James’ Church today were also students during this time. Deeply woven into our education was our connection to God and to the Church. We recited The Lord’s Prayer in assembly each day and at Christmas we always had a Nativity pageant. Our monthly recitations were often drawn from Scripture; as First Graders our assignment one month was the opening chapter of Genesis and we each stood in church holding rather naïve drawings of the days of creation and reciting the appropriate verse. The Calvert School left Saint James’ in 1943 and in 1957 its name was changed to Highland School; however, their eighth grade graduation ceremonies continued to be held at Saint James’ until early in this century.
From 1978 to 1982, Fresta Valley Christian School used Saint James’ as its campus. The school had grown from six to 28 students and needed more space with little funding. The Church graciously offered the use of its campus until our own preschool was established.
A preschool opened at Saint James’ in 1982 under the guidance of Rev. Prentice Kinser and vestry members of the Church. With four classes and a staff of five, the School eventually grew to more than eleven classes and 150 preschool students. Often voted “The Best Preschool in Warrenton,” it continued to thrive and shared more and more space within the Church. As early alumni grew up and married, many sent their children to Saint James’ Preschool. In 2007, during the tenure of the Rev. Christian Pierce, a kindergarten class was introduced and the School changed its name to Saint James’ Episcopal School (SJES). First grade was added in 2010 with an additional grade each year up to Fifth Grade in 2014-15. Saint James’ was accredited by the Virginia Association of Independent Schools in the fall of 2013 and is a proud member of the National Association of Episcopal Schools.
When Calvert School moved on to a new location, it had 39 students in grades one through seven. SJES today has 206 students in preschool through fifth grade. Education continues to be an integral part of the fabric of Saint James’ Church. At this time, SJES classrooms occupy all three floors of the building. The Parish Hall is the location for hot lunches several days a week and for plays at special times during the year. Services are conducted daily in the Side Chapel and on Wednesdays both School and Church members celebrate Holy Communion together. Students enrolled in SJES serve at the altar as torch-bearers and crucifers for Sunday services and as junior altar guild members for occasional services.
The motto of the School, “Follow Me,” is the injunction given to all of us by Christ. The Pioneers, as the first Fifth Grade Class is known, stepped out into the unknown, saying “Follow Me,” and now successive classes will do just that until, one hopes, elderly members of Saint James’ Church will say, “I remember” and recount their years of education within these sacred spaces.
Aileen Laing, Calvert School Class of 1948