The St James Parish Church, venue for the Opening Service of this year’s 146th Diocesan Synod, is one of the most historic churches in Jamaica, dating back to May 6, 1775 when its foundation stone was laid. It apparently replaced an older church, as the Baptismal Registers include entries from 1771.
In 1774, the Parish of St. James was described as “the most thriving district of the island” and. no doubt, the Vestry felt that its capital city deserved a parish church which reflected its prosperous status, and therefore, began to make plans for a new building. The first service in the new church was held on Christmas Day, 1782.
The building is Georgian in style, built of white limestone, and it is in the shape of a Greek cross – it has four equal aisles – with a tower in the west. The Church houses many beautiful monuments and many of them were produced by the famous British sculptor, John Bacon. Perhaps the best known is the memorial to Mrs. Rosa Palmer of Rose Hall, commissioned by her widower, the Hon John Palmer, in 1794.
The St. James Parish Church has suffered many misfortunes over the years. In the early 20th century, fire did significant damage to the building, but the most serious loss was caused by the earthquake of March 1957. The Church was virtually rebuilt and to the same design. The rededication ceremony was held on September 23, 1959.
Apart from Synod Services, the St. James Parish Church has hosted several important Diocesan events. These include the consecration of the Suffragan Bishops of Montego Bay, the last one being the Rt. Rev. Leon Golding on November 16, 2012. A few days prior to that, it was also the venue for the Opening Service of the 38th Triennial Provincial Synod.