The Reverend Hugh Davidson, minister of First Presbyterian Church, Chatham, had a dream of a Presbyterian witness in the growing area of north-west Chatham.
In 1953 a Sunday School was established at King George VI Public School on Delaware Ave. Thirty-two students were enrolled and the school prospered. In a report to the 1956 annual meeting of First Church there was disappointment that there were no promising plans for another Presbyterian congregation in Chatham.
Land became available in the Stacey subdivision and on May 27th, 1956 approval was given to purchase four lots at the corner of McNaughton Avenue and Craven Drive for $4000. In January 1959, a meeting with interested families from the Stacey subdivision and the committee of First Church was held and all present felt that a church in the area was warranted. One hundred and forty-nine homes were visited and approximately 25% were interested. The services were started the following Sunday in John N Given School on Churchill Street with 25 families worshipping together.
During 1959 about 50 families attended worship services in the school. The name "St. James" was approved by Presbytery. In October 1959, the decision was made by the congregation of First Church to build a church on the property at the corner of McNaughton Avenue and Craven Drive. To cover the cost, $45,000 was to be raised over three years.
On March 27, 1960, a Building Committee, made up of First Church and the St. James group, started reviewing plans and details. The cost for a suitable building had increased and at a special meeting approval was given to increase the cost to $67,000. On September 10, 1960, the contract was signed with Manninger Brothers Construction Company, Blenheim to construct the building for $56,596.58. On September 12, 1960 the sod turning ceremony was held and on October 18 the cornerstone was laid.
The Presbytery aligned the St. James Group with the congregation of New St. Andrew's Church, Dover Township. This charge was classified as a mission field on September 13, 1960.
On January 10, 1961, the Presbytery constituted St. James a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The first congregational meeting was held on January 18, 1961 and in May the congregation elected the first Board of Managers. The first service was held in the new building on March26 and the building was dedicated in a service on June 18, 1961.
In the following years groups were formed within the church and equipment purchased for an office. The charge was now re-classified as a Church Extension. This term was for charges that showed potential growth in a new area. On October 15, 1967, St. James Trustees received from the Trustees of First Church the Deed of St. James and its property, with no financial encumbrances remaining.
St. James continued to grow and changes took place. At a congregational meeting of New St. Andrew's and St. James on November 3, 1974, it was decided that they become self supporting as of January 1, 1975. They would no longer receive the grant from the Board of World Mission.
In 1983, after much discussion a Building Committee was struck to look into expanding the facilities of the church building. "St. James was on the Grow". In 1986, the expansion was opened to include a Narthex, a sanctuary and washrooms. Renovations then began on the original building to change the upper floor into a large meeting room, nursery/ Sunday School room and offices.
St. James continues Sunday worship in this facility today as a caring and friendly congregation.