By Matt Wiley

Celebrating its milestone 25th year, St. James United Methodist Church, located on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. in Tampa Palms, has begun construction on its new sanctuary to give the popular church room to grow as its church community continues to expand.

The construction, which began on March 11, will expand the sanctuary to 5,000 square feet, making room for about 200 more seats.

“We wanted to be able to have some flexibility with our capacity because we were finding that we were maxing out with our capacity during regular services,” says St. James’ director of communications Andrea Reece-Kitchen. “We wanted to be able to add some more seats to be able to welcome more in.”

St. James hired Lakewood Ranch-based contracting company Mills Gilbane to complete $1.2-million project that will expand the sanctuary to seat more than 700 worshipers, as well as expand the narthex (the welcome area in the entry way of the sanctuary) and add two additional classrooms for Sunday School.

The idea of expanding the sanctuary is nothing new for St. James. The church’s executive manager Chris Stocker says that the idea first came to light in 2005.

“At that time, expanding that much just didn’t make sense,” he explains. “So, instead, we just did some small additions.”

Ever since the idea first arose, however, the church has been accumulating money from its congregation for the project, most of which was raised through a capital campaign.

“So far, we’ve raised more than $900,000 in cash donations,” Stocker says. “Our finance committee is working on a plan to have the rest of the debt paid off by the end of the year.”

Meanwhile, Reece-Kitchen says that before construction began on the new sanctuary, it became particularly difficult to seat everyone in attendance for holidays such as Christmas and Easter. For example, this past Easter, she says, the church even had to have overflow seating in another building with church members having to watch a live video stream of the service because all of the Easter Sunday services were above capacity.

“I’m hoping it’s kind of a ‘build it and they will come’ kind of thing,” she says. “We’re hoping that we can just blow the doors off of this place.”

To further commemorate the church’s 25th year of worship, its leadership is planning a “25th anniversary blowout” celebration, currently planned for September 23.

Reece-Kitchen says that it will be a celebration of the nostalgia of St. James’ first 25 years, as well as a look forward to see what the church can accomplish in the next 25 years.

For more information, visit or call 971-4790. New members are always welcome and the traditional Sunday service begins at 9:30 a.m., with contemporary services offered at 11 a.m. and 12:30 a.m.

Recommended Posts

No comment yet, add your voice below!

Add a Comment