The Heart of St James’s: February 2022 Update

This is the first of what will become a regular update, from our Development Director – Brian Willetts, on what we are doing and achieving within Development and Fundraising.

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Church Window Mask

It’s been almost a year since I came to St James’s and started my work as the Director of Development. What an amazing time it has been and one of the most rewarding of my career to date. The staff team here have been fantastic and made me feel so welcome, as have so many from within the congregation, especially the Giving Team, as we have worked to build the foundations that strengthen relationships that turn into funding possibilities and realities.

Generosity as a way of life

As a Christian myself, I love the fact that fundraising builds possibilities out of generosity, that establish friends of all faiths and none and builds community around a shared vision, all helping to make society a better place.  This has been at the heart of all I have endeavoured to build to date and will continue to be central to the evolution of our development and fundraising here at St James’s.

This is the first of what will be a regular update on what we are up to within the work of Development and Fundraising. It’s worth clarifying that for me the term Development means ‘relationship’, what is needed and how we build and nurture folk, and that Fundraising means what is needed to facilitate and engage folk to give to us in support of our mission and vision.  Over the past year, we have been working hard to build a framework that reemphasises our outward facing mission and vision, build relationships with our neighbours within the parish and beyond and share how we see our future through the Wren Project and the vital outreach work we do each week. My role is help build and establish these relationships, help communicate our vision with a view to empowering friends to give generously to our work.

The Wren Project and ongoing support for outreach

It’s also worth pointing out that my role is not only to raise the much-needed funding to make possible the exciting Wren Project but to support all the many efforts we make to ensure there is funding for our day-to-day work and outreach.  For example, over the past months, we’ve secured a donation of £60,000, a portion of which has gone directly to our Solidarity Fund, and £3,500 to buy and install a new ramp for the entrance to church from one of our corporate partners ARUP. These are just some examples of the work being carried out to help support a church for us all.

The funds needed to make the Wren Project a reality seem daunting sometimes of course. But talking about the Wren Project is a significant opportunity for us that provides endless possibilities to forge and build relationships not just for this important moment in our history but for the future, helping us make new friends and re kindle old friendships.

Last October we formally launched The Wren Project with the Heart of St James’s Campaign. The aim is to raise £16 Million to fully restore this beautiful, peaceful and light sanctuary that has served this community for over 300 years. It looks like a building project, and of course restoring and re-opening the buildings is essential. But it’s a people project really: not only focussed on the historic building, but also rejuvenating our gardens and courtyard, making them fully accessible to everyone, and open each day for those who work and live around us. An essential element of the Wren Project is establishing new social enterprise partnerships, helping people change their lives who just need to be given the opportunity and some support along the way.

We are connecting with our neighbours and parish

It has been so encouraging to come across so many people who love St James’s and see us as their church: people of different faiths and of none, our corporate and retail neighbours and institutions and clubs that reside within our Parish and who form part of what I like to think as a congregation of friends, all who have a relationship of some kind with us.  This in part is why we decided to create ‘Friends of St James’s’ and the ‘American Friends of St James’s’, each providing an opportunity to establish and build friends that form part of this wide and extended community of St James’s Church.   Our neighbour, The Army & Navy Club on St James’s Square, is just one example, who have just nominated the church as their chosen charity for the next three years, that’s amazing and fantastic news. We’re also starting to see friends from the USA step forward with donations, making possible the funding for our music scholars, who add so much to our worship each week, providing educational opportunity and experience at such an important time in their lives.

Where are we up to now?

I pledge to keep you all updated and as informed as possible as we go along, and I’m really glad to be able to let you know that the initiatives and friends forged to date have made possible pledges for the Wren Project of over £1.2 million since last October. Further significant funding is promised from trusts and foundations once we receive planning permission, and a whole range of friends and partners have offered their time, events, receptions, and dinners to help support this transformational project.  Our work continues with the In Conversation series; we’re so grateful to Huw Edwards for his support with that. Other events and hospitality will continue to keep telling the story of St James’s Church and inviting friends to become part of this journey with us.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for all you are doing to help St James’s remain at the heart of the community, open to everyone every day. This church is much loved by those who are part of the congregation on Sundays, or who offer hospitality to our homeless guests during the week, the staff who work here, the musicians who play here, the counsellors who volunteer here and all who join us online. This development work I am privileged to be part of is being done in the name of everyone who is part of St James’s in so many ways. Each of us wants to ensure that the church is here for the next 300 years, each of us playing our unique part, leaving a truly inspiring legacy for future generations.

What can you do?

If you are part of the Eucharistic community on Sundays, please join the ‘Being St James’s’ Lent groups to talk together about sharing money, time and gifts. And support the work of the Giving Team who are so essential to the life of our church. You’ll find a notice in the newsletter -please join in! I mentioned that I am a person of faith myself: I see in the gospels how core to our faith generosity is; not only money but time, gifts and energy too: the Giving Team are pledged to help all of us deepen our faith, build our community and reflect on these themes this Lent.

If you can think of people who won’t necessarily want to come on a Sunday for all sorts of reasons, but would like to support our work, would you let them know about us and ask them to become a ‘Friend of St James’s’. We’d love to build this up, providing additional regular income for the church’s work in the community from people who might not necessarily feel they want to be part of the Sunday congregation. US citizens can become American Friends too.

If you, or someone you know, would like to support the transformational ‘Wren Project’ then you can do that by contacting me or by visiting the Wren Project section on the website. Perhaps you’d like to support the new social enterprise projects or the restoration of the church or the accessibility of the garden.

Please also consider coming along to any of the events and supporting that way: buy a ticket to the In Conversation series with Huw Edwards for example: and we will publicise other events as we go along.


Fundraising is a shared journey to empower change one gift at a time and your help makes real the vision and mission of St James’s Church. Your help, time, ideas, and assistance are never taken for granted, are greatly valued, and hugely appreciated.  By working together, we have the opportunity to forge remarkable possibilities for all who encounter St James’s. This is an exciting time for all of us.  I look forward to updating more next time.


Brian E Willetts – Director of Development