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American Friends

The Wren Project
Patron: His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh KG GCVO
President: David Snowdon, The Earl of Snowdon
President, American Friends of St James’s Piccadilly 501c3: Philip Bobbitt KBE
Chair, American Friends of St James’s Piccadilly 501c3: Tai-Heng Cheng

People walking on brooklyn bridge

A Church of Firsts, Impatient for Change

“There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the bleakness of corroding despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience”.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’

April 16, 1963

History and Purpose

92 years before the Declaration of Independence, St James’s Church Piccadilly was built.  A church of historic and national significance, Sir Christopher Wren’s building has stood as a witness to God’s inclusive and radical love in the heart of London since 1684.

338 years is a long time to wait to see society transformed. St James’s has been, and continues to be, a home for visionaries who can see the world as it should be and who remind us of our potential to create more just and compassionate societies. St James’s is a church that has a “legitimate and unavoidable impatience” for a world transformed, in which dignity and equity are for all. Rooted in God’s earth, we envision a just society and a creative, open-hearted church.

It was in our church that the poet William Blake was baptised in 1757. It was in the same font, carved in marble by Grinling Gibbons, in 1773 that Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, enslaved on the Caribbean nation of Grenada and then free, was also baptised. An active and vocal abolitionist, Cugoano detailed his experiences and those of others in his influential book, ‘Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery’ (1787), which is still in print today. 2023 marks the 250th anniversary of his baptism at St James’s Church, a place that is still a bold presence, advocating for social justice and empowering communities.

Faith Lived Out

We the people of St James’s believe in a God who is working in the world through us. We take seriously our call to feed the hungry and give the thirsty drink, knowing that it is us that is truly nourished in these divine encounters. We open our doors to feed people who are homeless on Sunday mornings and Monday evenings. We recently established ‘Wardrobe’, a service offering clothes to those experiencing homelessness. In 2022 we will launch our new café, a social enterprise, with Redemption Roasters, working with individuals who were formerly incarcerated to build new lives through education and employment in the speciality coffee business. We hold a drop-in counselling project, open seven days a week for anyone to receive an hour’s free listening, a service heavily used by businesspeople and homeless visitors alike. We want to see a society in which homelessness ceases to be an inevitability, incarceration and re-offending rates are reduced and mutual respectful relationships are built one conversation at a time.

A Church of Firsts

As a church that is rooted in God’s earth, we believe that we are part of God’s beautiful creation, not set apart from it. Our vision is of creation in which we as humans live interdependently, conscious of our role in the climate emergency and our mission to safeguard the integrity of creation. We were the first historic church in London to install solar panels on the roof, and the first church in London to achieve Gold Eco Church status in 2018. Our rector was one of the first generation of female priests to be ordained in the Church of England in the early 1990s. Our rector was also the first female Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, an appointment which caused huge controversy at the time. We are the first parish church in Westminster to have a Black priest on the team. Our LGBTQ+ community, now named the ‘Pride of St James’s’, has historically been one of the most active and campaigning in London, and in the 1980s St James’s was the first central London church to hold funerals and memorials for men who had died from AIDS.  St James’s was the first central London church to hold an interfaith iftar during Ramadan, welcoming Muslim and Jewish friends into the church, writing teaching materials for other churches to do the same. As a church committed to welcoming the stranger, we are the only church in Westminster that employs a Refugee and Asylum Worker, who supports those forced to leave their home nations as a result of persecution. We are a church of firsts. Our impatience with the systems that could be fairer and more compassionate is legitimate and unavoidable.

400 Years of Impact

We the people of St James’s believe in the transformative project that is the Wren Project because it is bigger than us. It speaks to a higher purpose. It speaks to justice, equity, and liberation. The transformation of the buildings and opening up of the site, together with the innovative creative programming and imaginative advocacy embedded at St James’s will have transformational impact on the lives of all who encounter this vision of a better world.  The Wren Project transformation will take £20 million to effect and will serve not only the poorest in our society but will better enable us to engage with decision makers in politics, financial services, cultural influencers and media executives, all of whom work within 2 miles of this central London church.   The visionary Wren Project holds true to the roots of our baptismal call, lived out by Blake and Cugoano, that we are made for more. St James’s Church Piccadilly, in the beating heart of London, has made itself a community that is proud of its creative, open heartedness where everyone has a place to belong. We welcome all to the table of Christ, whether they worship with us each week or are visiting our city for a time. We are excited to be on this journey and hope that you will join us too in bringing more light, more joy, more hope, to the people and communities we serve.

Contact Us

The American Friends of St James’s Piccadilly is an independent no-profit corporation with tax exempt status under section 501c3 of the Internal Revenue Code.  Donations are tax deductible as and to the extent permitted under applicable law.  If you are a US Citizen and wish to donate through the American Friends of St James’s Piccadilly, please contact:

Brian Willetts – Director of Development
The Wren Project Office
Unit 1b, Princes House
38 Jermyn St
St. James’s, London SW1Y 6DN
Tel: +44 (0)20 4558 1764

American Friends of St James’s Piccadilly 501(c)(3)

1150 Walnut Street, 2nd Floor
Newton, MA 02461