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Turning 300, St. James in Lothian looks ahead to next three centuries Episcopal parish puts on festival


The Rev. William H. C. Ticknor likes a church with a good history -- a long past, he says, is indicative of a long future.

By that logic, St. James Parish in Lothian, one of the oldest churches in Maryland, could be around forever.

The church, first known as Old Herring Creeke, was officially recognized in 1692 by the Maryland legislature, which divided the state province into 30 Anglican parishes.

"My last church was only 25 years old," Mr. Ticknor said. "There wasn't the feeling that it was going to be around in the future. This 300th anniversary makes us realize that we are going to be here another 300 years."

To celebrate, the Episcopal parish at Solomons Island Road and Route 258 put on a tricentennial anniversary over the weekend, culminating a year's worth of events.

Held on the grounds between the parish hall and the church, next to a cemetery that boasts the oldest dated tombstone -- 1665 -- in Maryland and in front of a soy crop, parishioners dressed in 18th-century garb and did everything from make candles and ice cream to appraise antiques.

A traditional country ham dinner topped off the day, attended by hundreds of church members and other county residents who joined in the hay rides, dancing and craft making.

The red brick church that stands today was completed in 1765, when the original structure became inadequate. Additions were built later, but the nave, double aisles, pew doors, inscribed tablets and hand-plastered ceiling are the same now as they were when colonists worshiped.

In 1698, the parish opened the state's first parochial lending library, still in use today. It is one of the oldest libraries in the country.

William H. Hall, 98, a direct descendant of the first rector, the Rev. Henry Hall, still worships at St. James. And Mr. Ticknor, the 32nd rector of the church, is a direct descendant of Bishop Thomas John Claggett, the seventh rector, who became the first bishop in Maryland. Bishop Claggett died in 1722.

A big part of re-creating the historical significance of the churchwas dressing the part. All parishioners dressed as they would have in Colonial times. Marianne Franklin, a friend of a parish member, demonstrated the art of spinning cotton. Julie Williams told stories to children who gathered around hay bales.

People even were encouraged to bring antiques to get them appraised. Although none of the items were from Colonial times, one woman had a pendant that dated from the 1800s.

F. Rawson Carter, of Sudley Road Antiques, based in West River, described the find as a small painting encircled by sea pearls and ivory on a bed of 18-caret gold.

Mr. Carter wouldn't say how much it was worth. "We prefer to keep that one quiet," he said, adding that it is "almost priceless, a museum piece."

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