In its 26th year, St. James United Methodist Church is looking to do big things. It needed a bigger sanctuary to get them done, church officials said.
One of New Tampa’s oldest and largest congregations, St. James is set to hold three ribbon-cutting ceremonies Sunday to officially debut the church’s nearly 4,000-square-foot expansion.
“That is going to be pretty cool,” congregant Jim Claugherty of Tampa Palms. “It’s a long time in coming.”
The church at 16202 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. holds services at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Sundays.
St. James, built in 1994, is nestled on 5.5 acres adjacent to Tampa Fire Station No. 20 on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. Steve Ezra is the senior pastor. Church members raised the money for the project.
Workers from Mills Gilbane, a Lakewood Ranch contracting company, began building the $1.2 million project a year ago. They ripped down walls surrounding the church foyer to expand the entrance and sanctuary and add two classrooms.
Claugherty considered the church expansion project “a nice problem to have,” he said. Claugherty, his wife, Karen, and 14-year-old son, Kearns, have worshipped at St. James for 11 years.
The extra seating will give a lot more people a chance to attend service and more space to enjoy it, he said.
Congregants have been using the extra space since Christmas. They planned a big debut just in time for Easter, which is March 31.
“It was important that we had it done by Christmas, because it is one of the holidays when a lot of people come to church,” Claugherty said. “Also at Easter, it is important to have space for people to come.”
Carlene Barbeau, 32, who lives near the University of South Florida, believes the expansion project will help the church ministries grow.
“We can now do more outreach in the community,” said Barbeau, who attends St. James with her husband, Sean. “It’s such a growing area.”