River Street was the point of origin for St. James Baptist Church when the time came in the 1950’s to place a footprint in the city of Woonsocket. Prior to that, the church dwelled in the heart of The Rev. James Hinson.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
- Isaiah 43:2 (NIV) -
This message, from Isaiah to a people who faced challenges - location changes, leadership changes and human losses to the community - speaks volumes about the seventy-year history of the faith community called St. James.
Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, "You cannot step into the same river twice, for other waters are continually flowing on." He understood clearly, the water and life within a river, are always changing. St. James passed through River Street three score and ten years ago. The founding people are no longer with us. We have changed, never to be the same. Society has changed, the economy has changed, resources have changed, attitudes have changed and people have changed, but one thing has remained the same. We go back to the prophet Isaiah for the engine that has powered us down through the years. Isaiah 40:8: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. KJV.
It is true we cannot step in the same river twice, but what we have done is stand on the rock. The rock of our salvation is secure in season and out of season. Ultimately, and without a doubt, the church was built on a rock. We may have been launched on River Street with the understanding that day-to-day little would remain the same, but in every river there is a rock. I dare say St. James Baptist Church was built on the River Street Rock, and that Rock is Jesus.
Thank you, Jesus, for the powerful, dynamic ever-changing ministry of the church that was once on River Street. We have never been adrift due to the loving foundation we were built on, and the determination of generations of believers. Some might say we are seventy years strong. I would say we are as strong as the power of the Holy Spirit says we can be. God being our helper, we will be flowing strong for generations to come.