After a year of searching nationally and internationally, St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church has found a new rector: Rev. Dr. Mark Kingston Hargreaves. Having taken the pulpit on Jan. 17, Hargreaves joins St. James after 18 years as the vicar of St. Peter’s Notting Hill in London.
“It’s an exciting time to arrive; there is this general sense of a new chapter opening up and new opportunities,” he said during an interview with La Jolla Light. “It’s been a while since there was a full-time rector at St. James ... so it’s a time to take stock and look at how we best want to use the resources at our disposal.
“This is a wonderful church in a beautiful building with wonderful resources and people. I’d like to bring a new energy and new life and help the parish flourish. I came from a church in London that was very connected to its community, so I’d like to build on the connections we already have with the wider community of La Jolla.”
Citing St. James’ “great musical tradition and choir that puts on a top-quality concert series,” Hargreaves said “that’s a real strength on which to build.” Looking at the services, he said the beautiful sanctuary makes it easy to lead worship and meaningful liturgies. “I enjoy preaching and it’s great to offer sermons I’ve worked hard on and be of service here.”
As a third-generation cleric, Hargreaves brings his own traditions to his ministry; both his father and maternal grandfather were vicars.
“I was brought up in a rectory and it was always part of my background. But when I was 19, I got my own sense of calling and felt this was something for me — and I’ve never regretted it. Being a rector brings out my strengths and I find it fulfilling,” he said. Credited with sermons that are “intellectually stimulating and spiritually moving,” Hargreaves also draws from his educational experience. He holds a degree in Theology from Oriel College, Oxford and a Ph.D. from Robinson College, Cambridge.
While in school, he met his wife, Laura, who was also studying theology. Being a Southern California native, Laura is partially credited with the family’s move to St. James from London. “She is from Anaheim, so when we saw there was a position in California, we had to apply,” he said. The Hargreaves have two grown children. Son Jacob is studying business at Northeastern University in Boston, and daughter Miriam is following in her father’s footsteps and recently finished her degree in Theology from Oxford.
Keeping enthusiasm for the church alive is important to Hargreaves. “It’s fashionable to talk about the decline of the church, but where I’ve come from, we’ve seen church attendance grow significantly. I’ve always worked in churches that were experiencing growth,” he said. “There are a variety of reasons one might come to church and ways in which they would be affected afterward.”
Hargreaves’ hope for those who come to a St. James service is that they leave with “a sense of God’s presence,” he said. “A big part of it is losing oneself in the worship of something greater. I hope people take something from the sermon that causes them to reflect or think of things in a slightly different way during their week. On a social level, churches are one of the few institutions where people can come from different social/economic backgrounds and experiences in life, and make friends and meet people they might not have met in the course of a work week.”
If you go: St. James By-the-Sea, 743 Prospect St., was established in 1907. For a schedule of services and events, visit sjbts.org or call (858) 459-3421.