The history of St. James’ CNI Church runs through two centuries and is an inspiring story of a living witness of worship and service beginning with fulfilling of a vow.
The story actually begins way back in 1800 A.D. when James Skinner, then a professional soldier hired to serve in an army (and later a Lieutenant Colonel, CB renowned for establishing the Skinner’s Horse (Cavalry) Regiment) was lying wounded and unattended in the battlefield and waiting for his death. In his own account, he mentions that in those days he was fighting for the Karolee Rajah who was in conflict with the Onreah Rajah. In one of the battles, he had been let down by the treacherous disloyal soldiers badly wounded and left to die under the sun without water and medical attention where he lay unattended for almost 48 hours and could hear jackals tear at the dead and the wounded pray for an early death. Skinner significantly prayed for safety and vowed to build a house (Chapel) of God to glorify the Lord if he lived through that nightmare. As if in answer to his prayers a Dalit woman arrived on the battlefield with a basket of bread and a pot of water. Thus were saved the wounded and James Skinner. He fulfilled his vow and built a Chapel to honour his words to glorify the Lord which costed him in the early 1800’s a sum of almost ₹ 90,000. Later on his personal request, the building was consecrated as a Church (a place of community worship) on 21 November 1836 by Bishop Daniel Wilson the fifth and then Bishop of Calcutta and the first Metropolitan of India (the British English Church in India) A little later after the death of James Skinner when the walled city saw a large ruckus and anarchy in 1857, the building suffered severely from the attacks that it endured which even saw the early records of the church being destroyed.
Having withered the time and completed 184 years, St. James’ is the oldest and the most historic church of Delhi, contributing to the spiritual, architectural and therefore the cultural, and educational life of the city even today. Though historic yet it continues to be contemporary, providing an opportunity to the people worshipping here to witness God and serve the people and Society. In its almost two centuries of existence, the church has emerged as a significant link connecting the events and developments of the last days of the Mughal era and offering them to the world as the historic monument in the city of Delhi. Most importantly, it is a living Parish (home-church) to its Congregation, and a Mission Church of the CNI-Diocese of Delhi, establishing the Mukti Aradhnalaya in Pitampura, Delhi; and currently providing care and support to various needs of the Panipat Mission Field.
The church nowadays functions under the Rt. Rev. Dr. Warris K. Masih, the Bishop in the Diocese of Delhi of the Church of North India, and the pastoral and administrative care is provided by Rev. Prateek Pillai, the current Presbyter I/C, with the assistance of the Pastorate Committee.