The Reverend Wayne Riley (1995 - 2000)
My wife, Nancy, and I came to St. James' in March of 1995 and we began our ministry here on the first Sunday of April. Our journey to Hackettstown came by way of Connecticut where I had been the Rector at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Bloomfield. Initially we had decided not to come to St. James' and I informed the search committee of that decision, but due to their stubbornness, the search committee continued to extend a call. After hearing a deal that we could not refuse, we accepted and started preparing for our move to New Jersey. When we came back to visit the Church after saying yes, we found the downstairs interior of the Rectory all torn apart. The old plaster was torn off the walls and ceilings and amidst the rubble was a very dusty Joe Knuck, who was the Senior Warden at the time. To our amazement, all the work got finished, literally on the day of our move. On that day of our arrival, among all the boxes, misplaced furniture and bare walls, we both agreed that it felt like we had come home. Over the next few weeks, Nancy set about decorating the Rectory and very quickly started to plant flowers for the spring planting. In time, she transformed the grounds around the house and the Church into a paradise of plants and flowers.
As the gardens grew, so did the congregation. Within the first couple of years we had pretty much doubled in size and in 1996, St. James' had the largest confirmation group within the entire diocese of Newark. But numbers do not begin to tell the entire story. Along with more people came a growth in heart and spirit, as well as a desire on the part of many to learn more about their faith and to begin to see old teachings, doctrines, and traditions of the Church in a new light. I like to think I had something to do with that, but in truth, Bishop Spong probably had more to do with the thirst for knowledge than did I and everyone together, including God, contributed to the new life and spirit here.
In the time that Nancy and I were here at St. James', the Rectory had been transformed, with new carpeting and a new floor in the entrance way, new windows and vinyl siding. How we loved sitting on the large expansive front porch of what felt like a new house admiring the simple beauty of the gardens at the Church and the houses in the neighbor hood. All that changed when in August of 1998, my beloved Nancy died of complications from an operation brought on by a long heroic struggle with Hodgkins disease. At that time and during the time of grieving, I became the recipient of an outpouring of love and compassion from the people of St. James'. It was their nurturing that helped me to move through the grief and helped heal the deep wounds of loss.
After Nancy's death, the work of the Church continued, as did our ever present need to maintain our grounds and buildings. The bushes around the Church were pulled out, though the cost was high: one broken come-along, one destroyed rear end in a dump truck, and a bee sting. Not too long after that, the building was painted and restored to its original Victorian look. At the time of my departure from St. James', the health of the congregation was strong and the future was as bright as it had ever been. I pray and expect that God will continue to bless and lead these good people and this place called St. James', Hackettstown.
The Rev. Wayne Riley April 30, 2000.
Acknowledgments The Ven. Sydney E. Grant The Rev. Arthur Wing III