St. James Church was well represented at an interfaith service held July 4 to celebrate the village of Waverly’s 150th anniversary.
The outdoor service took place at the Chemung Street home of Robert Miller, a local attorney who attends St. James. He and his wife, Rosie, also planned much of the event. Highlights included contemporary and patriotic music, along with seven speakers representing the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths.
According to Father William Moorby — pastor of St. James as well as five other faith communities in Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick’s parishes — the speakers “spoke briefly about their faith communities being a part of the greater Waverly community. Some of the churches’ histories predated Waverly.” For instance, St. James Parish opened its first church building one year before Waverly was established.
Father Moorby, in his speech, shared with the audience how area residents received a surprise visit from Bishop John Timon in the winter of 1848, a few years before the formation of St. James Parish and the village of Waverly. Citing Father Robert McNamara’s historical book The Diocese of Rochester in America, Father Moorby recounted how Bishop Timon of the Buffalo Diocese — to which the not-yet-formed Rochester Diocese then belonged — was passing through Tioga County, heading from Owego to Elmira, when he fell out of a horse-drawn sleigh. Later a horse broke down as well, the result of rough travel conditions. Bishop Timon stayed overnight in what was then known as Factoryville, to become Waverly in 1854. “He said Mass the next morning in someone’s home and then preached to the people of the area from various faiths,” Father Moorby noted.
Joining the Millers and Father Moorby as part of the July 4 service’s steering committee was Father Thomas Watts, the longtime St. James pastor who retired in 2001. Father Watts, who also grew up in St. James Parish, currently resides in Sayre, Pa., just across the New York-Pennsylvania border from Waverly.
“It was a very nice event, a very good turnout of people,” Father Watts said of the service, adding that it was enhanced by the formal gardens at the Miller residence.
Father Watts observed that the gathering was emblematic of an extra effort by many Waverly people to take pride in their community during this sesquicentennial year. “It’s happened at many of the storefronts. It’s very definite that they’ve been fixing up, painting. Their exteriors look much, much better,” Father Watts said.