Name: Pastor Gillette O. James
Gillette O. James became a part of Beth Eden in January 1970 when we elected him Assistant Pastor and Minister of Christian Education. At that time, he was a senior at American Baptist Seminary of the West (ABSW). He had just resigned from the Grace Baptist Church of San Francisco where he had served for six years, as pastor, because he wanted to study full-time.
Within a few months, Pastor A.C. Dones retired after 15 Beth Eden years and recommended that his Assistant succeed him. The church went through the formality of appointing a Pulpit Committee headed by a young attorney who was a deacon. Our new pastor’s term was effective March 1971.
Dr. Gillette O. James was born in Dominica, West Indies. He met his wife, Rosa V. James, from the Bahamas in Cincinnati, Ohio where both had studied and he heard about her through a newspaper article in Cincinnati Enquirer about foreign students spending their first Christmas in the U.S.
Our pastor is a graduate of University of San Francisco and was at the head of his seminary class for the Master of Divinity degree. He later earned the Doctor of Ministry from the same seminary where he is a former chair of Trustees and the Academic Committee. Dr. James has done further studies at Oxford, England. His wife, also a graduate of University of San Francisco, received the Master of Social (MSW) from the University of California - Berkeley. She has been a social worker for City and County of San Francisco, school psychologist, principal and administrator in the Oakland Public Schools. Dr. Rosa James is very active in the Beth Eden church Women’s Ministries, Board of Christian Education, Counseling Ministry as well as Executive Committee of the Family Life Center.
Under the leadership of our pastor, Beth Eden built fifty-four units of senior housing (the idea of the former pastor) and purchased other rental housing near the church. We built a new sanctuary and administrative wing. After much prayer, investigation and discussions with the ministries of the church, our pastor led us into hiring an architect for the proposed new Family Life Center….He has spotlighted education and our Scholarship Committee awards partial financial scholarships every year to high school graduates and continuing college students. Forty-two members have completed accredited seminaries under his watch. Twelve members have become MD’s or DVM. Several are assisted in high school or community courses by assigned Beth Eden educators.
Pastor James has held impressive positions with denominational boards locally and nationally. At one point, he was ousted from the California State Baptist Convention because he supported women in ministry. He has since been restored because the Convention while not fully accepting has been willing to keep churches that fully recognize women clergy.
Both Dr. James and his wife travel annually to the Caribbean as well as to conventions and vacation spots world-wide. Both pastor and wife individually or together lead seminars and accept speaking engagements at home and abroad. They have sponsored many relatives to study and or live in the United States. Their daughter, a graduate of the University of California, San Diego and Rutgers (in urban planning) lives in Washington, DC with her husband and four children. Their 12 year old son is studying Chinese. He and his siblings are taught Spanish by their mother who also taught it in the Oakland public schools.
Our pastor continues to encourage the church to embrace peoples of different races and theological viewpoints. He believes strongly in the old hymns of the church, spirituals which he maintains keeps us conscious and appreciative of our heritage, and current music which speaks to a younger generation. His favorite saying, gleaned from his deceased father who was both a pastor and police officer is: “God’s clock keep perfect time.”
He is also publicly appreciative of his elected board and staff for their hard work and willingness to share the pastor’s vision. Finally, Pastor James is the author of “Through Toils and Snares” and in 2014 was recognized by the Oakland City Council for contributions to the city.