Introducing the Rev. James H. Littrell
Jim brings to his work with judicatories, congregations, parishes and communities in partnership more than fifty years of experience as an Episcopal priest in the nexus of church and community, always working to build successful collaborations between congregations and their communities.
Just out of seminary in 1970, he founded and led Voyage House, a Philadelphia project serving homeless people under 18 living on the city’s streets. Voyage House was supported by 12 Center City Philadelphia Protestant, Jewish and Roman Catholic congregations and five denominational bodies, including, remarkably, seven Center City and Society Hill Episcopal churches. Since then, he has helped found and has led four other community advocacy and non-profit organizations—the Philadelphia Lesbian and Gay Task, Philadelphia AIDS Task Force, ActionWellness (formerly Action AIDS), and the Philadelphia AIDS Consortium, and has been a founding or serving Board member for many more, for which he has helped raise tens of millions of dollars to support programs serving a variety of underserved populations in greater Philadelphia and elsewhere.
Sometimes between, sometimes concurrently, he ministered with seven Episcopal congregations in seven very different communities, twice while serving as a college chaplain. Most recently, he served as Priest-in-Partnership with the people of Grace Epiphany Church. In his last full-time ministry before formal retirement in 2012, he served for 15 years as Rector of St. Mary’s Church, the Episcopal Church at the University of Pennsylvania where he was also Episcopal Chaplain to the Penn. St. Mary’s was one of the first congregations in Philadelphia to participate in Partners for Sacred Places' "New Dollars/New Partners” program, and in retirement, Jim served as a consultant with Partners in two programs, Strategic Investment in Sacred Places (where he worked for two years with nine congregations— four Episcopal and five UCC—across the state of Vermont to create, build out and sustain life-giving community partnerships) and the Lilly Foundation’s National Fund for Sacred Places, which took him to Tacoma, San Francisco, and North Carolina on similar endeavors. While in Vermont, Jim also served as a 3/4 time interim minister with a rural Congregational church. In the Diocese, where he was ordained by Bishop Robert DeWitt in 1971, Jim has chaired or co-chaired the Diocesan HIV/AIDS Task Force (in the 1980’s) for ten years, the Diocesan Anti-Racism Commission, and until recently as Chair of the Nominating Committee of the Diocese, of which he remains an active member, with the goal of diversifying and growing both lay and clergy leadership in the Diocese.
A lifelong advocate with and for marginalized people and communities, including his own LGBTQIA+ siblings, Jim believes strongly that we are all one in Christ and, equally important, that we are valued, upheld, and loved by God not in spite of but precisely because of the richness and diversity of our unique powerful identities and experiences as individuals and communities. In his latter years, Jim is becoming a convinced advocate for finding ways to better value and use the experience and richness of elders—both in the church and in the nation. He does not believe the commonly propagated narrative that old means being discarded—rather, he advocates for a new narrative that embraces the learning and wealth of knowledge that accompanies age. Jim is a small “d” democrat, and all his life has tried to oppose every form of tyranny, wherever he has found it—in the church and in the rest of the world. He believes and hopes that his model in this work and commitment is Jesus Christ. Jim has worked for his whole life to help the congregations and communities he has served to find creative ways to live out their mission by redefining stewardship, growing ministry and building creative partnerships that make possible more abundant life.
He has lived in East Mt. Airy/Germantown with his partner Louis of, soon, 43 years. They enjoy hiking and swimming, especially in the mountains of New England, thus the picture on this article, taken high atop one such mountain. From his marriage long ago, he and his then wife share a daughter, Hannah, a designer and architect who lives near Durham, North Carolina.
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Tags: Clergy & Staff