The Nave

Also called the worship space, the nave is the large area of the church building where the body of the faithful assembles for Sunday and weekday Mass.  The nave stretches from the adoration chapel on one side to the choir area, and from the baptismal font near the main entrance to the sanctuary at the front of the church.

The most breathtaking feature of the nave is the high ceiling.   At the highest point it is about 52 feet from floor to ceiling.   The main upper ceiling is a combination of wood and drywall intended to create a warm environment with natural materials.   The wood is used in just the upper portion of the church to emphasize the uplifting feel of the space.

Also noteworthy in this area is the sloping floor, which includes a 14-inch rise from the steps of the sanctuary to the baptismal font.   The gentle slope is designed to improve the congregation's ability to see the sanctuary, but without creating problems for sitting, walking or kneeling.

The Baptistery Area

The highlights of the baptistery area, designed by ZBM, are the baptismal font, capped by a glass scallop seashell into which the water first flows, and a curved glass wall that partially encircles the font and baptistery area.    The remainder of the font is a combination of granite from Saudi Arabia and precast concrete.   The font is about 6 1/2-feet front to back by 8 1/2 feet.

The baptismal and Holy Water fonts are part of the shell theme that ties the building to its patron saint.   From the upper glass shell, the water flows into a lower receptacle big enough to accommodate an adult being baptized at the eater vigil service.  

The shell, made of cast glass and about 34 inches in diameter,
also was made by Lambrecht Glass Studio, as were the shell-shaped
holy water fonts around the church.

Next to the baptismal font is the ambry, where the holy oils are kept.   Blessed by the archbishop each year at a special Mass, these oils are used in the celebration of a number of the Sacraments.

Inscribed on the panels on the perimeter of the font are the omega and alpha symbols.   That wording, omega first and then alpha (the end before the beginning), also ties in to the history of St. James.   At the cathedral in Spain that was built over the saint's tomb, the Omega-Alpha wording is seen in the entryway.   The church is the destination of pilgrims traveling great distances to reach St. James' tomb, and the wording signifies that while the pilgrims' journey is over, their new spiritual life with Christ has begun.

Behind the font is a 14-foot-wide curved wall.   The wall's wood frame holds sections of leaded glass that create a hint of flowing water.   Different textures of clear glass are used, with a background of mouth-blown antique glass from Lamberts in Germany.

The Pews

The solid oak pews were made by Ratigan-Schottler Manufacturing in Beatrice, Nebraska, the same company that manufactured the pews in the original St. James church.   The seats are without padding to ensure long-term durability but are contoured for comfort.   The circle and cross theme seen throughout the church's interior is visible in the ornate carving on the ends of the pews.   The kneelers are covered with heavy vinyl padding.

The 86 pews are arranged throughout the nave in a circular pattern to maintain the intimacy throughout the congregation that has been felt for many years in the parish.   The arrangement also helps to create a sense of closeness to the altar, with a relatively short distance between the farthest pew and the altar.   There is seating in the nave for about 720.


The key lighting feature is a computerized, programmable dimmer system that allows the creation of up to 15 different environments for worship.   These scenes, such as festive ones for Easter or Christmas or a somber one for Good Friday, can be implemented by pressing a single button.   The ZBM team of Dave Beringer and Doug Peters established an approach to the lighting and worked with electrical engineers from Farris Engineering to achieve it.   The hanging light fixtures incorporate both down lighting, which enables the congregation to see, and up lighting, which illuminates the ceiling space.

Sound System and Control Room

Liturgical celebrations call for the clear transmission of the sung and spoken responses of individuals and of the entire liturgical assembly.   That's exactly what the sound system at St. James is designed to do.  MuSonics Audio Design of Denver designed the system, and Electronic Sound, Inc. of Omaha installed it.

Two Duran "Intellivox" loudspeakers, located near the sanctuary, are architecturally integrated out of sight.   These "active" loudspeakers are internally computer-controlled to provide a very high degree of sound placement.   The sound is focused by temporarily connecting a computer to adjust the exact sound coverage for a particular listening space.   There are 17 speakers inside each enclosure that are individually controlled via a complex algorithm and digital signal processing.

Several additional speakers are located throughout the building and in various rooms.   An audio-visual cabled system is hooked up to help with overflow during church liturgies.