About Us‎ > ‎


Brief Narrative

In 1842, a small group of faithful Episcopalians gathered and worshipped at the Greene County Courthouse. They organized as the “Greeneville Parish, Greene County,” and gained admission to the 1848 Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee. With the support of several visiting clergy, they became a formal parish at the diocesan convention in July 1849. 

The parish constructed the present church building in 1850, modified it in 1894, and further enlarged the structure in 1951. It is one of Tennessee’s oldest unaltered churches. 

From 1852 to 1901, Saint James experienced great turmoil, having to close its doors for 18 months during 1873 to 1875. Throughout this difficult period Saint James lapsed into mission status, not regaining its standing as a parish until 1957. While world wars, financial panic, and the Great Depression consumed our nation, those leading Saint James made great efforts to reclaim our full status within the diocese, in time adding the Saint Luke Chapel, McMillan Hall, and the rectory. Another object of great significance is our altarpiece, titled "Mater Purissima."

We cherish our historic building as it embodies the dedicated spirit of generations of parishioners. Nevertheless, we also recognize that any church is greater than mere bricks and mortar. We build the real future of Saint James upon the people who truly make our parish thrive.


A Rector is a priest in charge of a self-supporting parish. A rector is different from a vicar, which is a priest in charge of a diocesan supported mission. The rector, in communion with the diocesan bishop, is the ecclesiastical authority in the parish. (note: The word "rector" is derived from the Latin word for “rule.”) The rector has authority and responsibility for worship and the spiritual jurisdiction of the parish, subject to the rubrics of The Book of Common Prayer, the constitution and canons of the church, and is subject to the pastoral direction of the bishop. The rector is responsible for selection of all assistant clergy and staff, and they serve at the discretion of the rector. The church and parish buildings and furnishings also are under the rector’s control. The rector, or a member of the vestry designated by the rector, presides at all vestry meetings.

Glossary definition provided courtesy of Church Publishing, Inc., New York, NY, (All rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church: A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.

The Anglican Communion

During the Reformation in the sixteenth century, Henry VIII declared the Church of England independent of the Roman Catholic Church with himself as its head. It was the result of many factors, some political and some theological, but it has given rise to a distinct form of Christianity, known as Anglicanism. 

The Episcopal Church is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion (Official Website), the churches around the world that trace their roots to the Church of England, and maintain a “communion” with it, hence the name “Anglican.” Other members of the Communion include the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Church of Nigeria. In fact, most Anglicans now live in Africa. 

The member churches of the Anglican Communion are joined together by choice in love, and have no direct authority over one another. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England, is acknowledged as the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, but while respected, the Archbishop does not have direct authority over any Anglican Church outside of England. 

While there are other churches that call themselves “Anglican,” only one Church in any country can be considered “in full communion” with the Church of England, and the Episcopal Church is the American member of the Communion. More…

Adapted from the Episcopal Church USA Visitor's Center