A "Brief" Narrative of our "Not so Brief" History

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 church building in 1850 that is still used today. It was modified it in 1894, and further enlarged the structure in 1951. It is one of Tennessee’s oldest unaltered churches in continuous use. 

From 1852 to 1901, Saint James parish experienced great turmoil, having to close its doors for 18 months between 1873 to 1875. Throughout this difficult period Saint James lapsed into mission status (diocesan supported - not self sustaining), 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 as a self sustaining parish in the diocese of Tennessee. In time, the Saint Luke Chapel, McMillan Hall, and the rectory was added. Another object of great significance is our altarpiece painted in 1950, 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.

The Clergy of St. James Episcopal Church

We have been blessed at St. James to have had several dedicated clergy persons over the years serve our parish. We call a priest in charge of the parish the rector. A rector is a priest in charge of a self-supporting parish. A rector is different from a vicar, which is a priest appointed by the bishop to be 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 is the ecclesiastical authority (spiritual jurisdiction) in the parish and has responsibility for worship, subject to the rubrics of The Book of Common Prayer, the constitution and canons of the church, and the pastoral direction of the bishop. The rector is responsible for selection of all assistant clergy and staff, and they all 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.

The rector is not an employee of the parish in the traditional sense, but is a ministry partner and spiritual guide tasked with being pastor, priest, and teacher to the parish. Rector's are called with tenure which means that they may serve in the permanent appointment until they retire if they so choose. 

The Anglican Communion

During the English Reformation in the sixteenth century, the Church of England became independent of the Roman Catholic Church. 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 the Church of England (or Anglican Church). 

The Episcopal Church as well as the Church of England are members of the worldwide Anglican Communion (Official Website). These are churches around the world that trace their roots back to the Church of England, and maintain a “communal" relationship with it. Anglo = English, hence the name “Anglican.” The world-wide "Anglican Communion" is the 3rd Largest body of Christians in the WORLD. 

The member churches of the Anglican Communion are joined together by choice in communion, and have no direct authority over one another. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England, is acknowledged as point of unity for the Anglican Communion. Even though the Archbishop is greatly respected around the world, he does not have direct authority over any Anglican Church outside of his see in England. 

The Anglican Church is Catholic (not Roman Catholic) in that it holds Apostolic Succession of its bishops and the historic sacraments of the Church. 

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…