The origin of St. James the Less begins with one of the area’s oldest Episcopal parishes, St. Peters, a north Nashville church organized in 1866. In the late 1950s, St. Ann’s and St. Peters were expected to form a new charter church. St. Ann’s decided to retain their parish status and continue their mission in East Nashville. Subsequently, St. Peters was closed by Dean William A. Dimmick of St. Mary’s Cathedral of Memphis.
The initial aspirants for a new church met at the home of George E. (Jack) and Mary Elizabeth Womack, former members of St. Peters. It was decided at this meeting that the proceeds from the sale of St. Peters would be used to purchase a lot for the new mission church. Bishop Vander Horst gave his approval for the mission and chose its name, St. James the Less. Property on Curdwood Boulevard in Inglewood was rented and services began on September 7, 1958 with forty-two charter members present. On September 4, 1960, the first service was held at our present location on 411 Due West Avenue. In 1963, ground was broken for the new Nave, which was dedicated on February 7, 1965. The addition of a parish hall was completed and dedicated in March of 1981. The church attained parish status in 1984.
There are seemingly many men named James in the New Testament, mainly because of the numerous epithets and euphemisms applied to them. James, son of Alphaeus, is called "James the Less" or the Younger to distinguish him from Saint James the Great and Saint James the Just. He was a brother of the apostle Matthew (Alphaeus was the father of both) and the son of Mary. He appears in the slightly varying lists of the Twelve Apostles, as does James the Great Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13. He is also mentioned when his mother appears in Mark 15:40 (where he is labeled "less", "little" or "younger" depending on the translation) and Matthew 27:56.
Not much is known about his later ministry. He was a martyr in the early Church and one of its earliest saints. Some historians believe he was clubbed to death in Jerusalem for violating Judaic law. Others have written that he was crucified in Egypt and his body was cut up. The differing accounts of his death explain why there are two traditional symbols - a club and a saw - for St. James the Less.