The legacy of St. James began in 1956 as the Brookhaven-Dunwoody area began to grow rapidly. District Superintendent Nat Long, with the support of Bishop Arthur J. Moore and the surrounding Methodist churches, commissioned four young students from the Candler School of Theology to begin consolidating interest in a new church mission. By December of that year, the “four young men” as they were called, had amassed enough support to begin a new congregation. They began regularly worshipping in the McClatchey Elementary School building and became known as The McClatchey Methodist Mission. Within weeks, they held their first charge conference and became officially chartered as St. James Methodist Church, with 111 members on the roll. At its second charge conference a year later, membership was reported to be 175. Thus began St. James’ tradition of evangelistic outreach to the community in the name of Christ.
The construction of the church building occurred in four phases as the congregation began to grow. The first phase consisted of the Fellowship hall, kitchen, offices and Sunday school rooms (completed in 1960). The second phase was the sanctuary (completed in 1965), and the third phase was the Activity building (completed in 1980). A fourth phase (completed in 2001) was the addition of the current administrative offices, library, parlor, and additional Sunday school rooms.
In 1974, St. James adopted the traditional emblem of the scallop shells as its official logo. The emblem reminds us of the legend of St. James from the early days of Spanish history. According to legend, St. James, the brother of Jesus, preached the gospel in Spain, but later returned to Jerusalem. After his martyrdom, his body was transported back to Spain. As the ship approached the shore, a horse and rider were seen on shore. The restless horse plunged into the sea to greet the ship but in a few moments appeared again on shore covered over with white-lined scallop shells. The rider, said to be a bridegroom, went joyfully on to his wedding. Thus, the scallop shell has always been the emblem of St. James.
Throughout its history, St. James United Methodist Church has found its purpose in worship, mission, and evangelism. Music has always been a very important part of the practice of Christian life at St. James. In fact, the choir was organized before the church was officially chartered. Evangelism and mission to the community and to the world at large have been faithfully practiced from the very beginning, and continue to this day.