St. James Missionary Baptist Church was organized in 1910, under the leadership of Sister M.D. Crawford, a native of Shaw, MS. Sister Crawford rented a store located on the south side of Jones Avenue and McKinley Street where Sunday services were held. The membership grew rapidly and soon there wasn’t enough room to hold all in attendance. Sister Crawford was given a lot across the street from the store and, in 1911 the first church building was erected. Worship services were held on the fourth Sunday of every month, at which Communion was served, as it still is today.
Unfortunately, in 1929, the church building burned, and sadly, again in 1931. However, St. James Church was rebuilt and named in honor of Sister Crawford’s friend, Reverend Bob James, who helped her with some of her duties. She served as Pastor until 1941. After her death, Reverend Sunny, an Associate Minister, served as Interim Pastor for two years.
In 1943, Reverend Theodore C. Simmons was elected as Pastor. At that time, membership began to increase. During his administration, there were additions to the church, the assignment of Group Captains, and the organizing of a Senior, Junior, and Gospel Choirs. He also reorganized the Sunday school. Worship Services were held on second and fourth Sundays. He resigned as Pastor in 1950.
In April, 1951, Reverend George W. Lee of Belzoni MS was elected as Pastor. He served until 1955. There were no changes made during his administration. While actively working with the Voter’s League of Women in Belzoni, Reverend Lee was assassinated.
Reverend O. D. Brown, the Assistant Pastor, took on the role as Acting Pastor. In December 1955 he was elected as Pastor. During his administration, many improvements were made. His most significant achievements were the increase of seven Deacons to the board. The organization of the Trustee Board, the purchase of a new site to build a new church, the development of a new banking system, the addition of Mother and Educational Boards, the creations of quarterly and monthly financial reports, the additionof a “Pastor’s Study,” and the purchase of pulpit furniture, pews, and an organ.
The membership of St. James increased. In 1960 a new church building was erected. Reverend O. D. Brown served as Pastor until 1975. After which Reverend A. D. Davis served as Interim Pastor until the election of Reverend Charles Knight, a native of Yazoo County, in June, 1976.
Reverend Knight’s administration ushered in a fresh age of leadership. He proved to be a man with immense leadership skills, bursting with wisdom and knowledge, and anointed by God. Reverend Knight immediately began working on much needed improvements. Under his leadership the church has been reorganized and great achievements have been accomplished. Some of his successful reorganization efforts and additions include; upgrading of the Finance Department, addition of a Financial Secretary, purchase of additional properties, establishment of a music department and Trustees, appointment of Deacons and Deaconesses, addition of a Counseling Program, establishment of a Visitation Ministry, establishment of a Youth Department, establishment of Weekly Bible Study, Angel Tree, Food and Clothing Ministry, establishment of the Men and Women’s Ministry, Hospitality Ministry and the addition of a Sunday School Teacher’s Ministry.
Reverend Knight always emphasized the importance of teaching and working with the youth in the church. His vision for the youth led to the expansion of the Youth Ministry including the establishment of The Future Christian Leaders Society (FCLS) organized and led by youth in the church, Annual Graduate Acknowledgement Sunday, the start of Youth Sunday each month, the annual Youth Day program, Summer Youth Trips, and many more activities that continue to nurture all youth. To further nurture fun and fellowship of the congregation he also inspired the Annual Vacation Bible School Parade and Picnic, Annual Church Shopping Trip, Annual Christmas Caroling, Annual Senior Citizens and Veterans Luncheon.
Also, a new edifice was erected in 1993, which was renovated in 2007. The old existing church building was converted into a beautiful Fellowship Hall and a new Cornerstone was laid May 4, 2008. During this administration, the church also started the following Annual days that are essential to the support of the ministry of Greater St. James including Unity Day, Family and Friend’s Day and Sacrificial Sunday.
Reverend Charles Knight served as Pastor to the Greater St. James church family with a loving, compassionate heart and led by example as well by God’s word. After 42 years of dedicated service, on June 18, 2018, God saw a vision well completed and called His humble servant home.
Our present pastor, Rev. Tony Montgomery, Sr., accepted the call to Greater St. James on February 26, 2019. He was licensed by the Antioch Baptist Church North in Atlanta, Georgia by Rev. Dr. Cameron Madison Alexander. Rev. Montgomery comes to Greater St. James after 22 years of pastoring the Missionary Union Baptist Church in Columbus, Mississippi. Known for his passion for outreach ministry, he is a second generation pastor and a native of Columbia, South Carolina. He is a graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia and is a candidate for a Masters Degree in Religious Studies from Chicago Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois.