The origins of St. James begin with a survey of the Mission Board of the Minnesota District in 1924.
The Board sent Pastor L. Bollefer to canvess the area of South Minneapolis near the present location. Pastor Bollefer opened a Sunday School late in 1924, at the parsonage at 4949 Third Ave. Believing that a building would help start the congregation, the Mission Board bought three lots on the corner of 49th St and Portland Ave. Once the funds were secured, including a loan of $8000, plans were drawn up and the building was started. After a delay, because of wet ground, the chapel was completed and the Dedication took place on September 5, 1926, with Pastor Bollefer preaching, and Pastor O. H. Scmidt officating. The congregation of 80, were mostly parents of the Sunday School children, people from the neighborhood, and members of other sister congregations. Soon after the dedication, The Woman’s Missionary Society was founded on October 28, 1926. Over the years, what is now known as “the Guild” has supported not only St. James but also the church at large.
As the next few years passed, growth of the mission progressed rapidly until the issue of lodges came to the fore. Because of the Lutheran position on these matters a number of people left the church. At this time the remaining members were 38, with 21 members who had been confirmed in the passed four months. On December 27, 1927, Pastor Bollefer accepted a call to International Falls. His last act was to comfirm a class of eight and then leave for his new call. On Sunday April 29, 1928, Pastor O.H. Lottes was installed as St James’ new pastor. Pastor Lottes and his family lived at 4804 Fifth Ave. until 1929 when the present parsonage was purchased.
As the congregation grew, the orginal chapel became to small. Starting in 1949, plans were drawn up to enlarge and relocate the chapel. After securing a loan for $50,000 from Lutheran Brotherhood, the work began. With a new basement build the church was moved on the lot with an addition of a fireside room, chapel, narthex, and entrance. In addition to the new rooms, new funishings were purchased for the church, pews. atlar. pulpit, lecturn, baptismal and a two manual Wurlitzer organ and chimes. The parish hall had folding doors to create up to ten Sunday School rooms, a stage and what was discribed as a “dream kitchen”. On December 10, 1950, the rebuild church was dedicated by Pastor H. J. Beottcher. The building was valued at $100,000.
Over the years many changes have come to St. James, including the intergration of the congregation, the service of Pastors Martin Kretzschmar, Gordon Voit, and Thomas Volker, replacement of the Wurlitzer organ with and five rank Johnson Organ and later its expansion with a mini box and speakers, new solid oak doors for the front of the church, new altar, new stain glass windows, replacing the heating system, and adding air conditioning. On January 31, 1971, St James paid off all it’s loans and is debt free.
One of the programs which began between ecumenical meeting between two churchman in 1980 turned into a joint effort between two congregations. The people of both St. James and St Leonard’s joined in the “Loaves and Fishes Program”, an effort to feed the poor of the city. This program started in 1982 and has been going strong for over 30 years. Over the years, St James has over come many hard times. Now in the 21st century, St James must again remake itself, reaching out to the neighborhood, the community, as well as holding on to its traditions and the past. Not a easy job, but with God’s help it can happen. Let us all join in that effort!