It all began on October 30, 1961 when 35 Episcopalians organized St. Catherine’s mission, initially meeting with the Rev. John Womack, Archdeacon of the Diocese, in Red Rock Community House and later in Sedalia Park Elementary School. Over four decades later, and several building programs, and visionary rectors, we now have a church with pews to seat about 400, a Memorial Garden, and an attached education building, more offices and staff, a large parish hall, and a large commercial kitchen. For most of its first 5 years, it was served by the Rev. W. McClelland, who was also vicar of St. David’s in Roswell.
In 1962, the present land of approximately 10 acres was acquired for a four phase building program beginning with a chapel and parish hall at a cost of $12,500. By 1967 the mission had grown to 95 communicants and the need for a resident vicar was indicated. In July of that year, Bishop Clairborne assigned the Rev. James Clarke to St. Catherine’s and to be part-time assistant to St. James until 1970, when he became full time vicar of St. Catherine’s. In 1968, another planning committee indicated the need of a larger facility and eventually for a full time priest. Plans were completed for construction of the building and the ground breaking was on June 13, 1968. The cost of the church with classrooms in the undercroft was $40,000 including materials used in the finishing touches. Much of the building was done by volunteers. Members of the congregation and friendly consultants contributed skills and many hours of labor. St. Catherine’s is a visible expression of its members. The first service was held in March, 1970 and Father Clarke became a full time vicar.
February 15, 1973, St. Catherine’s was dedicated by the Rev. Milton Wood, Suffragan Bishop of Atlanta. That Spring, Father Clarke accepted the post of Institutional Chaplain for the Diocese and the Rev. Michael B. Milligan, Curate of St. Paul’s, Macon came to us and began may 22, 1973. And we continued to grow. One of the new programs at St. Catherine’s was the Mother’s Morning Out begun by two St. Catherine’s moms who saw a need for this kind of child care and ministry. They began with about 40 children. Under Fr. Milligan, we went from mission status to full parish. He left in 1976 to do consultation work and to further his education. The Rev. David F. Wayland from Covington, Kentucky followed the Rev. Milligan.
The spring of 1980 was a pivotal time for St. Catherine’s as the diocese had decided that a church was needed on Johnson Ferry Road, at a location about 5 miles east of St. Catherine’s. Bishop Sims asked the people of St. Catherine’s to consider relocating to the new location, and through the summer, the vestry and parish met, prayed about and studied the issue involved and put the building program on hold. On September 6, the vestry advised Bishop Sims that we would stay on Holt Road and our theme and slogan became “Bloom where you are planted.”
And bloom we did with a new addition that connected the church building with the parish offices, new classrooms, and a new kitchen. New ministries and programs were also added. The Mother’s Morning Out grew to become our highly respected Preschool. Our connection with MUST Ministries grew and we became involved with building habitat Houses. We added more staff and purchased a new organ. In 1986, the sanctuary was renovated by church members and dedicated by Bishop Judson Child.
On January 1988, The Rev. Wayland celebrated his final service and groundbreaking for a new education and office wing with Bishop Frank Allan officiating. Father Wayland went to Wheeling, Vest Virginia as coordinator of the joint Metropolitan Ministry. The Rev. Doris Graf Smith, who had been a deacon and priest at St. Catherine’s became the priest during this vacancy.
When the Rev. Laurence Packard became our rector, he began his ministry with us with a large hole in the ground which would later be our educational wing. He would now oversee the completion of the building. As we grew in space and membership, we added a third Sunday morning service. We had three different assistants: The Rev. Bill Shepherd, the Rev. Mike Billingsley, and the Rev. Hazel Glover. In 1995, a choice was made to invest in a new mission in West Cobb County. On July 7, we said farewell to Michael Billingsley and approximately 30 of our members, as they formally moved to St. Teresa’s Mission in West. Cobb. Members acknowledged the sense of family was still prominent; a memorial Garden was completed and the “Pledge Plus” was now part of our language. Larry Packard resigned to accept a new call and during his vacancy the Rev. Newell Anderson became our Interim Rector from Easter 1997 until 1998. The Rev. James T. Nixon came to us from Chicago and on November 24, 1998, was inducted by Bishop Frank K. Allan as rector of St. Catherine’s.
As Cobb County grew, so did the membership of St. Catherine’s. In 2002, the Rev. Sherry Coulter came from Memphis as the new Assistant Rector.
Father Jim saw the need of another long range planning group and began “The Emmaus Project.” The work of this group indicated the need for a larger sanctuary, a larger choir room, meeting rooms, offices, a larger kitchen and educational space. Midway through the church expansion, revitalization, remodeling, and refurbishing, on January 10, 2004, St. Catherine’s was devastated by an electrical fire, interrupting the building process. The building that housed St. Catherine’s Preschool was so badly ravaged we were forced to find a temporary home for them. Nearby congregations and schools opened their hearts, hands, and doors to us. After 10 months of demolition and rebuilding, the church was dedicated in the new and gloriously rebuilt worship space by Bishop J. Neil Alexander on November 21, 2004.
November 2010 through November 2011 was a gala year of celebration to “remember, rejoice, renew” for our Fiftieth Anniversary. A new logo for St. Catherine’s was developed in this year by parishioner Jason Snape, featuring three figures holding hands (in our warm St. Catherine’s welcome and our tradition of holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer) gathered under a roof with three crosses (signifying the Trinity and representing our building facade).
Father Jim retired on June 30, 2015 after 17 years as Rector of St. Catherine’s. The Rev. C. Dean Taylor become our Interim Rector on August 1, 2015.
(History by Eileen Motter and others)
50th Anniversary – 2011
Musings From MacMahon 2010
Father Jim’s blog of his 2010 summer chaplaincy at St. Cuthbert’s Episcopal Church, MacMahan Island, Maine