St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church (Atlanta)

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St. Bartholomew's Church
The parish Church of Saint Bartholomew
"Whoever you are, wherever you are on your journey, you are welcome to this place and to this table."
Location1790 LaVista Road, Atlanta, Georgia
DenominationEpiscopal Church
DedicationSt Bartholomew
ConsecratedAugust 24, 1996
DeaneryEast Atlanta
Bishop(s)Robert C. Wright
Don A. Wimberly, assisting
RectorAngela F. Shepherd, rector
Beverley F. Elliott, senior associate
Assistant priest(s)Bill Deneke
Churchwarden(s)Bobbi Geery, senior
Mark Elberfeld, junior
Religious education coordinatorChristen Erskine, Director of Formation for Children and Youth
Parish administratorJanelle McFarlane

St. Bartholomew's is an Episcopal parish in Atlanta, Georgia,[1] which is notable for its ministries, choral music, and architecture.


The main structures of St. Bartholomew's are all modernist (or International style) in design. Architectural buffs have granted the main church building some attention, one blogger calling it a "nice setting",[2] and another calling attention to the "bluer" ceiling of its nave.[3]


1950s and 1960s

In the early 1950s, many people were moving into DeKalb County, especially in the vicinity of W. D. Thomson School, the area now known as Toco Hill. St. Bartholomew's Church originated when a group of Episcopalians recognized the need for a church in this rapidly growing community. With the permission of the Bishop of Atlanta, the Rt. Rev. Randolph Claiborne, these Episcopalians met in December 1953, to start the process. On February 24, 1954, St. Bartholomew's officially became an "organized mission of the Protestant Episcopal Church," with the Rev. Harry Tisdale (then Rector of Holy Trinity in Decatur) as priest-in-charge. In March of that same year, the mission purchased property on LaVista Road and soon bought a former barracks building and moved it onto the property. This building served as church, parish house, Sunday School, kitchen, office and nursery. Later, it housed Nicholas House for homeless families.

In January 1955, when the Rev. Austin Ford began his ministry, the mission's original six families had grown to fifty. One of the original organizers was George A. Craig, a grad student/employee of Georgia Tech.[4] On January 27, 1957, St. Bartholomew's achieved full recognition as a parish. With communicants exceeding 250, construction began on a new church building (now the Parish Hall). In 1960, the 700 communicants spun off another parish, St. Bede's. In 1967, Fr. Ford left to establish Emmaus House, a ministry in the inner city.[5]


The Rev. Charles Hackett served as rector until 1971, when he resigned to continue his studies and start the Anglican Studies program at Emory University's Candler School of Theology.[6] In 1972, the Rev. Harwood ("Woody") Bartlett became the rector, and during his tenure, the parish joined several other area churches in outreach efforts focused on the inner city, including programs at several housing projects.

The Olde English Festival began in 1978, in an effort to raise funds for a new organ. The fun and profits of the Festival led to its continuation for 25 years. After the first few years, all proceeds went to causes outside the parish.

Also in 1978, the parish once again expanded its facilities to create offices, a music department, and more classrooms.


In 1982, Fr. Bartlett left to become the director of the Episcopal Charities Foundation. During the interim period between rectors, the parish opened a family shelter in Sunday school rooms in response to increasing homelessness in the community.

The Rev. Chester (Chet) Grey became rector in that same year. He played a major role in the establishment of Jerusalem House, a residence for those affected by AIDS. In 1988, Project Open Hand began using the kitchen facilities at St. Bartholomew's to prepare meals for 14 people with AIDS. The organization, which expanded its mission in 2000 to serve those living with virtually any chronic illness, homebound seniors and at-risk youth, now occupies a new, much larger facility, where it prepares over 5,000 meals each day for thousands of people across 18 Georgia counties. Now called Open Hand Atlanta, the organization also provides much-needed nutrition education throughout the state, and Market Baskets, which include fresh fruit and vegetables, for clients now able to prepare meals themselves.[7]


The St. Joseph of Arimathea garden opened in 1992, and the Emmanuel Center for Pastoral Counseling also opened during this period. In 1993, Fr. Grey left to assume the role of Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Trenton, New Jersey, as another major building program was underway.

In 1994, the Rev. Stacy Sauls became the rector and oversaw the construction that was underway. In 1995, the construction of a new worship space was completed, and the old church became the parish hall and chapel. Fr. Sauls also supervised the purchase of a new organ. The Toco Hill Community Ministry was formed to provide financial help for families in trouble. The parish converted the former rectory into a meeting place, now known as the Amerson House. During these years, the music program grew in strength, size, and quality with directors Randolph James and Brad Hughley.


Stacy Sauls left in 2000, upon his election as the Bishop of Lexington. In the interregnum, the parish was led by the Rev. Jim Curtis.

In 2002, the Rev. Wm. McCord ("Mac") Thigpen III, became the sixth (and first openly gay) rector of St. Bartholomew's. He has presided over the completion of the Rosales organ and a full renovation of the Amerson House (former rectory). He has brought a renewed vision of hospitality to St. Bartholomew's as well as a joyful celebration of the parish's fifty-year history.


  • The Rev. Harry Tisdale, (Priest-in-Charge) 1954
  • The Rev. Austin Ford, (Vicar) 1955–1956, (Rector) 1957–1967
  • The Rev. Ted Hackett, 1967–1971
  • The Rev. Jerry Zeller, (Interim) 1971–1972
  • The Rev. Woody Bartlett, 1972–1982
  • The Rev. Jack Murrey, (Interim) 1983
  • The Rev. Chester Grey, 1983–1993
  • The Rev. John Westerhoff, (Interim) 1993
  • The Rev. Stacy Sauls, 1994–2000
  • The Rev. Jim Curtis, (Interim) 2001
  • The Very Rev. William McCord Thigpen, III, 2002–2016
  • The Rev. Allan Sandlin, (Interim) 2016–2017
  • The Rev. Dr. Angela F. Shepherd, 2018–present


St. Bartholomew's has traditionally had a strong outreach program. The missions of St. Bartholomew's have always been central to its work and passion. Below is a list of some of the parish's current outreach projects/organizations:

Domestic missions

  • Toco Hills Community Alliance
  • Emmaus House
  • Friends of L'Arche Atlanta
  • Hunger Walk
  • Jerusalem House
  • Project Open Hand
  • Refugee Resettlement
  • Nicholas House
  • Villa International

Global missions

  • Bread for the World
  • Medical Mission trips to Haiti and Honduras
  • Kids 4 Peace

Music and concerts

St. Bartholomew's has a large music program, of four choirs totalling 60 members (The St. Bartholomew's Choir; the Evensong Choir; The Treble Choir, made of girls and boys; and The Schola Cantorum, to sing the office of Compline). In addition to liturgy, the music department sponsors multiple concerts throughout the year as an outreach ministry to the community. St. Bartholomew's has also welcomed outside choral groups to its venue, including New Trinity Baroque, Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chorus,[9] and the Atlanta chapter of the American Guild of Organists.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Stephanie Spellers (August 1, 2006). Radical Welcome: Embracing God, The Other, and the Spirit of Transformation. Church Publishing, Inc. pp. 21–. ISBN 978-0-89869-520-5.
  2. ^, accessed January 8, 2014.
  3. ^, accessed January 8, 2014.
  4. ^ personal experience
  5. ^ Cultivating Hope: For twenty-eight years, alumnus Austin Ford has led a ministry of social change in downtown Atlanta
  6. ^ Anglican Studies Program at the Candler School of Theology of Emory University
  7. ^ John H. Westerhoff (January 1, 1994). Spiritual Life: The Foundation for Preaching and Teaching. Westminster John Knox Press. pp. 10–. ISBN 978-0-664-25500-8.
  8. ^ St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church 1954-2004: A Jubilee History, 2004, Atlanta, Georgia: St. Bartholomew's Press, pp. 54–55
  9. ^ Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chorus, accessed January 8, 2014.
  10. ^ Atlanta chapter of the American Guild of Organists, accessed January 8, 2014.

External links

Coordinates: 33°49′03″N 84°19′43″W / 33.8175°N 84.3286°W / 33.8175; -84.3286

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