A History of Christ Church — Curtis

Our two church buildings.

These two drawings from the May 1974 issue of The Vineyard show our former and current church buildings: on the left, the church at 309 Central Avenue, built in 1885; on the right, the church at 1521 N. Patterson Street, built in 1948.

History of Christ Episcopal Church to 1989

Valdosta, GA

By Nancy H. Curtis

Chapter I: Early History

A gift of $1,200.00 from an unknown lady of Savannah was given to the Diocese of Georgia to build an Episcopal Church in Valdosta (History of Lowndes County). This led to the original church at 309 Central Avenue in 1885 and to the present location of Christ Church on Patterson Street in 1949.

Two conflicting dates are recorded for the purchase of the church property. The Diocese of Georgia which met in Convention reported that a lot had been purchased, building started, and $100.00 raised for missions in Valdosta as early as 1871 (Malone). The History of Lowndes County uses 1885 as the time of purchasing the lot on Central Avenue. The earliest services were held by traveling clergy from the Dioceses of Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. Before 1885 The Rev. Samuel Benedict, rector of St. John’s, Savannah, and Archdeacon of South Georgia held services in private homes and in the Court House on an irregular basis (Louttit).

The Rev. H. B. Stuart-Martin who also had two other charges in South Georgia became the first Vicar of Christ Church. Using money saved by two families a lot on E. Central Avenue was purchased from Mrs. Joshua Griffin for $250.00. The cornerstone was laid on November 7, 1885 and the first service was held in February the following year. Charter members were Mrs. Edward Wilson, Mrs. James Farr, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Stuart, Mrs. Juliet Ashley, and Miss Virginia Ashley. On December 13, 1887 Bishop Weed of Florida consecrated the chapel (History of Lowndes County) .

The first Vicar to live in Valdosta was The Rev. F. B. Ticknor who came in 1892. A Sunday School was organized with fifteen pupils and two teachers. Colonel Powhattan Whittle, a lawyer, donated a lot on Ashley Street and the newly consecrated Bishop of Georgia visited Valdosta and loaned the congregation $360.00 to build stores on this property for the rental income. In the same year, Mr. Charles Thompson, a partner in Thompson-Girardin Jewelry Store, moved to Valdosta. He served on the vestry and was the organist for fifty years (Mundy).

In 1894 the women of the church organized into a Guild to support the church. Mrs. Lucian Lamar became President and remained in that position for six years. Mrs. Crom was Vice President, Miss Elinor Hampton, Secretary and Miss Powell Treasurer. The ladies in the Guild had many activities to raise money. Mr. Barnett, the Valdosta Police Chief and Mr. Louis Strom helped the ladies by finding tenants and collecting rents for the stores. The money leant by the bishop plus seven per cent interest was repaid in three years (Louttit).

By 1894 the Sunday School had grown to four teachers and twenty pupils . In 1896 a baptismal font was purchased. The Rev. G. A. Ottman organized the Vestry in the fall of 1900. he is best remembered for starting the Elks Club in Valdosta. In 1901 the women bought hymnals and book racks. A new choir was organized by Miss Dew. A reed organ was purchased. $200.00 was raised by the Guild towards the Vicar’s salary. Some of the women’s projects were sewing bees, teas, and cake walks. (Mundy). In 1903 Mrs. J. L. Staton became the first president of a new guild, the Needle Woman’s Guild. This eventually became the Altar Guild which exists to this day (Louttit).

In 1904 The Rev. G. S. Whitney of Thomasville and The Rev. Cassill, Archdeacon of Savannah, held services at the mission church until a new Vicar was appointed. The Rev. R. G. Hamilton served from 1905-1908. During his ministry the first confirmation service was held on December 17, 1905, with The Right Rev. C. K. Nelson officiating. Five people were confirmed: Margaret Jane Simons, Atossa Faires Oemler, Pearl Laurie Lewis, Carol Lavina Lewis, and Florence Elizabeth Green (History of Lowndes County).

In 1907 the Episcopal Church of Georgia was divided into two dioceses, the Northwestern and the Southeastern. Christ Church, Valdosta was one of the 24 churches in the Southeastern Diocese. Christ Church was listed as an organized mission with 33 communicants on January 1, 1908 (Malone).

The rental property was sold in 1910 and a vicary was built at 105 W. North Street. Many improvements and gifts were added to the church. nave of the church was enlarged. Carpeting, painting and the installation of electric lights and an altar curtain were provided by monies raised by the Guild and by individual gifts (History of Lowndes County). The exterior was stuccoed in 1910 (Mundy). The ladies sold fifty dolls and bought a brass cross and vases for the altar. The communion service was a gift from the Guild of Christ Church Savannah and the brass candlesticks from Bishop Nelson. Guild members included Mrs. A. T. Woodward, Mrs. Lassiter, Mrs. James Briggs, Mrs. Upson, Sr., Mrs. J. L. Staten, and Mrs. Howard Dexter (History of Lowndes County).

The Rev. J. J. Cornish served Christ Church from 1917-1932. Under his leadership the choir was vested for the first time on Easter Sunday 1921.. The Guild started a Parish Hall Fund but this was later changed to an Organ Fund. The first adult Bible class was organized in 1924. In 1926 North Street was paved and the mission had to pay for the paving in front of the vicary. Two years later the Guild helped supplement insurance money to replace the vicary roof damaged from a fire (Louttit).

The next Vicar, The Rev. A. T. Eyler who came in 1932, bought electric light fixtures to replace gas fixtures in the vicary. Gas heaters were installed in the church in 1935. A pulpit was bought in honor of the Rev. Cornish (Louttit).

Chapter II: A New Location

The Rev. Thomas Mundy became the Vicar of Christ Church Valdosta and St. James, Quitman in 1936. Of twenty families, ten pledged $865.00 in 1937. By 1940 32 pledged $1,476.00. By the end of World War II there were 80 communicants, ten in the military. The Men’s club was started March 3, 1946. Mr. Jerome Tillman was the first president. The church was enlarged with space for new choir stalls. Land was purchased for a parish hall next to the church, but when an automobile firm was established near that location, the congregation decided to move (Louttit).

Clifton Hunington White, a professor of Fine Arts and Biblical Archaeology at Georgia State Women’s College and an communicant of Christ Church, studied under Mr. Mundy becoming a Deacon, April 29, 1945, and a Priest, March 16, 1946. On January 1, 1946, a property on the corner of Patterson and College Street was purchased for $6,000.00. The newly ordained Mr. White resigned his teaching position to become the next Vicar of Christ Church in June, 1946 (Louttit).

The Valdosta Daily Times reported on October 22, 1946, that Christ Church planned to raise $25,000.00 to match funds provided by the Diocese of Georgia to build a new church. The Editor, Turner Rockwell, urged the community to help with the worthy cause.

In September 1946, the church building on Central Avenue was sold and deconsecrated the following year. All the church articles were put in storage at the college and for fourteen months services were held in one of the classrooms. The Ground Breaking Ceremony was on May 3, 1948. The original cornerstone of 1885 was removed from the Central Avenue building, recarved and laid at the new location on September 10, 1948 (Louttit).

The opening dedication service was held at 10:00 on February 20, 1949, followed by Holy Eucharist at 11:30 and Choral Evensong at 5:00 p.m. The Atlanta Journal reported that the main building was designed similarly to the Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, and that the tower was an adaptation of a Wren steeple. Total Church construction was $73,000.00. The altar, brassware, baptismal font, Litany desk, communion silver, pipe organ, processional flag, and cross used in the original building were all taken out of storage and used in the new sanctuary (Louttit).

By 1950, the 55 members of the Women’s Auxiliary spent over $3,000.00 for tables and chairs for the Church School and parish hall plus furnishing the kitchen with stove, refrigerator, silver, and dishes. This amount did not include monies raised for local and Diocesan missions (Parrish).

The Rev. Michael Kippenbrock became Vicar on May 1, 1953, receiving a salary of $4,800.00. Barnwell Hall, a classroom wing, was added to the parish hall and dedicated in March of 1954. On May 11, of the same year Christ Church was admitted to the diocese as a parish. The Rev. Kippenbrock was appointed the first Rector. The church which had been a mission for so many years was now self supporting. (Louttit).

The property next to the church on College Street was purchased in 1959. Named Stuart Hall the building was renovated for an office and classrooms for Sunday School and a weekday kindergarten. To help pay for the new property the women’s Auxiliary ran a thrift shop for seven years (Louttit).

By 1963, there were 250 communicants and another renovation project was begun with Blake Ellis as architect. The Rev. Kippenbrock moved to Florida and The Rev. Ernest Stires served as Interim Priest until August 1, 1964, when The Rev. Brevard Springs Williams, Jr. became the Rector. He served until September, 1966, and The Rev. Stires again served as Interim Priest. The Rev. Henry Irving Louttit was installed as the third Rector of Christ Church on April 1, 1967 (Louttit).

Chapter III: From the Vineyard

This chapter contains excerpts from The Vineyard, the monthly newsletter from Christ Church which highlights many of the activities of the past 22 years.

1967 May 4 – Institution of Rector and Evening Prayer Renovation of Stuart Hall; 269 communicants

1969 Replaced air conditioning in church

1970 280 communicants; September, started Folk Mass using the Trial Liturgy

1971 December, started using Rite I Trial Liturgy at 8:00 and 10:00 services

1972 132 pledges made totaling $59,130.00; Property at 1604 Slater St. purchased

1973 Slater St. property repaired and painted

1974 The Rev. L. Powell Gahagan, Jr. accepted a call to Christ Church to serve as Curate and Chaplain; Reuter pipe organ purchased

1975 Valdosta hosts Diocesan Convention and The Rev. Powell Gahagan was ordained Priest; Sanctuary was carpeted, painted and renovated to accommodate new organ

1976 A bi-centennial service was field using the 1662 Prayer Book; Rector started first Music Camp for the Diocese

1977 The Rev. J. Robert Carter accepted a call to serve Christ Church, Valdosta, St. James, Quitman and Adel and was ordained Priest

1979 Vestry decided to renovate and expand sanctuary and kitchen area

1980 Pam Guice became a Catechist; 1519 N. Patterson St. named The Irene Miller House; Vestry voted to establish burial garden for ashes; Construction begun to enlarge seating in sanctuary, double the floor space of the parish hall and build kitchen

1981 Bishop bought property on Bemiss Road for Episcopal Mission

1982 Christ Church helped to establish a new mission named St. Barnabas by allowing The Rev. Robert Carter half time for this purpose; 65 communicants agreed to be active in the new congregation; First service for St. Barnabas was held September 19, at the YMCA

1983 Miller House was renovated; House on Williams St. from Helen Walker’s estate was sold; The Rev. Jack Hennings came as Assistant Rector; Sunday School averaged 100 children

1984 The Rev. Rick Moore accepted a call to Christ Church to replace the Assistant Rector; A grand piano was purchased in memory of Helen Walker

1985 The new Bishop of the Diocese of Georgia, The Rev. Harry Ships, made his first Episcopal Visit to Christ Church; New hymnals bought as memorials; 371 communicants

1986 The Rev. Rick Moore accepted a call to Statesboro; New sound system installed in church

1987 The Rev. Peter Ingeman accepted a call to Christ Church as part time assistant and part time college Chaplain; The Rev. Peter Ingeman was ordained a Priest, June 6; 105 E. College St. was named Canterbury House

1988 Jim Hines, formerly from Christ Church and a seminarian from Virginia Theological Seminary hired for the summer; Lavan and Janet Robinson resigned after twenty years of musical service to Christ Church; Happeners raised $3,375.00 for dorm renovations at Honey Creek

1989 Christ Church hosts the 167th Diocesan Convention in February

Chapter IV: The Church Today

From a church which started with a few families in 1871 Christ Church has grown to include 60 children and 340 communicants. On Sunday mornings there are three services offered as well as Sunday School classes. Three weekday services are held in addition to many activities for study and fellowship.

Following are lists showing the activities and outreach of Christ Church at this time.

Ongoing Projects of Christ Church

Staple food collection
Clothing collection
Meals on Wheels
Lowndes Association for Ministry to People
Soup Kitchen
Unity Food Bank
Transient Aid Fund
Camp scholarships
Rector’s Discretionary Fund
Two orphans in Ethiopia
American Bible Society
University of the South
St. Helena’s Convent
Episcopal Radio and TV
Episcopal Youth and Children’s Services
Virginia Theological Seminary
Presiding Bishop’s Fund
Vision for Mission and Ministry
Activities at Christ Church
Altar Guild
Episcopal Youth Churchmen
Canterbury Club
Children’s Choir
St. Gregory Choir (9:30 service)
Cursillo/Ultrea/Reunion Groups
St. Prancis Choir (11:30 service – singers and instrumentalists
Bell Ringers
Sunday School teachers
Lay Readers and Chalice Administrators
Calling Committees
Study groups
Prayer groups
Episcopal Church Women
Daughters of the King
Education for Ministry
Foyer Groups
Work Days

Non-Profit Organizations Using Christ Church Facilities

The Vestry’s policy is church facilities may be used by non-profit organizations that strive toward the community’s welfare. The following organizations have used Christ Church buildings this year:

Alcoholics Anonymous
Cub Scouts of America
Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS)
Italian American Club
Wild Cat Touchdown Club
Valdosta Recorder Society
Tough Love
Heart Support Group
Joyful Ministries
Wellness Associates
Catholic Mass for college students
Private recitals
Adult Education Extension Courses VSC
Workshops and small groups for Mental Health and Department Pamily and Children’s Services

Pastors of Christ Church

Began Terminated
1. H. B. Stuart-Martin Nov. 1885 1890
2. W. H. Phillips Jan. 1892 Oct. 1892
3. F. B. Ticknor Nov. 21, 1892 Oct. 31, 1895
4. J. H. H. Brown Nov. 12, 1895 Feb. 4, 1896
5. T. S. Stafford Feb. 15, 1896 Oct. 1896
6. W. W. Walker March 1897 May 14, 1897
7. J. F. Milbanks June 1897 Oct. 1897
8. G. M. Davidson Oct. 22. 1897 March 1898
9. A. Barnwell May 1898 March 1899
10. H. C. Dyer March 22,1899 Oct. 1900
11. G. A. Ottman Nov. 1900 Dec. 1901
12. H. O. Judd March 1, 1902 Jan. 15, 1903
13. J. P. Lutton May 1, 1903 Dec. 1903
14. G. S. Whitney 1904 (occasional)
15. R. C. Hamilton 1905 1908
16. Skagen Jan. 1909 March 1909
17. H. B. Thomas April 1909 1911
18. W. R. Agate Jan. 11, 1912 Dec. 1912
19. A. M. Rich Fall 1913 Oct. 24, 1916
20. J. J. Cornish March 1917 Summer 1932
21. A. T. Eyler Fal1 1932 Jan. 1936
22. T. G. Mundy March 1, 1936 June 26, 1946
23. C. H. White June 26, 1946 March 22, 1953
24. Michael J. Kippenbrock May 1, 1953 Oct. 1, 1963
25. Brevard S. Williams, Jr. Aug. 1, 1964 Sept. 30, 1966
26. Henry I. Louttit, Jr. Apr. 1, 1967

Parish Register, Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, 1885-1904

Works Cited

History of Lowndes County, Georgia, 1-825-1941. Valdosta: General Jackson Chapter, D.A.R., 1942; reprint Spartansburg, S. C.: The Reprint Co., 1978.

Louttit, Henry Irving, Jr. “History Christ Episcopal Church Valdosta, Ga.” Vineyard, May, 1974.

Malone, Henry Thompson. The Episcopal Church in Georgia, 1733-1957. Atlanta: Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Atlanta, 1960.

Mundy, Thomas, Jr. “History of Christ Church Valdosta, Ga.” 1943.

Parish Register, Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, 1885-1904.

Parrish, Mrs. Ansel A. III, “The Story of the Women of Christ Church Valdosta,” The Church in Georgia, Vol. 18. No. 5-6, June-July, 1952.

Vineyard April, 1967 – June, 1989.

[End of the Curtis history]