Christ Church Looks Back: The 1963-1964 Search For a New Rector And a New Rectory

Christ Church Looks Back: The 1963-1964 Search For a New Rector And a New Rectory
By Joseph A. Tomberlin
Posted May 27, 2014

Joseph Tomberlin

The first Vestry gathering following the departure of Fr. Kippenbrock for All Saints Episcopal Church in Enterprise, Florida, was a “Special Meeting” on October 16, 1963. Senior Warden James Perryman presented to the group his resignation from both the Vestry and his office as Senior Warden because of “his recent serious illness.” John Oliver, with a Harrison Tillman second, moved that Vestry “accept Mr. Perryman’s resignation with deep regret” and that he be commended “highly for his devoted service to the Church during his tenure of office.” Vestry also quickly chose Jack May to replace Perryman as a member of Vestry and William G. Eager to assume the position of Senior Warden. Upon unanimous approval of those changes, Mr. Eager took “charge of the meeting.” Vestry thereupon commenced a lengthy discussion of the process of selecting a new Rector and decided to mail a questionnaire to all parishioners “dealing with the most desirable qualities to be considered in the calling of a Rector by this Parish.” Blake Ellis was to serve as Chairman of the Search Committee.

Readers of this article should not think that the process of changeover from an outgoing to an incoming Rector in 1963-1964 had anything more than an extremely superficial resemblance to the process now prescribed by the Diocese of Georgia’s Transition Handbook. Indeed, fifty years ago, the diocese seems hardly to have been involved directly. When Fr. Kippenbrock submitted his letter of resignation on July 29, 1963, he wrote only the following with respect to the diocese: “I have informed Bishop Stuart of this action [i.e., his resignation and his having accepted ‘a call from the Bishop of the Diocese of South Florida’], and I trust you will keep in touch with him through your Senior Warden as you proceed to the task of finding and calling a new Rector.” One concrete example of the disconnect between then and now is that the Search Committee in 1963-1964 made recommendations directly to the Vestry about which candidates should be called without necessarily having conducted formal interviews with any of them. The consequence was that the 1963-1964 Search Committee had to recommend five different candidates to Vestry to be called as Rector before the fifth, the Rev. Brevard F. Williams, chose to accept the position.

In the subsequent Vestry session on November 4, 1963, Senior Warden Bill Eager, Jr. reported on recent correspondence with Fr. Ernest Stires, the supply priest serving Christ Church during the Rector search. Mr. Eager noted that Fr. Stires had said that “during his past duty as a supply Rector he had been paid 8 . . .[cents] per mile travel expense plus room and meals plus an additional $25.00 per week honorarium.” As Mr. Eager explained, while Fr. Stires “was very considerate of our situation and was not insisting on an honorarium[,] he sounded as if it would be acceptable to him if we were in a position to pay him that amount.” Accordingly, John Oliver moved that the Vestry remit to Mr. Stires the weekly expenses he had specified, including the honorarium. With a second by Louis Kafoure, the Oliver motion received approval.

Mr. Eager then asked Blake Ellis for a report from the Search Committee “on the progress so far in the calling of a new Rector.” Mr. Ellis announced that the committee “unanimously recommended that the Vestry issue a call to [the] Rev. Frank Allan, [Rector of St. Marks Episcopal Church in] . . . Dalton, Ga., to [become] Rector of Christ Church, Valdosta, Ga.” He added that “all of the committee members, having heard and talked to [the] Rev. Allan, were very enthusiastic over him.” Mr. Kafoure therefore moved that Vestry summon the Rev. Frank Allan to become Rector of Christ Church “at a base salary of $500.00 per month or $6,000.00 per year, with living quarters furnished, $600.00 per year car allowance plus certain allowances for utilities. Christ Church would also assume moving expenses and pension premiums.” With second by Jack May, the motion, as Vestry Minutes phrased it, “was unanimously carried.”

A disappointing report on the calling of a Rector marked the Vestry meeting on November 24, 1963. Senior Warden Bill Eager read a letter from the Rev. Frank Allan, which stated that Fr. Allan “would be unable to accept the call.” Consequently, Vestry decided that the Search Committee would have to do “further work,” “as several new names . . . [of] prospective Rectors have been added to our list.” Mr. Eager also disclosed that two parishioners, Miss E. Cam Campbell and Miss Mildred Price, had “offered to Christ Church a donation of $2,000.00 plus a monthly payment once a year toward the purchase or building of a new Rectory . . . [provided] that it meet certain specifications as to location that would . . . be a desirable residential location” and that the Rectory also be “a good house of adequate size that would be an asset to Christ Church.” The Rectory, at the time, was already “seriously considering” buying a house owned by Dr. S.H. Story that was located at 2200 Glynndale Drive. Vestrymen viewed the Story house as a “[really] good buy for us” and believed that it “would be a very fine Rectory for Christ Church. . . .” Consequently, the “generous offer” from Miss Campbell and Miss Price created an unexpected problem for the Vestry. A lengthy discussion of the matter ensued and led to a Louis Kafoure-Joe Taylor motion “to hold the purchase of Dr. Story’s house in abeyance and explore the possibility of building a new Rectory or purchasing a new Rectory in a new and desirable location.” Following approval of the motion, Vestry launched a long conversation about selling the old Rectory on West North Street. The result was a decision to “place a ‘for sale’ sign on our Rectory and try to sell the property ourselves.” Further, “the asking price was to be set at $8,750.00[,] and we hope to net at least $8,000.00 from the sale. The odd aspect of this choice was that on October 2, 1963, Vestry had already approved a Bill Eager-John Holland motion that called for the old Rectory to be put on sale “for $9,500.00 net to the Church, the price not to include a stove, refrigerator[,] and air conditioning units located in the building.”

In the December 16, 1963, session, Vestry continued the effort to deal with the related issues of identifying a priest to call as the new Rector and of acquiring a house for the incoming priest and his family. Blake Ellis, Chairman of the Search Committee, reported that Mr. and Mrs. Bill Eager, Jr. and he and his wife recently had travelled to Sarasota, Florida, and had “heard and talked with [the] Reverend [Thomas] Fitzgerald, an assistant Rector at the Church of the Redeemer. . . .” Mr. Ellis remarked that all four of them “were . . . very much impressed with [the] Rev. Fitzgerald—stating that, with the exception of [the] Rev. Frank Allan—who had not accepted a call he received from Christ Church—he was the most likely choice of anyone now on our list.”

Senior Warden Bill Eager, Jr. thereupon asked John Oliver, who chaired a committee “to consider the purchase of a new Rectory,” for a report. Mr. Oliver’s remarks focused on the probability of Christ Church’s buying the house at 2200 Glynndale Drive that was owned by Dr. S.H. Story and “which . . . had [been] under consideration for some time. . . .” He provided Vestry such information as the expected purchase price “plus other expense of preparing the house for a family to move into, plus financing cost.” At that point Blake Ellis made an additional presentation “on an investigation of the cost of building a new house as a Rectory. . . .” As the Minutes of this meeting relate, “after much deliberation—and considering the facts from all angles—it was unanimously decided that,” despite Miss Campbell’s and Miss Price’s “very generous and considerate offer to Christ Church toward the building of a new Rectory . . . that it would be beyond our financial capacity to attempt such an undertaking at the present time.” Furthermore, “such an undertaking would entail an expenditure of $11,000.00 in excess of the cost of an existing structure [i.e. 2200 Glynndale Drive] under consideration which we all feel is a very satisfactory and desirable one.”

The result of the decisions by Vestry in the December 16, 1963, meeting was the convening of another “Special Meeting” of the group on December 19, 1963. The initial piece of business was a Marion Tucker-LeRoy Hankinson motion “that we list our present Rectory[,] located on West North Street, with all licensed real estate dealers in Valdosta at a net price to the Church of $7,500.00,” which was approved. The following item was a detailed motion:

Mr. [John] Oliver moved that the Senior Warden [Bill Eager, Jr.] and the Secretary [Mr. Oliver] of the “Vestry of Christ Episcopal Church of Valdosta, Georgia, Inc.” be authorized to conclude negotiations as soon as possible for the purchase of the residence of Dr. S. H Story, Jr., located at 2200 Glynndale Drive, at a net cost to Christ Church not to exceed $23,500.00, plus closing costs and attorney fees, and that they be further authorized to mortgage the property with the Valdosta Savings and Loan Association, Valdosta, Ga., in the amount of $23,500.00 providing for payments over a period 20 years at payments of $168.37 per month, and that said officers be further authorized to sign promissory notes, security instruments and all other legal documents necessary to accomplish said purchase and to bind the Vestry of Christ Episcopal Church of Valdosta, Georgia, Inc., as called for in said instrument.

With a quorum present, Mr. John Holland seconded Mr. Oliver’s lengthy motion, which the vestrymen present approved unanimously. One absent member, Joe Taylor, affirmed his approval of the motion by letter to the Secretary and another, Louis Kafoure, did so by telephone conversation with the Senior Warden.

Subsequently, on December 31, 1963, Senior Warden Eager wrote a letter to Miss Campbell and Miss Price thanking them for their “generous offer in connection with helping us to acquire a new Rectory for Christ Church.” He explained that the Vestry had “obtained estimates on construction of a new Rectory designed by an architect and prices on lots in the most desireable [sic] areas and found that the total cost, not including landscaping, would run $36,000 minimum.” The offer that they had made of a contribution of $2,000.00 “and an additional $1,000 which my family [i.e the Eagers] agreed to contribute toward the lot . . . still left . . . a cost of approximately $33,000 for a new house as against $23,500 for the purchase of Dr. Story’s house.” As he also noted, inquiries about borrowing the difference between $23,500 and $33,000 made clear that “it would be quite difficult to finance this additional $9,500, even though we were unanimous in our desire to have a completely new Rectory.” Accordingly, Vestry’s decision was to purchase the Story residence which was appraised at a value of $30,000 “and against which we have received a very generous contribution.” Mr. Eager also pointed out that the Story house had “more living space and one more bath than we would have been able to get in the new house[,] and it is attractively landscaped.”

Apparently, at some point between the “Special Meeting” of the Vestry on December 19, 1963, and the next regular meeting on January 6, 1964, the process of closing on 2200 Glynndale Drive took place. As the Minutes of January 6, 1964, state, “Mr. Eager explained the recent purchase of a new Rectory to the incoming Vestrymen.” Also, Vestry approved a Dykes-Twiggs motion “that Mr. Oliver investigate the listing of the Rectory on [West] North Street with one or two real estate dealers, primarily Roberts Insurance Agency and also Julien Stephenson [a communicant of Christ Church], and to use his best judgment on listing said property with one or both named above, suggesting also that the listing not exceed a period of 60 days, this action to rescind the action taken by the Vestry at . . .[the meeting of December 19, 1963] to list this property with all licensed real estate dealers in Valdosta.”

The next article in this series will tie up the loose ends of the acquisition of the new Rectory on Glynndale Drive and will continue with the details of the search for Fr. Kippenbrock’s successor.