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Episcopal Church of the Incarnation
Atlanta, Georgia

Parish History

The Church of the Incarnation is the third oldest worshipping community of Episcopalians in Atlanta, Georgia.  In October of1882, Mrs. Nellie Peters Black requested a meeting of all Episcopal ladies in West End.  The meeting was held in the home of Mrs. Benjamin Conley, wife of the former Governor of Georgia.  The residence was located where Brown High School now stands.  Those present were Mrs. Conley, Mrs. Charles Goodman, Mrs. Mary J. Van Dyke, Mrs. Joe Hunnicutt and Mrs. E.M. Haunson.

    Between 1882 and 1892 regular services were held in the Masonic Hall on the corner of Gordon and Lee Street.  Later, services were held in the Presbyterian Chapel on Ashby Street which later became West End Presbyterian Church.  In 1880 the Diocese of Georgia established a Board of Missions with responsibility for all missionary operations of the Diocese.  Until 1885 the clergy who served Incarnation were City Missionaries in charge of several small missions.  In Atlanta, only St. Philip's and St. Luke's had achieved Parish status.
    Through the generosity of Mrs. Van Dyke, a lot on Lee Street was donated and accepted as the building site.  Mr. C. Walter Smith prepared plans for the structure of the Church.  On January 13, 1896, there was a gathering for the ground breaking, followed two weeks later by the laying of the cornerstone.  Despite a monthly Treasurer's report that indicated 3.00 in income, canceled by $3.00 in expenses, the congregation boldly borrowed funds and the Church was built for $3,671.80.
    On April 30, 1896, Rt. Reverend C.K. Nelson, Bishop of Georgia opened the Church for worship services.  The Church received parish status on May 6, 1896 at the Diocesan Council at St. Paul's in August, Georgia.  Seventy-three communicants began work as a religious and spiritual factor in West End.  In 1907, Incarnation became a part of the newly formed Diocese of Atlanta.
    In 1927, Dr. G. Wallace Gasque filled the pulpit of Incarnation "temporarily".  By his preaching and teaching ability, he made such an impression upon the congregation that the Vestry extended him a call to a rectorship, which was to last eleven years.  He originated the idea for Camp Mikell at Toccoa.
    In 1945, The Reverend Cecil L. Alligood accepted the call to stay a few months.  He remained eighteen years.  The congregation grew rapidly, reflecting the general post World War II boom in Church membership throughout the country.  As West End became commercial and Cascade Heights developed into a prospering community, plans were made to consider moving.  This became a reality, and the Church relocated in the Cascade Heights area which at that time was low density and suburban before completion of the expressway system.  The first services were held in the new Church of the Incarnation on August 24, 1958.
    Rev. Alligood was succeeded by the Reverend Harry Harper who came to us in 1963 from the mission field of New Zealand. The community was changing socially and racially, presenting the need for a different outreach.  Rev Harper tried to prepare the congregation, and especially the Vestry, for this challenge.  There was frustration, fear, guilt and anxiety, which many could not face.  The decline in membership began.  In spite of the fear and other factors, Incarnation began reaching out to the community.  Although pressure grew to relocate, this was resisted and the Church successfully integrated.  A Bargain Shop (originally called Harper's Bazaar) in the West End was successfully operated by the Women of the Church.  Shepherd's Gate, a community center, opened as a Church School program for "latch-key" children, then expanded to include a youth group, tutoring, arts and crafts, adult instruction, but most of all a second "home" where neglected children could find attention and affection.
    On July 21, 1968, The Reverend Carlisle J. Ramcharan began his rectorship.  The courtyard was completed during this period as a memorial gift from Miss Louise Hames.  Father Ramcharan resigned in June 1972.
    In March of 1973, the Reverend Albert R. Dreisbach, Jr. was called as rector.  As the former advisor to the Bishop of Delaware intergroup relations and last Executive Director of the Episcopal Society of Cultural and Racial Unit (ESCRU), Father Dreisbach came with full credentials to meet the challenge of this time and place in the history of Incarnation.
    Upon his arrival the parish became active on many fronts.  A new two-story educational building was constructed.  The parish was also fortunate enough to acquire some beautiful 40-year old silks and appliqués from the National Cathedral Altar Guild, which have been transformed into stunning vestments, altar hangings and a pall.  Seasonal banners, Stations of the Cross, and the back lighting of the stained glass windows from the Lee Street Church have also added to the beauty and meaning of the sanctuary.
    In the late 1970's, Rev. Dreisbach became founder of the Atlanta Center of the Continuing Study of the Shroud of Turin, and dissolved his relationship with the Church of the Incarnation effective May 31, 1985, to assume its full-time directorship. 
    The Reverend Richard A. Williams was instituted as rector in 1986 and remained for two years.  He held weekly service for residents of Epworth Towers, a senior citizen's residence.  The Reverend Dreisbach served as an interim priest and pastor until the next rector was called to the parish.
    The Reverend Richard C. Britton, Jr. was instituted on May 5, 1990.  Under his leadership, the parish developed a viable mission statement and entered into a strategy for mission planning.  The articles of incorporation and by-laws were revised.  A Bible Study Group was re-established and for the very first time, a Youth Eucharistic Ministry Program.
    In January of 1999, The Rev. Jim Williams began his ministry at Incarnation. He came from Emmanuel Church, Athens, where he'd served for three years as Associate Rector. In November 2004, The Rev Jim Williams began a new ministry at Grace Episcopal Church in Birmingham, AL. Under his leadership the following was established: Foyers Program, a Respite Ministry for Care Givers of Alzheimer's victims, and weekly healing services. 
    In February 2005, The Rev. Canon Dr. A. Gordon Okunsanya began his ministry at The Church of the Incarnation as the Interim Rector, after working with our House of Bishops as the Missioner to Nigeria and other African Expatriates, stationed in Atlanta, GA. In February of 2007, Incarnation celebrated Fr. Gordon's new ministry as Rector of Incarnation, and his continuing emphasis on a renewed focus on outreach and community, until his retirement in December of 2011.  

The parish continues to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to strengthen its life together as a Church family, to guide its mission in the name of Jesus Christ, and to renew itself as a people of God.

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