“We love our church buildings, significant spaces, where we have been married and buried and loved. We come for solace, understanding, friendship and sustenance, but then, as we should, we go”
These days St. Anne’s campus encompasses 13.5 acres with 49,768 square feet of buildings. It is larger than 10 football fields, and borders three streets: Northside Parkway, Moores Mill Rd., and St. Anne’s Lane. But it was not always so. The expansion of Atlanta suburbs directly after World War II and into the 1950’s brought many episcopal families into areas which were not close to existing churches.
On May 15th, 1955, one such group of like-minded families in the Ridgewood Heights section of northwest Atlanta petitioned Bishop Randolph Claiborne to institute these 49 adults into a mission church. At a meeting at Lovett Episcopal day school, then on Wesley Rd., they chose the name “St. Anne’s” and elected a vestry. The first service was held on June 26, 1955.
For almost a year, services were presided over by two cathedral canons, Hugh Saussey and Sam Cobb, until April 15, 1956, when the Rev. E. Dudley Colhoun became the vicar of a congregation of about 100 members.
Soon the community started searching for a building site. Two parcels of land on Moores Mill Rd. were chosen, and purchased in the summer of 1957. One of them already held a structure, a small abandoned schoolhouse, which was remodeled into sanctuary and classrooms. The first service was held there on February 2nd, 1958. Shortly after that the mission was elevated to the status of parish and Fr. Colhoun became St Anne’s first rector.
As the congregation continued to grow, architects Frederick Branch and Louis Swayze were asked to draw up plans, but many difficulties lay in their way. While they contended with those difficulties, church leaders had the nave expanded and made ready for use by December 1960. The current Education Building was completed at this time.
After Fr. Colhoun’s resignation in 1961, the new Rector, John Coming Ball, brought a fresh wave of enthusiasm, new plans for the church, and the commissioning of a Flentrop organ to be built in the Netherlands.
The groundbreaking for the new sanctuary was held on August 23rd, 1964. That same year, St. Anne’s fostered a mission of its own, which became the parish of St. Dunstan.
Toward the end of construction, in mid-April 1966, the Flentrop organ arrived. When the new building was ready for use, the old church had to be deconsecrated and the structure was then remodeled for other uses. The new church of St. Anne was dedicated on May 22nd, 1966.
One year later, the Day School was founded, having grown from an idea of Beth Wellborn, and the youth Center was built. Construction on the library began in 1968 and the library officially opened in 1971 as a living memorial given by a generous family. At the beginning it held more than 4000 books. That number grew and was then expanded in the 1990’s when, upon retirement, The Rev. John Westerhoff gifted almost 1500 books from his personal collection.
Fr. John Ball left in 1975 and was succeeded by the Rev. Frank Kellogg Allan in March 1977. In June of that year, he hired one of the first women priests in the Diocese, The Rev. Eloise Lester, first as part-time then as full-time associate.
In the following years, St. Anne’s continued to thrive and to build. Saint Anne’s Terrace, a 100-unit residence for the elderly, was approved for construction on a part of the church grounds close to Northside Parkway.
St. Anne’s Memorial Garden, begun as an Eagle Scout project, was consecrated outside the northeast transept, and the first ashes were placed there in 1983.
Work was begun in March 1984 and completed in December 1986 on the parish hall, the kitchen, and the administrative offices, designed by Jack Haynes.
In November 1986, Father Allan was elected Bishop Coadjutor of the diocese of Atlanta, so the Rev. Roger Ard served as Priest-in-charge until the arrival of the Rev. John Rabb in May 1988.
During this time, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Anderson Smith and a dedicated group of parishioners, St. Anne’s Terrace was opened on January 1st 1987.
During Fr. Rabb’s tenure, St. Anne’s saw an expansion of the staff, with the hiring of a parish nurse, a counselor, and an urban missioner, The Rev. Bernard Rosser. Part of Fr. Rosser’s ministry was to be St. Anne’s liaison to the Northwest Perry Home Cluster, a community of churches and local civic groups with the mission of “doing what needs doing” in the area located northwest of St. Anne’s. The Cluster provided volunteers for Habitat for Humanity builds and school supplies for the children; it supported, among other things, a small neighborhood food bank, tutoring programs for the unemployed, and a huge Christmas food distribution.
Fr. Rabb left in 1998 and was replaced in 2000 by the Rev. Eddie Ard. The 21st century saw the completion of the stained glass windows, a project begun by Peggy Swayze in 1975 [provide a link to a dedicated Stained Glass Windows page]. It also saw, thanks to the good work of Pat Royalty, the revitalization of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church Women chapter. St. Anne’s ECW gives women of all ages an opportunity to be together and share their stories, grow spiritually, and support each other in service and mission work.
In 2005 in the wake of the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina, St. Anne’s contributed to the national effort to comfort and rebuild, by furnishing apartments and support to 20 families.
The 2000s also saw the great celebration of the Semi-Centennial, an opportunity for the congregation to contemplate its first fifty years through displays of pictures, storytelling, and celebrations and parties filled with fun and laughter.
Fr. Ard retired in 2012, and in March 2014 The Rev. Licia Affer was called to be St. Anne’s first woman rector.