The Church of the Advent and the presence of the Episcopal faith in Morgan County are rich in history, tradition and culture. Episcopalians came to Morgan County during the early years of the counties settlement, meeting in private homes or traveling to other towns for worship services.
In 1846, a grouip of Episcopalians gathered to establish the first formal congregation of this denomination in Morgan County and the following year were admitted to the Diocese of Georgia as a parish church. Among the first vestry members was Joshua Hill, a U.S. senator and mayor of Madison, who is credited with negotiating the terms with Gen. Sherman to spare Madison from the scorched earth policy.
During the early 1850's, a Greek-Revival style chapel was erected off Academy Street in what is now the main entrance to the old MAdison Cemetary. Called Church of the Advent, it was built upon a lot deeded to the Episcopal Church by the Trustees of the Madison Male Academy. The church grew and prospered there
But, the Great Depression combined with the plight of the boll weevil brought vast hardship to Madison and Morgan County, causing many to leave the area in search of work and stability. These events weakened the church as well, and in 1937 the church was ordered deconsecrated by Bishop Mikell and the building and grounds were sold to the City of Madison for $250. The building was subsequently razed and the church lot sold off for cemetery lots.
Today's Spirit of Renewal
Even when the church was not a physical entity in Madison, the yearning for Episcopal worship never left the county. In 1953, the Church was re-established and Bishop Randolph Claiborne and Rev. Canon Henry Albert Zinser of the Church of the Good Shepherd of Covington came to Madison to help revive the church.
In 1961, the church purchased the former Methodist Church building on Academy Street from its subsequent owners. In 1965, the Barnett Parish House was purchased. Both the church and the Parish House underwent extensive renovations. In 1986, the Church hired its first full-time rector fully supported by parochial resources.
Fr. LeRoy Soper, a priest then recently retired from the Diocese of Central Florida, served as rector from 1986 until the end of 1989 when he retired. In early 1990, a Search Committee was organized with the interim parish leadership in the hands of Fr. Edward James, who retired in Madison until his death in 2001. The search for a new parish priest ended with the selection of Fr. Brian Black who served the church with great enthusiasm and blessings. Fr. Black was tragically stricken with lymphoma at the end of the summer of 1994. He died on April 3, 1995.
In 1996, Fr. Paul (Tripp) Norris accepted the call to Church of the Advent and led us through a six-year span filled with great growth, the formation of formal youth programs and some of the churches most successful fund raising efforts. Indeed, we were blessed with a priest known for his sense of humor and his ability to motivate people to get involved in the church to use their talents and energies for God. Fr. Norris left in 2002 upon accepting a position with the Diocese of Atlanta.
After a brief interim served by the Mother Joan Pritcher, Church of the Advent called the Mother Loree Reed to be the first female rector in parish history. Mother Loree led the parish into modern accounting practices and introduced a deep spirituality and prayer practice to the life of the parish. Her resignation in 2010 made for the unusual entrance of our present Priest-in-Charge, Father Dann Brown. "frDann" is young for his age and ready to share from his life of many and varied experiences including having served as Chaplain to UGA for 11 years.
The legacy of faith, commitment and energy from those who revived the parish to its present vitality is evident in the culture of the congregation today. Some of the parishioners responsible for the rebuilding during the 1950s and 1960s remain very active in the church and in many ways have passed on to others the spirit of faith and commitment that brought the Church of the Advent out of the depths of loss and defeat that were reached in the 1930s.
Thus, one major aspect of the parishes culture is a strong spirit of loyalty and intense affection toward the church as an organization. This offers a glimpse into our parishes will to remain on a firm foundation that will not only survive, but also flourish. And, it also marks courage and motivates a strong sense of moving ahead into new and uncharted waters, based on a belief in God and the security that the parish is strong and will survive.
Due to hard work, sacrifices and generosity over the years, the Church of the Advent is blessed with beautiful church building located in the center of Madisonês Historic District.
Our present Church building was built in 1844 by the Methodist Church and was purchased by its subsequent owners in 1961. The interior was redesigned with distinct Episcopal appointments. The beauty and simplicity of the church is the source of frequent comments from visitors. Ours is one of the oldest church buildings in the diocese of Atlanta and we are one of the first congregations established by the Diocese of Georgia. The church has two features that partly reflect the parish culture and traditions. First, the church is never locked, unlike the vast majority of rural and urban churches across America. The parish is committed to maintaining these open doors, and there is abundant consensus both within and outside the congregation about the great value of the churches access to the community for prayer and meditation at any time.
The church grounds cover nearly two acres and include a late 19th century home, the Barnett Parish House. It stands on the site of the Methodist Female Academy, a Methodist college for women that operated during ante-bellum times. Its brick college building served as a hospital for Confederate troops evacuated from Atlanta after its surrender to Sherman's army. After the college burned in the mid-1860s, it was replaced by the present a Queen Anne style home (see historic photo). That home was remodeled and modernized in the mid-1960s and today serves as the church office, Christian education center and Parish House.
A small building at the rear of the property serves as the nursery, an excellent self-contained church school for young children. It is also used for child care during the principal Sunday services.
As a parish, we are blessed with the enjoyment each of us derives from the warmth and character of our historic buildings and furnishings and the spaciousness of our grounds. Our current position as stewards of the legacy instilled in these facilities is one of great reward to help ensure they will be here for future generations.
Clergy Who Have Served at Church of the Advent
1847-1937 Advent Church, Madison
Rev. Elliott Habersham, 1st Rector, followed by
Rev. Dr. Henderson
Rev. Dr. Lord
Rev. L. Pinkerton
1865-1868 Rev. J. H. Elliott
1868-1899 Rev. J. Knowles
1869 - Church Records destroyed in fire that burns downtown Madison
1899-1916 Advent Madison yoked St. Peter's in Austin, Redeemer in Greensboro, and Mediator in Washington. Priest would visit once a month.
1899-1904 Rev. Wiley J. Page
1904-1905 Rev. Francis Alan Brown
1905-1906 Rev. Henry B. Jefferson
1906-1910 Rev. J. J. Lanier
1910-1914 Rev. H. Fields Saumneig
1914-1916 Rev. Thomas Duck
1916 Status reduced to Organized Mission.
1917-1922 Rev. Edward Mason McKinley
1922-1926 Rev. Parker
May 3, 1937 Advent Church deconsecrated. The church building was subsequently razed
1953-1959 St. Michael's and All Angels, mission of Good Shepherd Parish, Covington, GA.
Rev. Henry Albert Zinser 1953-1957, Rector of Good Shepherd Parish
Rev. Peyton Spane 1958
1959- St. Michael's and All Angels yoked with St. Albans, Monroe, Ga.
Deacon (later Rev.) Clyde M. Watson June 29, 1958 to June 17, 1962
January 25, 1962 Parish name changed to Church of the Advent
Dawson Teague (Dates of service uncertain)
Rev. Robert Shepherd - Vicar - Aug. 5, 1962-Aug. 11, 1963
Rev. Robert A. Fisher (1963-65)
Canon Robert L. Crandall - (1965-66)
Rev. Joseph T. Walker - (1966-70)
Rev. James Edward James Ð (1970-1975)
Rev. George Murdoch (1975-1977)
Rev. Russell E. Fisher Ð (6/78 Ð 6/79)
Rev. John McKee - (1979-1984)
Rev. Larae Ruttenbar - (1984-85)
Rev. Gary Garnett - (1985-87)
Rev. Leroy Dilmore Soper, Jr - (1/1/1987-12/31/1989) (First full-time Rector since death of Rev. Knowles in 1899)
Rev. James Edward James returned as Interim - (1/1/1990 - 8/30/1990)
Rev. Brian Charles Black - (9/1/1990- 4/3/1995)
Rev. Paul H. Norris - (7/7/96 to 2002)
Rev. Joan Pritcher- interim - (7/2002 - 8/2003)
Rev. Loree H. Reed - (10/14/2003 - 1/31/2010)
Rev. Dann Brown - Rector - (3/2010-present)