While The Church of the Good Shepherd is the spiritual home for its 1,700 members, its pastor sees the church as being a place for all Augustans.
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“This church belongs to Augusta,” said the Rev. Robert Fain, who has served at The Church of the Good Shepherd for 36 years, beginning as an associate pastor.
The church celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.
“People come here to take prom pictures and wedding pictures. They do pictures of their families.”
The Victorian Gothic-style church with its gingerbread-like features and its lush greenery provides a beautiful backdrop for that, and Fain doesn’t mind at all.
Located on Walton Way near Milledge Road, the church has been called “the church on the hill,” said Fain, and it started in 1869 with the first service on Easter Sunday.
The first church in Augusta was St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. As families began to move away from downtown and into the Summerville area, a new church was needed. Families had been traveling via horse and buggy downtown to continue to participate in worship services.
The Civil War delayed any action on a church building and the first congregation met in a school. Fain considers that appropriate since Episcopal Day School, located next to the church, was born out of the church and is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
Artemus Gould donated the land for the church. His son, Johnny Gould, died in childhood before the church could be built, but he liked the name Good Shepherd and a baptismal font is dedicated in his memory.
The first structure on Walton Way was a wooden, Carpenter Gothic-style church, which was built with $2,000 that members of the church’s sewing society had raised. That structure was replaced by a brick one in 1879, but the first structure wasn’t torn down.
“They supposedly rolled the old church down Battle Row, and it became Christ Episcopal Church in 1880. It’s a great story, but I don’t know if it’s true,” Fain said.
A fire in November 1896 started in the ceiling. The slow-burning fire struck on a Sunday and the parishioners were able to save many items such as the organ, marble font, the lectern and pulpit, many of the pews and stained-glass windows.
There was an addition to the church about 15 years ago.
There are other ways Fain considers the church as belonging to Augusta. The church is part of the Family Promise and uses its parish house to help homeless families.
Also, The Church of the Good Shepherd continues its long-time association with Christ Episcopal Church by participating in its community meals to provide a meal for those in need.
On Easter, the congregation celebrated its sesquicentennial with an Easter version of the Festival of Lessons and Carols.
Another celebration will be held Oct. 5, with a family picnic from 4-6:30 p.m. on the church”s almost-40-acre property on Flowing Wells Road. One of the original reasons the church purchased the property was for recreation.
“We have a nice sports program, but we don’t have a home field,” he said. “But God had more in store than a football field.”
One of the programs in store for the site located near Raes Creek is a Nature Preschool that will open in the fall. About 75 percent of the programming will be done outdoors.
Fain said he hopes to use the space and form partnerships with other schools and organizations.