A History of St. Gabriel's

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Our History

For some time, St. Gabriel’s was the only Episcopal Church in the once rural, now suburban, southern part of Hall County, Georgia. Our church was born when a group of clergy and parishioners at Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville, the county seat of Hall County, realized that the major growth in Hall County’s population was in its southern part. This growth, around the cities of Flowery Branch and Oakwood, was spurred by the relative proximity to Atlanta¬† and the recreational opportunities provided by nearby Lake Sidney Lanier.

A study group under the direction of the Rev. Jim Shumard, was charged with the task of investigating the need for a church in South Hall. It took less than a year to conclude that a church was needed. With the full support of Grace Church, we secured financing and acquired land and a building from an Assembly of God church that was moving on. Much of the labor involved in converting the church to a space suitable for Episcopal worship was done by the parishioners. The Reverend Solace M. “Mike” Freeman was appointed Vicar and our church was consecrated by Bishop Frank Allan on May 10, 1998.

By January of 1999, St. Gabriel’s was self-supporting and the Rev. Freeman became our first rector, serving until his retirement in January, 2006. Under his leadership, we began a period of steady growth. After his retirement, the church was led by Interim Rector Linda Baker Pineo, followed by Rector Bill Combs.

In 2003, we built, largely with our own hands, a Church school classroom building, enabling us to expand our Christian Education program. This building, Kent Hall, was dedicated to the memory of the late Geri Kent, our first parish administrator.

In the Spring of 2015, Rev. Combs and the Vestry realized that the church was not in a position to support a full-time Rector any longer, and with great sadness on the part of all involved, Father Bill stepped down.

In June 2015, the Rev. Richard “Rich” Sanders came to St. Gabriel’s as an Interim Priest-in-Charge. A year later, he was replaced as Priest-in-Charge by the Rev. Peter Wallace, who also serves as President and Executive Producer at Alliance for Christian Media and as host of the Day1 Radio program and podcast.

Father Peter remained at the helm of St. Gabriel’s until mid-2018 when he stepped down. He continues his work with Alliance for Christian Media and Day1 and has written or edited a number of books.

St. Gabriel’s was blessed to have the Rev. Robert “Bob” Fessler, a retired priest, and his wife, Pat, join the congregation in 2015. He had served in a fill-in capacity at the church when the Priest-in-Charge had to be away. In 2018, he agreed to begin serving St. Gabriel’s as a supply priest, and continues to serve in that capacity, assisted by Deacon Sue Huff, herself a retired member of clergy and member of the church, and Rev. Don Harrison, another retired priest and member. These generous individuals helped the church through the financial squeeze of COVID by serving aptly in a part-time capacity yet still covering all the bases.

Our History

For some time, St. Gabriel’s was the only Episcopal Church in the once rural, now suburban, southern part of Hall County, Georgia. Our church was born when a group of clergy and parishioners at Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville, the county seat of Hall County, realized that the major growth in Hall County’s population was in its southern part. This growth, around the cities of Flowery Branch and Oakwood, was spurred by the relative proximity to Atlanta¬† and the recreational opportunities provided by nearby Lake Sidney Lanier.

A study group under the direction of the Rev. Jim Shumard, was charged with the task of investigating the need for a church in South Hall. It took less than a year to conclude that a church was needed. With the full support of Grace Church, we secured financing and acquired land and a building from an Assembly of God church that was moving on. Much of the labor involved in converting the church to a space suitable for Episcopal worship was done by the parishioners. The Reverend Solace M. “Mike” Freeman was appointed Vicar and our church was consecrated by Bishop Frank Allan on May 10, 1998.

By January of 1999, St. Gabriel’s was self-supporting and the Rev. Freeman became our first rector, serving until his retirement in January, 2006. Under his leadership, we began a period of steady growth. After his retirement, the church was led by Interim Rector Linda Baker Pineo, followed by Rector Bill Combs.

In 2003, we built, largely with our own hands, a Church school classroom building, enabling us to expand our Christian Education program. This building, Kent Hall, was dedicated to the memory of the late Geri Kent, our first parish administrator.

In the Spring of 2015, Rev. Combs and the Vestry realized that the church was not in a position to support a full-time Rector any longer, and with great sadness on the part of all involved, Father Bill stepped down.

In June 2015, the Rev. Richard “Rich” Sanders came to St. Gabriel’s as an Interim Priest-in-Charge. A year later, he was replaced as Priest-in-Charge by the Rev. Peter Wallace, who also serves as President and Executive Producer at Alliance for Christian Media and as host of the Day1 Radio program and podcast.

Father Peter remained at the helm of St. Gabriel’s until mid-2018 when he stepped down. He continues his work with Alliance for Christian Media and Day1 and has written or edited a number of books.

St. Gabriel’s was blessed to have the Rev. Robert “Bob” Fessler, a retired priest, and his wife, Pat, join the congregation in 2015. He had served in a fill-in capacity at the church when the Priest-in-Charge had to be away. In 2018, he agreed to begin serving St. Gabriel’s as a supply priest, and continues to serve in that capacity, assisted by Deacon Sue Huff, herself a retired member of clergy and member of the church, and Rev. Don Harrison, another retired priest and member. These generous individuals helped the church through the financial squeeze of COVID by serving aptly in a part-time capacity yet still covering all the bases.