The History of St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary Episcopal Church in Dahlonega
Arrangements for Episcopal services in Dahlonega were first made by Harry G. Moore, a member of Grace Church in Gainesville, who taught at North Georgia College. The first service was held in the Community House in September of 1965. The celebrant was the Rev. Ralph Marsh, Episcopal chaplain at the University of Georgia in Athens. After North Georgia College changed its policy to allow students to bring cars to the campus, many of its students left Dahlonega on weekends. In 1974, due to lack of attendance, services were discontinued.
In 1981, five Episcopalians, living in Dahlonega and attending Grace Church in Gainesville, organized Grace Chapel with the assistance of the Rev. Nathaniel F. Parker, Rector of Grace Church. The first service was on Nov. 8 in the chapel at Lumpkin County Hospital. Father Parker and lay ministers from Grace Church conducted one Communion service and one Morning Prayer service a month. Grace Chapel was never a “mission” church in the accepted sense of the word. No parishioners left Grace Church to start a church in Dahlonega, nor was there any financial aid from the Diocese.
For several years the small group met at various locations in town, including the Senior Center and the Community House. Furnishings were stored and transported, set up and dismantled for every service. An old carved wooden altar, given by St. Catherine’s Church in Marietta, was used for several years. When we moved to our present location it was restored and placed in our sanctuary.
In June 1988, Grace Chapel accepted an offer from Dahlonega Presbyterian Church to share their in-town facility. The following September, Grace Chapel was officially designated a parish by Bishop Judson Child and named for St. Elizabeth of Hungary. With the help of supply clergy, St. Elizabeth’s began having a service of Holy Eucharist every Sunday.
In 1990, the Rev. Sollace (Mike) Freeman became our first Rector. He served on a part-time basis until mid-1994, when he left to work full time for Grace Church. The Rev. Brian Davy was then called as Rector. He, too, served as part time initially, but gradually the position became full time.
A building committee was formed and a capital fund drive was launched. In 1999, at the suggestion of Bishop Frank Allan, St. Elizabeth’s became an aided parish, thus changing Brian’s position from Rector to Vicar.
During 2000 we built our present building and held our first service there on June 4. A year later, Brian resigned from St. Elizabeth’s to pursue training for a healing ministry. With a number of supply clergy before and after, the Rev. Ruth Healy served as Interim Vicar for almost a year, driving to Dahlonega three days a week from her home in Decatur.
The vestry decided to revert to a part-time Vicar and called the Rev. Dr. Paul B. Roberts to became our Vicar in mid-September 2002. At about the same time, the vestry determined to give up the aided parish status, and so Paul became Rector as St. Elizabeth’s returned to full parish status with the beginning of 2003.
On December 31, 2006, Paul Roberts resigned as Rector. St Elizabeth’s again began the process of searching for a full-time Rector. In January 2007, the Rev. Albert G. Daviou began serving as Interim Rector; he was then called to be the new full-time Rector on July 22, 2007.
After Albert Daviou’s retirement in January 2016, The Rev. Doris Graf-Smith served as Interim Rector until The Rev. John Hamilton was called and began his tenure in February 2017.
Our Patron Saint: Elizabeth of Hungary
Elizabeth of Hungary was the daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary and wife of Louis IV, son of the Landgrave of Thuringia and Hesse. She had three children, Herman, Sophie and Gertrude.
As Landgravine she devoted herself to the service of God and to the relief of her war-impoverished people. After her husband’s death, left defenseless against his hostile family, Elizabeth, with her three children, sought refuge with the Franciscans in Eisenach.
Her usual attribute is an apron full of roses. With the death of her husband, Elizabeth lost her protection from the hostility of the court to her efforts to relieve the sufferings of the poor. Legend has it that she was caught sneaking food out of the palace to feed the poor. When the guards demanded to see what she had in her apron, she opened it, and what they saw was an apron full of roses! The skeptic’s version of the legend may be the greater miracle: that the guards risked their lives by reporting that all they saw were roses!
With money from her dowry, she built a hospital in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, where she cared for the poor, sick, and outcast. She died at age of 24 as a result of her fasts and labors on behalf of the poor.
Saint Elizabeth is Patroness of Franciscan tertiaries and Catholic charities. She is frequently painted as a Franciscan nun, but is sometimes shown with three crowns, indicative of her royal birth, her marriage estate, and her glorification in Heaven.