Church History



IMG COA signHighpoint Episcopal Community Church began in January, 1962 as the Church of the Atonement, an Episcopal mission of Holy Innocents Episcopal Church of Sandy Springs.  At that time, the Reverend Hugh Saussy, Jr. realized the need for an Episcopal church in the area from Roswell Road east to the Fulton-DeKalb County boundary line, and Mount Vernon Highway south to Buckhead. At the first meeting on January 7, 1962, eighteen couples stood and signed a petition to Bishop Randolph R. Claiborne Jr. At another meeting, Mary Wood Bullock suggested "At-One-Ment with God" which was accepted by the Diocese.


The first service with thirty communicants under Father Saussy, Jr., priest in charge, was held at McClatchy School on February 18, 1962. The Rev. Dr. E. Eager Wood became the vicar in the summer of 1962. Services moved to Guy Webb School in March, 1963. On December 13, 1963, eight acres were purchased along High Point Road in unincorporated Sandy Springs, where the Church stands today.  Groundbreaking ceremonies occurred on October 1, 1967.   In January, 1964 upon petition to, and acceptance by the fifty-seventh annual Council of the Diocese as a parish, Dr. Wood became the rector. On March 4, 1967, fellow parishioner, C. Bruce McCaskill, was ordained perpetual deacon, as assistant.


The original mortgage was paid off and papers burned about three years after its initiation --a record (until recently) as being the "fastest retired mortgage for a parish in the Diocese of Atlanta." Outreach included art and variety shows, Six Flag trips for children and adults, trips to the Lynwood Exchange and Day Care Center, which our members, working with local churches, helped to renovate and staff, thereby establishing year-round programs for seven to eighteen-year-olds.


After Dr. Wood's retirement, the Rev. Patrick H. Sanders became rector of Church of the Atonement.  His leadership and teaching qualities helped redefine the financial obligations of the members to the structural facility and outreach by making it a line item budget of 10 percent. "Festival for Friends" bazaar ran for two years with food, games, and varied activities for all ages. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are taken to Hollywood Homes residents. Members helped with St. Luke's Soup kitchen and Community Action Center. A $5,000 Scholarship Fund was sent in Sander's honor to Virginia Seminary upon his leaving.


The Rev. John P. Brewster followed the ministry of Rev. Sanders.  Rev Brewster encouraged the Church of the Atonement to expand its facilities to include a new Parish Hall, kitchen, offices, and restrooms, which the Church offered as part of a community-wide ministry to larger groups in the local neighborhoods.


In 1996, a longtime parishioner bequeathed $25,000 to the Church.  This gift began the Shepherd's Fund, an endowment administered by a committee of the Church. Grants were given to groups in the metro area to improve the lives of people in need. 


The Rev. Dr.Trawin Malone added a new and spirited ministry and outreach with his varied musical background. Music has always been a major part of worship and outreach at the Church, combining offerings from opera to jazz to occasional liturgical dance.  All of these musical offerings all open to the entire neighborhood.


In 2010, The Rev. Chris Starr joined Church of the Atonement as its rector, having served the Church previously as its associate rector.  Prior to 2016, the Church's greatest outreach has been presenting for ordination, the Reverend J. Eloise Haley, the Reverend Lynnsay Buehler, and the Reverend Joan Pritcher.  Rev. Starr left the Church in 2015.*

IMG HP SignFollowing his departure, the Church began a period of

self-examination to determine its future.  In 2017, under the leadership and direction of The Very Rev. Canon Lang Lowrey and The Rev. Ruth Pattison, who share pastoral duties on a part-time basis, the congregation agreed to embark on a new path as a community church, as suggested and recommended by Canon Lowrey.  As an initial step, Church of Atonement would transform itself into a non-parochial, non-mission model of Episcopal “community” church.  To underscore this transformation, the name, “Church of Atonement” was changed to “Highpoint Episcopal Community Church” (or “HECC”).

This new path is a clear departure from the traditional Episcopal church model, which is based on traditional vestry governance and high-cost fixed overhead often fueled by a continual need for more revenues from pledging. Simply stated, the responsibility for governance is with the Bishop through our Vicar, with the operational and missional responsibilities placed on the community rather than the vestry. HECC remains an Episcopal-based church, but it has transformed itself as a low cost, hands-on, worshipping community church with Episcopal worship traditions, theology, and norms. As visualized by Canon Lowrey, HECC, as a community church, is home to those who want to focus on spiritual, pastoral, and fellowship programs in a caring environment, where Christian “community” is the focus ‒ not large memberships needed to generate revenues through continual pledging.   This transformation continues today as a work in process.

A recent article about HECC's new direction, written by Managing Editor John Ruch, appeared in the Sandy Springs Reporter.  This article describes our Church’s struggles in recent years, the determination and grit of Church clergy and congregation in refusing to close the doors and walk away from the wonderful fellowship that our Church offers, and the rebirth of Church of the Atonement, like the mythical phoenix, into HECC.  The following link to the digital edition of the Reporter Newspapers contains this article.


*The pre-2016 history concerning Church of the Atonement was prepared by Thelma Nunn English, with substantial assistance from others. 

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