History of Christian Science in Athens
It is reported that Mrs. Paul Connally, a member of The Mother Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston Massachussetts, was the first in Athens to hold Christian Science services for herself and a few friends out of her home but exact dates have not been found. We do know that the Liddell family held services in their Athens home beginning as early as 1921.
Services were opened to the public in the summer of 1926. Although most were still held in private homes, some services were held in Ball’s Photographic Studio, James Music Store, and the Holman Hotel. In 1931, The Christian Science Society of Athens was recognized as a branch of The Mother Church and it was around this time that services were moved to the Georgian Hotel and remained there until 1961.
It wasn’t until 1955 that the Society made a concerted effort to raise money for building their own church edifice. Around that time the Society received a great impetus when a stranger, a gentleman from Houston, Texas, made an unexpected offer to contribute one thousand dollars to the building fund on condition that the Society itself raise an additional thousand dollars during the period of one year. Although the membership was still very small, they accepted the challenge with gratitude and went to work with a new sense of dedication and enthusiasm.
Contributions on the special “building-fund Sundays” far exceeded previous collections, and a number of other gifts were received. With no difficulty, the required amount was raised in about six months, and the donor’s generous check for one thousand dollars was promptly received. For the first time, the members saw the goal of a church edifice as a present possibility, and they were determined to continue the accelerated program.
In 1960 an old white-columned home on South Milledge Avenue became available (click here to see the property.) It had been occupied for several years by a sorority, which needed to sell it immediately in order to begin construction on a new and larger chapter house. On condition that the sorority be permitted to remain in the house for the next school year, the property was offered to the Society at a figure much lower than the asking price and quite a bit lower than the appraised valuation. The members seized the opportunity! During that school year, the Society made plans and raised funds for remodeling and equipping the old residence for use as a church. Again contributions poured in, including generous donations from Christian Scientists in other cities and some gifts from non-Scientists in Athens. The members were most grateful for the opportunity to have their own church building which was to include not only an auditorium, but also a Sunday School, a Reading Room, and a Nursery.
For weeks before the official opening, members were present at the house most of the day and sometimes far into the night, working physically as well as metaphysically to bring out the proper sense of order, comfort, and beauty in the church building. The first services were held in the South Milledge home during the Summer of 1961.
When a Christian Science church or society purchases a building and pays off all financial debts associated with the purchase, a dedication service is often held. A dedication service was planned for February 1965 for the building on South Milledge Avenue, when a fire, believed to have started from faulty electrical wiring, damaged the building on December 6, 1964. There was extensive damage to the entire building and furnishings. Again all the members worked faithfully to put the building back in proper order. The repairs were made, the bills were paid, and the members joyfully and gratefully held dedication services on July 25, 1965.
Early in 1967 Phi Kappa Tau fraternity approached the membership with an offer to buy the property. At first, the members were not interested. However, the fraternity raised the offer and in March, the members agreed to sell. For the next 3 years, the members held services in the community rooms of Athens Federal Savings and Loan Association while looking for a lot on which to build another church.
In the Fall of 1970, the Society purchased a home at 620 Whitehead Road – just next door to our present location. The terrace level of the building was remodeled to form an auditorium with pews, carpeting, and air conditioning. A large parking lot was built and the main floor of the building was converted into a Sunday School and Nursery. The first services were held there on February 7, 1971.
By 1986, the property at 620 Whitehead Road was completely paid for but wasn’t meeting the Society’s needs for space. At this time, the membership entertained the idea of building a new church on the lot while incorporating the current building. Within days of selecting an architect for the project, the membership received a phone call from the owners of the property next door at 578 Whitehead Road (our present location) who were going to be putting their house up for sale.
After much consideration, the Society decided to put the property of 620 Whitehead up for sale and bought the property of 578 Whitehead from the estate of the Susie Parker with the intention of getting rid of the existing house and building a brand new church building. The fruition of this decision is the beautiful church we are all sitting in today. The first services were held here on December 3, 1989 and a Dedication service was held in 1999.
In addition to building their own church, it had long been the desire of the members of the Christian Science Society to be recognized as a Church rather than a Society and for many years, the membership discussed ways to work towards this goal. In 2008, the Society met all of the requirements set forth by The Mother Church for becoming a church. In May, the membership applied to become a branch church of The Mother Church in Boston, Massachusetts, and in July, the application was accepted. At this time, the Society changed it’s name to First Church of Christ, Scientist, Athens. It is with gratitude for this unfoldment of God’s love and guidance that we opened our doors to the community on Sunday October 19th, 2008 for an Open House service and fellowship.
In mid-2023, after much prayer and consideration, the members unanimously voted to apply to The Mother Church to change our status to a society. Our application was accepted in August of 2023. Our members understand that our society is needed to provide healing activity to our Northeast Georgia communities in the form of church services, lectures, Sunday School, and Reading Room. And we continue to feel the impetus of our mission to bless our friends and neighbors.