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Historical Sketch of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Atlanta, Georgia

In 1885, Charles F. Curtis and George A. King, the first Seventh-Day Adventists, came as colporteurs selling Daniel and the Revelation, by Uriah Smith, and Sunshine At Home. They returned north with enthusiastic reports of future prospects for the South. Later, Curtis was asked to head a city mission in Atlanta. His newly acquired bride was the Bible instructor. The Atlanta mission was closed because of a depression in 1887. The workers moved to a less expensive home, where they conducted the Sabbath service and weeknight meetings. Later, the headquarters was moved to the southeast section of the city, where a church was organized in the fall of 1888. A few years later, Curtis realized the need of medical work, so he attended Emory University here in Atlanta. He then became an M.D. In 1903, Curtis operated a private treatment sanitarium near East Lake. The first Sabbath School was held with six adults and six children in the home of Dr. Curtis. He now lived at the corner of South Boulevard and Bryan Street. Some time later, they had services in the St. Paul Methodist Church on Grant Street.

The First Church

Around the year of 1892, the first church building was erected on Fair Street, now Memorial Drive, near the corner of Cherokee Avenue. In 1912, Elder Carlyle B. Haynes conducted the first large evangelistic effort in the old Baptist Tabernacle. A few years later, many people gathered in the large tent that was placed at the junction of Peachtree Street and West Peachtree.

In 1917, Elder Haynes also held meetings in the Grand Theater. It was necessary to close the doors when the theater became filled because hundreds were turned away. At this time, the church building that faced Grant Park was built on the corner of Cherokee Avenue and Orleans Street. Brother Jasper Shirley was the builder, with Brother Dupree and Brother S.H. Lilly laying most of the bricks.

Meetings were later held in the Lyric Theater on week nights at Cable Hall. About 120 new members were added by these efforts. Dr. John Russell Mitchell became pastor for a number of years, with O.B. Crary serving part-time as assistant pastor and choir leader. Elder A.B. Russell was appointed the first regular pastor by the Georgia Conference. One of the first teachers of Oakwood School was Elder Russell’s wife, Clara Jacobs Russell, after the school was founded in Huntsville, Alabama.

In 1939, Elder J.L. Shuler had a tabernacle erected on Peachtree Street near Crawford Long Hospital. It was necessary to have double sessions on Sunday nights in order to accommodate the large audiences. Approximately 120 new members were added to this new tabernacle.

Looking forward to the prospect of additional members, a new church building was being erected at Peachtree Street and Beverly Road. Elder M.K. Eckenroth of the General Conference Ministerial Association held meetings in the City Auditorium in 1949; this brought an increase in membership to both of the Atlanta churches. Elders A.B. Russell, B.H. Shaw, A.H. Cone, John H. Behrens, C.C. Ellis, Ned Ashton, Paul Scoggins, S.M. Schleifer, Lindsay Semmens, W.J. Keith, and W.B. Johnson were pastors who served the Cherokee Avenue church.

The Kirkwood Church

In December 1950, Elder Willard B. Johnson came to be the pastor. He led out in buying the Kirkwood Baptist church building at 112 Howard Street. It was a very commodious building that had over 100 rooms in addition to the sanctuary, and aided materially in the expanding church program.

Soon after moving there, a new church was organized in West End. Over half of its members were from the Kirkwood congregation. God blessed this congregation. Soon more members were added than had transferred to the Cascade Road church. Elders Raymond Numbers and John L. Haywar were pastors at Kirkwood.

As Atlanta grew and many members moved farther out, it was felt that the church needed to relocate to an area that would be more advantageous to our evangelistic endeavors. Elder D.G. Anderson was pastor when the church voted to sell the property. This occurred after receiving an offer from another congregation to purchase the building for $136,000, with $106,000 in cash and a ten-year mortgage. However, the mortgage was liquidated in five years. When the church was sold, the congregation moved to the Family Center, located on Berne Street, S.E., and remained there for about a year, during the construction of a new church building.

The Belvedere Church

After much searching and the blessing of God, a very beautiful expanse of land was found consisting of approximately 7 acres. It faced Memorial Drive on the north, and Covington Highway and Midway Road on the south. This was purchased from Mr. Judson Lanier for $95, 000. The property was divided into three parts with approximately 11/3 acres facing memorial Drive, going to the Book and Bible House for their new building. The remaining portion was divided with approximately 2 acres being used for the church building. The remaining portion was to be held in reserve for future development. Currently, Becker Adventist School stands on that spot.

With Elder D.G. Anderson serving as chairman of the building committee, plans were drawn for the new Belvedere Church., the church was ready for occupancy in less that a year. Carlton J. Martin was in charge of the brickwork with the blessing of God and building supervision of J.P. Lewis. Unfortunately, during construction, a strong wind blew down one of the end walls. On October 2, 1965, the first services were held in the new Belvedere Church.

In 1979, a twelve-grade school was opened on the west side of the city. It soon became an eight-grade school. In honor of Elder V.W. Becker, a Belvedere Church member (whose life has been dedicated to the work of education) the school is now known as Becker Adventist School.  A family center/gym was built adjacent to the school. This is where Monday Night Volleyball is held as a standard event. A shelter for homeless men was opened in 1986, connected to the family center building. During the 1987-88 seasons (the shelter is opened from November 1 to March 31), an average of 30-35 men found shelter, from the cold, every night. They were served over 6,000 meals by our faithful church members. Belvedere church has been privileged to be a “mother church”, as members of this congregation have formed part of the nucleus of many Atlanta area churches.

Pastors who have served at Belvedere are Elders D.G. Anderson, Perry Green, W.J. Henson, Noel Shanko, and David Dobias. In the fall of 2002, Dr. Denton Wayne Rhone became the pastor. Under his leadership, the church has moved ahead spiritually and materially. Belvedere Church has been instrumental in establishing and fostering work in other places; a number of new churches have been organized and are functioning, nearly all of them with new facilities. The latest church to be organized was the Conyers Church, in 1983.

The Atlanta Belvedere Seventh-day Adventist Church stands as a light on the eastern perimeter of Atlanta. The members are anxious to share the love of Jesus in a meaningful way in their community. They want to share the good news of Jesus Christ – the One who came to save, the One who came to minister, the One who is coming soon for his own.