By Martha Nodar
During the month of July, Oglethorpe Presbyterian Church takes its Sunday morning church services outdoors.
Marthame Sanders, the church’s pastor, said everyone in the community is invited, including those jogging around the neighborhood or walking their dogs.
“We want everyone to feel free to stop by and join us,” he said. “The community is our congregation.”
Georgia Gunter, a deacon at the Brookhaven church, was a member of the committee that came up with the idea for worshipping on the lawn.
“We are very informal,” Gunter said. “The music is contemporary and lively. We also offer blankets for the children, so they may play on the ground.”
Sanders said the idea of meeting outdoors originated when the church moved the Easter Sunrise service to their front lawn in 2006, shortly after he joined as pastor. He said July seemed to be a good choice to do something different because that is when the church choir takes a break.
Amie Kennedy, Rachel Isley, Cortlandt Minnich and Brad Beebe are some of the church members who enjoy attending services on the lawn.
“It’s so beautiful,” Kennedy said. “We can hear the birds singing. We also have a small band playing the guitar and the drums.”
“Worshipping outside gives us a chance to get in touch with nature,” Isley said. “It is a refreshing and spiritual experience.”
“The outdoor worship service has a different feeling with oak trees as the cathedral,” Minnich said. “At our church, we work hard not to focus on our building. Holding services on the lawn really reinforces that we are part of the neighborhood.”
For those church members who favor a more conventional approach, Gunter said, the church offers “traditional worship service throughout the rest of the year.”
Nestled in a quiet neighborhood on Lanier Road, and facing the grounds of Oglethorpe University, the church was founded 61 years ago thanks to the dedicated persistence of Philip Weltner’s wife, Sally. Weltner was an educator who served as President of Oglethorpe University from 1944 until 1953. His wife, Sally, was a devoted Presbyterian who frequently invited groups of Presbyterians to join her for services in university classrooms or the auditorium.
Sally Weltner convinced her husband,an influential and well-respected member of the community, that Brookhaven needed a Presbyterian church, Sanders said.
Eventually, Sanders said, the Weltners were successful in their endeavor and the “Peachtree Presbyterian Church sent a seminarian to Brookhaven to begin gathering Presbyterians in the area.” As the result, the Oglethorpe Presbyterian church was commissioned in March, 1949, by the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta. The church’s land was purchased from the university’s original land holdings, which were very extensive.
“The name of our church is in recognition of the historical connection and the physical proximity to Oglethorpe University,” Sanders said.
Drawing from their interesting beginnings and capturing the spirit of the congregation, Beebe said:
We want to encourage people to come by and find out more about us.”
For more information, visit: www.opcbrookhaven.org.