‘Tiny but mighty’ church intertwined with FVSU

January 22, 2014 

  • St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

    Address: 1000 State University Drive, Fort Valley
    Phone: 706-975-3264
    Leadership: Rev. Brian Davy
    Worship: Sunday worship 11 a.m., Tuesday Bible study at noon
    Website: http://stlukes.episcopalatlanta.org

FORT VALLEY -- The historical marker in front of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church not only speaks of the church’s history but also marks the intertwining relationship between the Episcopal Church, St. Luke’s in particular, and what is now Fort Valley State University.

This Sunday, and through the month of February, the church will highlight the history of St. Luke’s, its members and the school across the street that became a university.

“Our identity is still defined by what sits across the street,” said the Rev. Brian Davy, rector at St. Luke’s. “The university remains a big part of who we are and a focus of our parish.”

Part of that modern day connection is St. Luke’s Canterbury Club, a student ministry that meets the second Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. when school is in session. The connection extends to special services featuring students, often as musical guests.

Davy and St. Luke’s member Martha Bright -- who voluntarily serves the church, area Episcopal convocation and diocese in a variety of roles -- both agree the connection between St. Luke’s and Fort Valley State is a complicated one.

Put succinctly, as reflected by the marker out front, the parish’s roots go back to 1913 and the Episcopal Church’s support of Fort Valley High and Industrial School. In fact, it operated the school in conjunction with the American Church Institute for Negroes in New York City and the Diocese of Atlanta and Diocese of Georgia.

Bright said -- and the marker confirms -- in 1939 the school became Fort Valley State College and what is now St. Luke’s was known as the Fort Valley College Center, which was used in a variety of ways including as a worship center. The building was created from gifts from New York philanthropist Mary Cheney Thorne.

In 1958, the building and parcel of land was given to the Episcopal Church, and St. Luke’s was officially born.

Bright said the connections between St. Luke’s members and Fort Valley State are countless whether through attending the university, teaching there, working or being an administrator there. She said she previously served as matron for a university dorm.

Davy said Fort Valley State’s new president and his wife, Ivelaw Lloyd Griffith and Francille, are Episcopalian and are members of St. Luke’s.

St. Luke’s is also strongly engaged in the larger Fort Valley-Peach County community.

“We’re involved in various activities or have members who’re involved in all sorts of community endeavors,” Bright said. “Just recently the church has become a collaborative partner with Peach County Family Connections, a partnership to prevent child abuse and neglect that has run after school programs and other initiatives. Through involvements like that, we’ve started saying St. Luke’s is tiny but mighty.”

Davy said St. Luke’s members helped found Peach County Habitat for Humanity, and the church partners with Grace House and many other community service organizations.

Davy said each fourth Sunday of the month the church has a special celebration service. It often involves Fort Valley State students, and it is at the celebration service Sunday that the church will begin special Black History Month observances, which Bright is coordinating.

“It’s a monthlong celebration of our families and our connection to the campus and the community,” Bright said. “Each Sunday families will be given opportunities to share their family history through stories, documents, photos and other memorabilia. We’ll have special guests such as Evelyn McCrae of the Hunt Education Cultural Center. We’ll even be helping people learn how they can research their genealogy and history. This history is too important to just let it fade away.”

Davy, who lives in Thomaston and also serves an Episcopal congregation there, originally began assisting St. Luke’s as temporary vicar in 2007. The role became permanent, and he is in Fort Valley on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Until recently, he also taught philosophy at Fort Valley State and Latin in a Peach County school. He still teaches online for the University System of Georgia.

His Thomaston church, St. Thomas’ of Canterbury, meets on Saturdays.

Davy grew up in Atlanta and became a priest at age 45 after a computer career. He and his wife, Sue, have one son.

“Naturally, St. Luke’s worship life is centered on the Holy Eucharist,” Davy said. “The church is growing slowly but surely, and we’re again picking up the activities and works St. Luke’s has historically been known for but have been dormant. We’re feeling good about the future; we have a lot of good plans. That’s the good news.”

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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