Pentecost Sunday – June 9, 1946. A sense of optimism had begun to spread, replacing the hardships and anxieties of wartime. The Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee had voted at its annual convention to admit The Church of the Good Shepherd to full congregational status, and some 200 people became the first members of the little church they had come to love. The Rt. Rev. James M. Maxon and the Rt. Rev. Edmund P. Dandridge led the processional into the beautiful church for its consecration as congregants sang Henry Purcell’s majestic hymn, Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation. A glorious hymn for a glorious day.
It was a day that few of the original families could have imagined in the summer of 1928 when the Reverend Oliver Hart, Rector of St. Paul’s Church in Chattanooga, realized his longtime dream of creating a Sunday School for families who moved to Lookout Mountain each summer to escape the heat and dust of the city. St. Paul’s oversaw the construction of a small building and provided a clergyman to officiate at Sunday afternoon vespers. Yet when time came for the summer residents to move back downtown, a funny thing happened: no one wanted to abandon the summer chapel. St. Paul’s agreed to keep it open all year.
Within four years the original congregation had outgrown its tiny chapel. But with no way to expand in its present location, it became obvious that the building would have to go. And go it did: in 1933, residents mounted the chapel onto wheels and rolled it across the street where the original chapel eventually became the library and Griffith Memorial Chapel of the Church of the Good Shepherd. As Fr. (later Bishop) Hart wrote to a friend after many years, “I am happy to report that we were never able to close the doors.”
The church remained a parochial mission of St. Paul’s until 1946, when its admission as a Parish was approved by the Diocesan Convention. At the first Parish meeting, January 30, the Rev. Stephen C. Walke was elected and called as the first Rector of THE CHURCH OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD, being instituted in March, 1946.
During the Rectorship of the Rev. George H. Murphy (1947-1952), the membership of the Parish increased and the physical facilities were expanded, with the dedication of the Parish House in November, 1949.
In 1953 the Rev. William Shearer came as a supply rector, and was called as permanent rector. Ill health limited his service to two years.
The Rev. Harold Barrett became the church’s fourth rector in 1955. Under his leadership, over 16 years, the parish grew significantly. In the late ‘50s plans were laid for the construction of a new church which was completed and dedicated in 1962. The new building included the present church, an assembly room below and additional Sunday school rooms. The former church nave was converted into offices and a library, but the sanctuary was retained as a chapel, its altar remaining in its original position.
The Rev. Robert Wood came to Good Shepherd in 1971 as a priest-in-training under Mr. Barrett and when Mr. Barrett left a few months later, he was named priest-in-charge. He was called to be rector in 1972 and served until 1983.
In 1983, the Rev. John Talbird was called to succeed Mr. Wood as rector, serving until June of 2006, leading the parish through major building renovations, the development of an extensive outreach program in Haiti (including the construction of a school in Petit Harpon), becoming a host congregation for Family Promise (formerly Interfaith Homeless Network), an expanded vision for music and worship, and continued congregational growth. Upon Mr. Talbird’s retirement the Rev. Dex Bender was called to serve as interim rector for two years until the calling of the Rev. Robert Childers, the current rector, in 2008.