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Our History

A History of St. Edward's

St. Edward’s Episcopal Church began as a mission to Gwinnett County in the fall of 1968. Our first service was held in a Duluth living room with 14 people attending, and within a month, we had moved into the offices of the Gwinnett Daily News. We were officially chartered at their first annual meeting on Nov. 17, 1968, when we elected our first Vestry and claimed our name.

Needing space, St. Edward’s moved into a strip shopping center in Lawrenceville and began ministering to the wider community. Parishioners sold barbecue along the highway to pay for the first organ, starting two bedrock ministries within the congregation: the ambitious and varied music ministry, and the “Pit Crew,” which produces not only the main course for St. Edward’s feasts, but also the church’s favorite incense – when the smoky barbecue cooks walk down the aisle to receive communion.

During our first four years, St. Edward’s was faithfully served by vicars Doug Turley and Vic Nickelson, our vicar emeritus. The current campus, a former strawberry field, was begun on Dec. 10, 1972.

Leaping from mission directly to parish status, St. Edward’s called its first rector, Father Tom Kehayes, in 1976. He led the parish through transitions of the Prayer Book, Hymnal and the ordination of women. The church also undertook a campaign to build the current administration and Christian Education building. The ministries housed and expanded in these facilities continue to be central to our parish life: food, fellowship, celebration and Christian education.

The years 1987 to 1995 under our second rector, Father Bill Payton, brought out St. Edward’s true character: being serious about liturgy, stewardship and education, and light-hearted about almost everything else. Several of the events begun during Father Payton’s tenure have become cherished St. Edward’s traditions: The Boar’s Head Feast, a Medieval themed dinner; and Super Sundae Sunday, which kicks off the church school year and features a 30-foot-long ice cream sundae.

When Father Kent Branstetter arrived in October 1996, the pews and parking lot were full every Sunday. Within a year, the church added an assistant priest and a third service. A memorial garden was built in 1999; the new nave was dedicated in 2001, and the house next door was donated to the church that same year. The house, now known as the Couch-Mason House (or simply “The Couch”), has become the home of the youth ministries.
In March 2016, Father Kent Branstetter answered and accepted a call to serve as Rector of Saint Dunstan's Episcopal Church In San Diego, California, thus beginning our search for a new rector for Saint Edward's. In May 2016 we welcomed Father Kirtley Yearwood as our Interim Rector, to lead us as we progress to the goal of calling a new rector to St. Edward's. Father Yearwood departed Saint Edward's in July 2017, as we continue our search for a new rector.
Currently leading us  as we continue to progress to the goal of calling a new rector to St. Edward's, is our Priest-in-Charge, Father Gordon Okunsanya.

St. Edward’s membership now includes parishioners from Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and the Caribbean, in addition to individuals and families from all over the United States. We are a parish that makes for rich, meaningful worship, diversity and fabulous potluck meals. We believe that our communion will only continue to grow as we welcome all believers and seekers to the Lord’s Table at the church.

Throughout our history, the character of St. Edwards is perhaps best expressed in the way we live our vision:

"St. Edward’s will be a strong, energetic, diverse, and giving church.  We will serve Jesus through care for the stranger, community, and ourselves as we demonstrate our faith through our actions."