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Veteran volunteer plays role in Diocese's 100-year celebration

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

When Robert Harrell met his future wife in 1969 at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, the current senior warden and communications chair for St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church in Morrow, quickly fell in love. They were married two years later.

In 1975, the couple moved to Morrow, where Harrell took his first job out of college as the media services coordinator for Clayton Junior College (now Clayton State University.) The same year, their son, Wade, was born.

After months of searching for a suitable "church home," they found another love, the Episcopal Church.

Harrell continued to work at Clayton State University until 1988, when he took a job at Georgia Perimeter College as the director of media services and distance learning, all the while moving among the cities of Morrow, Forest Park, Rex and Jonesboro.

The one constant in his world of change was his family's attendance at St. Augustine's Church.

Harrell, who was raised a Southern Baptist, believed St. Augustine's was like no other church he had attended.

"We have a great deal of diversity in our church and are very comfortable with it," he said. "It's one of our most unique strengths and we are very proud of it."

In 2003, after more than 30 years of work in the Georgia college system, Harrell retired. Shortly afterwards, he was approached by Rev. Barry Griffin, of St. Augustine's, to volunteer his services to the church. With his hands tied in a promising business venture, Harrell asked the rector to approach him again in three years.

As promised, Griffin returned with his appeal, and in 2006, Harrell finally said yes.

Under his current title as senior warden and communications chair, he is in charge of updating the church website, putting together the church's monthly newsletter and communicating the activities of the church to the greater Atlanta community.

"I enjoy working with the people and seeing them get excited about our various church activities," Harrell said of his job.

One of his favorite assignments is St. Augustine's Free Community Breakfast. On the second Saturday of every month, from 8am-9:30pm, the church sponsors the breakfast, which serves two needs: facilitating dialogue and fellowship with the community, and as outreach for people in need of a meal.

The breakfast is open to members as well as non-members of the church. Harrell sees it as a "servant opportunity," and "a way we can extend ourselves to the community and get them talking to each other."

In addition to his duties at St. Augustine's in Morrow, Harrell was recently given a larger task by the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta: helping organize and facilitate communications for the Diocese's 100-year anniversary.

The year-long celebration will include conventions and celebrations throughout northern Georgia, throughout the year.

Harrell jokingly said that he got the job as the result of a letter that his wife, Virginia, wrote on his behalf.

In a contest to determine the best church garden in the Diocese of Atlanta, Virginia Harrell wrote a letter describing the garden at St. Augustine of Canterbury. It caught the attention of a Diocese official and Harrell was asked to handle communications for the 100-year observance.

Despite his declarations that his wife wrote the description, not he, Harrell was still selected.

Apparently, church officials still believed he was the right man for the job.