Forty years a Georgian


My family and I have been Georgians for just a few days over 40 years, having arrived in late June of 1983.

I came to serve as the pastor of a church just a few months over four years old called, at the time, Fayette Fellowship. The church averaged, according to the information available, 76 in Sunday attendance and had 76 members. Peachtree City was far different then than it is now.

The town was a planned community and had a population of a bit over 9,000 residents. The main drag through town, Highway 54, was just a two-lane road and nearly nowhere to go for a meal.

If my memory serves me correctly, there were three places to eat: Ken’s Pizza, Frank & Fries, and a small cafeteria whose name I forget. There was also the Flat Creek Country Club for those of means.

The neighboring towns of Fayetteville, Tyrone, and Newnan were no better. If one wanted a satisfying meal in a restaurant that promised decent food, one could drive the 30 or so miles past Hartsfield International Airport and visit Steak & Ale.

All those establishments are now gone. There were 36,410 residents in Fayette County and that included the citizens of Peachtree City.

In neighboring Coweta County, the total population was 41,567. The road between Peachtree City and Newnan, the Coweta County seat, was only about 15 miles away and it, too, was a two-lane road that was virtually empty of either houses or businesses. Things have changed mightily in 40 years,

Fayette County now boasts around 121,000 residents including the 40,000 or so in Peachtree City. Coweta County has blossomed to over 151,000 residents. The two-lane highways have been replaced by four lanes and the traffic now clogs both counties at certain times, especially during lunches and rush hours.

In the early 1980s I once drove from Peachtree City to the Newnan Hospital in eight minutes. I broke all sorts of laws doing it, but someone was in the emergency room. Today, it would take 45 minutes, if I were lucky.

Both counties have been a business Mecca, of sorts. The problem is no longer finding a place to eat. In fact, I would be surprised if one could visit all the restaurants in a year, even if one ate out every day.

The movie and TV industry has discovered Georgia, making it the Number 1 producer of films followed by New Mexico, Louisiana, California, and New York, in that order. This has especially impacted the metro Atlanta area, of which we are a part, and has resulted in a housing boom. Other businesses are leaving states with unfriendly tax rates and are heading South and Georgia is picking up its share.

Now all this hasn’t been without a lot of squawking over the years by the long-time “natives” of the area. There are always complaints about the crowds, the housing and apartment developments, big box businesses, and all the growth that has “ruined” the area.

I am not among the complainers. I was here 40 years ago when there was nowhere to eat and few places to go unless one went to Atlanta.

There have been growing pains, to be sure, but compared to 1983, I believe that almost everything is greatly improved … except the traffic. Yet, we seem to learn how to negotiate it pretty well. Both counties now have modern quality hospitals which wasn’t the case 40 years ago.

In 1984, my middle son, John, who was nine, was run over by a car. The ambulance that arrived quickly ignored the small hospital in Newnan and took him to the larger hospital in Riverdale, near Atlanta. After a quick stop there, our doctor, who was a church member, said to “get him out of there,” and he was transported to Eggleston Children’s Hospital on the Emory University campus where the good folks in ICU brought him back to health.

Moving from western Colorado, we finished raising three sons in Georgia. James, the youngest, lives in New Mexico; John, the middle son, in Fayette County; and the eldest son, Jason, in Coweta County. Ten of our twelve grandchildren are Georgians, and all three of our great-grandchildren are Georgians.

Almost four years ago, my wife and I downsized significantly and built our final home near Senoia in Coweta County. In our forty years, we lived in three places in Peachtree City, one house in Sharpsburg, and now in our present location.

I lived in other places for 31 1/2 years, including Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina, and Colorado. I have gone to seminary in Missouri and Pennsylvania. I still have an affection for and a place in my heart for my native Tennessee. I love the chain of Appalachian Mountains in which I was birthed, the lakes in which I fished, and the church that changed the course of my life. I had a wonderful childhood there with good parents and a wonderful brother and great friends.

At 15, I was baptized in a Methodist Church in that beautiful place, preached my first sermon at 19, was licensed to preach, and my wife and I were married in that same church. I am a product of a great high school, and I took an undergraduate degree from one of her universities. I will always be a hopeful Vols fan, and “Rocky Top” will always be my favorite fight song.

But Georgia is my home and almost all of my adult life has been here. The church I came to serve grew and became Trinity Fellowship and relocated to Coweta County. I served there 13 years and helped start Trinity Christian School with 17 students and a staff of terribly underpaid people which now boasts, under current leadership, over 1,500 students.

Almost 27 years ago, I was the founding pastor of the church I still serve just outside Peachtree City on Highway 34.

My travels have taken me to countries on every continent except South America and Antarctica. When I drive out of state, as I occasionally do, I am always glad to see the Georgia state line coming up on my return. Along with Ray Charles, I have “Georgia on my Mind” and, when I cross that state line, I am home.

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King ( Worship services are on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. and on livestream at He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South ( He may be contacted at]