Mikell Memorial Chapel at The Cathedral of St. Philip. Photo: AIA
Photo: AIA
Photo: AIA

Things to know about the site of Brian Kemp’s private prayer service 

The Cathedral of St. Philip is one of Atlanta’s most historic houses of worship

Before today’s inauguration, gala and other festivities, Georgia’s new governor, Brian Kemp, and family gathered for a private prayer service at the Cathedral of St. Philip. 

The prayer service was a private event open to ticketed guests only. Security was very tight, with members of the Georgia State Patrol out in force to ensure everyone’s safety. The church live-streamed it on their Facebook page.

The Kemps’ home church is Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Athens.

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Kemp’s sister, Julie K. Rief, is a parishioner at the Cathedral of St. Philip.  Red and white flowers on the altar and throughout the church, symbolize love, devotion and spirituality and were given in memory of Brian and Marty Kemp’s late fathers, William L. Kemp II and the influential Democrat legislator Bob Argo. 

The Kemp family arrives at the Cathedral of St. Philip. AJC photo: Hyosub Shin

After the service concluded The Very Rev. Samuel G. Candler, dean of the Cathedral, said “it was a great honor” to host Kemp and family and the hundreds of people who attended the private event. 

“We pray for the state and for the country regularly here,” Candler said. “This was a good way to symbolize that witness.”

He was on site at the crack of dark, overseeing last-minute preparations, and things seemingly went off without a hitch. The service included remarks from 16 celebrants, four congregational hymns, a responsive Psalm, choral selections and the passing of the Peace - yet took less than an hour.

“It was complicated, but sometimes the kingdom of God is complicated,” Candler quipped afterward. In contemplating the prayers to offer Monday morning, he turned to the seal of Georgia for inspiration. It is emblazoned with the state’s motto, “Wisdom, Justice and Moderation.”

“My prayer for the governor-elect and for all the citizens is for wisdom and for justice and for moderation,” Candler said. “They go a long way these days.”

In addition to Candler, celebrants included The Right Rev. Robert C. Wright, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta; Peachtree Road United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Dr. Bill Britt; Peachtree City Christian Church Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. George Dillard; Rev. Mike Franklin, lead pastor at the Torch Worship Center in Demorest; Joshua Heller, Senior Rabbi at Congregation B’Nai Torah in Sandy Springs; Rev. Dr. Laudis “Rick” Lanford, District Superintendent of the United Methodist Church in Juliette; Rev. Abraham Mosley, pastor at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Athens; the Rev. Samuel Porras, associate rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Athens; Minister Sarah N. Robinson of East Friendship Baptist Church in Athens; Rev. Rich Sanders, associate at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Roswell; Dr. Benny Tate, Senior Pastor of Rock Springs Church in Milner; and Rev. Rochard White, Pastor at New Beginnings Worship Center in Commerce.

Serving as honorary ushers were some of Kemp’s Lambda Chi Alpha brothers, including Joe Frank Harris Jr., who was at the University of Georgia with Kemp when his dad, Joe Frank Harris Sr., was Georgia’s governor. 

St. Philip's first services were held near where Kemp and Georgia legislators will soon get down to business. Then known as St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, the congregation in 1846, with five communicants, in a small building near the Georgia Capitol. It later moved to a larger structure where the Georgia Department of Agriculture sits today.

In 1933, then Dean Raimundo De Ovies led the move to the Cathedral’s current location in Buckhead, with construction taking place over the next several decades. The Mikell Chapel was completed in 1947, followed by the De Ovies Memorial Hall in 1951 and parish hall in 1955. The grand Cathedral proper was dedicated and first used in 1962, consecrated in 1980 when the debt was retired.


The current dean is The Very Rev. Samuel G. Candler Sam Candler, who AJC Peachtree Road Race runners have a chance to meet each Independence Day, when he offers a refreshing spritz of holy water.

Dean Sam Candler blesses AJC Peachtree Road Race runners on July 4, 2016. AJC photo: Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com
Photo: Ben Gray
Dean Sam Candler, of The Cathedral of St. Philip, tosses holy water in the air as elite runners go by in front of the cathedral on Peachtree Road.
Photo: Jason Getz / jgetz@ajc.com

The Cathedral’s annual Antiques Show is coming up Jan. 20-27. The event also features a flower festival and home tour. Tickets are on sale now here

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