Our parish History
Our Parish History from . . . March 17, 1957, inside a two-car garage. . . . . . . . .
to SIXTY YEARS LATER, inside a 355-seat nave.
1838 – Diocese of FL, Seven Parishes Strong
The Diocese of Florida, seven parishes strong, officially formed on January 17, 1838. It was received into union with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church on September 7, 1838. One hundred seventy-nine years later the Diocese is made up of 62 churches and one cathedral. It covers six regions across 25 counties of northern Florida. The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Jacksonville is part of the First Coast Region East of the Diocese of Florida.
1956 – Redeemer Mission Established
Our church was established in May 1956 as a mission within the Diocese by Grace Chapel Parish (now San Jose Parish), the Rev. Grover Allison, Jr., Rector. That year ten acres at 6004 Terry Road near its intersection with University Blvd. was purchased for $14,000. It included a four-room frame house, a two-car garage, a leaning barn, a few dilapidated chicken houses, a cleared garden and field, a beautiful pear tree and a grape arbor. It was thought that the garage would serve as a chapel and the house could be utilized for meeting rooms, classrooms, kitchen and sanitary facilities. The Diocese paid $7,000 cash down on the property and Grace Chapel assumed responsibility for the $7,000 balance.
Formal Diocesan approval for the mission was granted in January, 1957 by the Rt. Rev. Hamilton West, Bishop. The first service was on March 17, 1957. At the 114th Diocesan Council The Rev. Henry W. Prior, assistant at Grace Chapel, was appointed priest-in-charge. “The Mission Church of the Redeemer” began services in the “garage-church” on March 17, 1957 with 14 registered communicants. The house was used as a Sunday school and parish hall. Meanwhile, Fr. Prior’s work load at the mother church increased and he returned full time to Grace Chapel. When Father Prior left on June 29, 1959, there were 84 communicants. When a priest was not immediately available, lay readers held the services.
The original Redeemer mission board consisted of Conrad Cote, senior warden, George Dismore, treasurer, and Allen Scott, Rufus Thompson, Jr., and W.H. Skinner as members. Services were held at 9 a.m. each Sunday with nursery care provided. Lay readers of Grace Chapel Parish conducted Morning Prayer each week. A celebration of the Holy Communion was held every third Sunday. A regular Church School program was developed.
During the spring of 1959 the Mission Board of Redeemer rethought its position and potential. It concluded with much regret that the ties with Grace Chapel should be ended and that Redeemer should become a Diocesan Mission to enable Redeemer to have a full-time minister of its own.
1959 – New Chapel and Rectory
On July 1, 1959, The Rev. Columbus B. Smith was appointed Deacon-in-Charge. A Rectory on Rosebay Terrace was purchased that year and a new chapel was begun in the fall of 1959, in front of the old one. The “garage” became the sacristy and a classroom. A classroom and office wing was built in 1960. Many men of the parish helped the carpenters rush this building to completion. In April, 1960, Fr. Smith was ordained a priest in the new chapel, with visiting clergy and friends overflowing into the front yard. With continued membership growth, 1960 also saw more construction, completion of the second Sunday School wing and more office space. By December, 1961 when Fr. Smith accepted another call, the communicant number had almost doubled.
1964 – Parish Status; Growth
The Rev. Roger K. Steinhauer accepted the mission’s call on June, 1, 1962. Growth continued and on January 2, 1964 Senior Warden W.H. Skinner wrote Bishop West that the Mission Board had voted unanimously to apply to the Diocese of Florida for parish status. He observed that “. . . since the formation of this Mission by the Diocese in January 1957, the communicant strength has grown from 14 men, women, and children to the present strength of 100 solid communicant families.”
Skinner continued that “. . . at present, even though all buildings are of temporary construction, the facilities are sound, adequate, and well balanced for Christian Worship and Education. The note we carry on these . . . will be paid off in August of this year. The Rectory is in excellent condition and is being paid off under sound mortgage arrangements. The Church site of ten acres is paid for . . . The primary loan we have with the Diocese will be paid up in August 1964. There is no immediate need to launch into new building programs. At the earliest this should be two years away. When this time should arrive, the thinking of most communicants seems to be toward a sanctuary as the first permanent building for the Church of the Redeemer, with use of the present buildings to continue if needed for office and educational space.”
This application was accepted and Redeemer was elevated to parish status in January, 1964. Fr. Steinhauer left Redeemer August 27, 1967 to resume studies at Florida State University. The Rev. Peter M. Horn came to Redeemer from Opelika, Alabama in Feb. 1968. A new kitchen was added, and plans were made to enlarge the Chapel.
21 Years on Terry Road -
Redeemer functioned as a viable parish at the Terry Road location for the next 21 years. Fr. Peter Horn left in 1976 to accept another call. The Rev. James R. Cullipher became priest in August, 1976 and remained eight years until Feb. 1984.
In 1982, parishioners began the first of eight stained glass windows, intended to fit in the two-car garage that had been expanded several times. The Seven Sacraments and Resurrection were the theme of the windows. The first window symbolized Holy Communion and required over a month to complete. Redeemer members assembled the windows themselves, completing each for about $250. Ordinarily each window would have cost thousands of dollars if built by professionals. Embroidering of eighteen altar rail kneeling cushions was begun by members of St. Anne’s Guild in February, 1981 and was completed in June, 1983. (They are still in use at Redeemer today). During the same period the Bishop’s mahogany chair was donated by three parishioners. Since the chair back was not cushioned one was created, bearing the Official Seal of the Diocese of Florida, organized in 1838. Another parishioner stitched the chair seat cushion, also still in use.
In the early 1980’s Davette Turk, wife of the Rev. Richard Turk, Rector of St. Andrews Parish, blessed the Redeemer congregation and many others in the Diocese with Lenten studies and programs. For 16 years, she had lived as a celibate with the Religious of the Assumption (Roman Catholic) in New Jersey. She became a part of Redeemer, and having completed seminary, became a Deacon.
When Fr. Jim Cullipher left Redeemer in Feb. 1984, the congregation was served by The Rev. Dr. E. John “Jack” Dyer as “supply” priest. On July 16, 1984, he was called as Rector, just as Redeemer faced some major decisions.
1985 – Concerns About the Future
One of Fr. “Jack’s” first acts was to assist the parish in preparing a Profile Report. It indicated that for Redeemer to flourish and grow, “. . . the parish should consider relocating in a new vineyard.”
In 1985 the Jacksonville Times Union reported that Redeemer had found it was not growing. Within its parochial boundaries there were 16 other churches, seven of which were evangelical, conservative faiths as opposed to Redeemer’s liturgical faith. Also, the adjacent area contained several larger Episcopal churches with better facilities, more room and better buildings. The Bishop suggested to the Vestry that a static congregation was a “dying” congregation. It became apparent to church leadership that drastic changes were needed for the church to survive.
Fr. “Jack” told the Times Union that parishioners had been thinking of moving for at least three years. But only recently had they become prepared for such an undertaking after Sunday worship attendance grew from an average of 40 to 140, with increased attendance by more children. He said that with the average age of membership becoming younger, and with more children, had come the courage to move.
He credited the Rev. Davette Turk, the only ordained Episcopal woman deacon in Jacksonville at the time, as largely responsible for initiating young people’s programs at Redeemer. She later became Asst. Rector.
1986 – Redeemer Builds
And so the congregation, led by Sr. Warden John Hayt and joined by the Bishop, decided to relocate the Parish of Redeemer to a growth-centered area of southeast Jacksonville known as Baymeadows/Deerwood.
A site was located on seven acres of land at 7500 Southside Boulevard. Plans were drawn by Schweizer Associates Inc., an Orlando-based architect frequently asked to do Episcopal Church design. Estimated cost was $700,000. Groundbreaking was on Palm Sunday, March 31, 1985.
Two distinct and parallel buildings were constructed first. Typical of many Episcopal church naves, the congregation faced east toward the altar, with the Narthex to the west, or rear. To emphasize tradition and permanence, a church façade of red brick and a gray slate-looking roof were selected. The new buildings tripled Redeemer’s worship and education space.
A bell tower with striking brick pillars rose 65 feet. It was funded separately as a memorial by members T. Wayne and Kitty Davis. According to The Village Gazette, “(t)he majestic bell tower . . . will soon house a Maas-Rowe bell system. The unit includes swing bell, tolling bell, pealing bells and Westminster chimes. The tower surrounds a fountain which sprays thirty feet skyward and is prominently viewed by worshipers. Atop the tower, a cross looks skyward.”
The sanctuary’s 50-foot altar rail was graced with the same 18 kneeling cushions hand-crafted by parishioners in 1981. When the new church opened, the eight stained-glass windows built for the Terry Road church were found to fit perfectly in the new Southside sanctuary and were installed directly in front of the bell tower.
Rather than have the rector stand at a lectern to deliver the word of God, parishioners funded a wooden pulpit. Fr. “Jack” Dyer told the Times Union that he noticed a different feeling when approaching a pulpit rather than a lectern. “Somehow, I expect more of myself, and I know they expect more of me.
The Bishop consecrated the completed church buildings on April 22, 1986. The land and improvements had an estimated market value of $1.3 million and the initial stated indebtedness on the facilities was $800,000. A capital fund drive commenced in 1988.
While Redeemer was busy getting settled in its new facilities in September 1986, it also looked at further expansion. Members prepared a study entitled “Thoughts on New Christian Education Building.” It reported a roster of 56 children, age three through 9th grade. They were being taught in a metal four room temporary education building perpendicularly located at the rear of the property. The Sunday School Superintendent was Linda Kattman. A 6,000 s.f. Education Building (the third building) was proposed. Planning and fund raising proceeded but financial realities postponed the addition for nearly 15 years.
After the first half year in the new facility, the operating budget for 1987 was $224,236, “a sizeable increase to 1986,” according to the Sr. Warden. Budgeted expense for 1989 was $360,000 with debt service on the new mortgage at $107,000 or 30%. On Dec.28, 1994 all remaining debt on the new facility was paid off through a generous $530,000 contribution by member John Hayt. A formal “The Burning of the Mortgage” service was conducted on May 7, 1995.
1988 - New Leadership
The Rev. Davette Turk became Priest-in-Charge after Fr. “Jack” Dyer resigned in the summer of 1987. The Rev. Neil G. Lebhar became Rector and preached his first sermon on March 6, 1988. He was installed on May 13, 1988 by the Right Reverend Frank S. Cerveny, Bishop. He had converted to Christianity in 1967, graduated from Princeton University in 1972 and in 1979 was associate rector of Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax, VA. The beloved Rev. Davette Turk continued as assistant priest until she resigned in Sept. 1989 to accept a position at All Saints Episcopal Church in Jacksonville.
The Rev. Rick Wallis became a Deacon at Redeemer in August 1989. He was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 10, 1989 and remained as assistant rector at Redeemer until Dec. 31,1993. The Rev. Gordon Dallas Smith joined Redeemer in Sept. 1994, was ordained into the priesthood on April 26, 1995, remaining as assistant rector until Oct. 16, 1996. The Rev. James K. McCaslin was assistant rector from Nov. 13, 1997 until June 2000. The Rev. Shawn E. Porter joined Redeemer as a Deacon on June 1, 2000 and was ordained into the priesthood on Dec. 10, 2000.
1995-2003 - Progress
On May 7, 1995, the Memorial Garden, just outside the sanctuary behind the altar, were formally dedicated by The Right Reverend Stephen H. Jecko, Bishop of Florida. Member Robb Mitchell was facilitator of the Memorial Garden. Since then, many bricks in the garden have been dedicated in memory of deceased parishioners and family members.
After 15 years on the wish list a ground-breaking celebration for the new Education and Administration Building was held on April 16, 2000. It consisted of a four-classroom educational building with nursery facilities on the first floor and became the third permanent building in the 7500 Southside Blvd. complex. Administrative offices were included on the second floor. A Dedication was held on Feb. 25, 2001. To the extent that funding had not been secured during the 15-year work-up to the third building, a special fundraising campaign among select members was successfully conducted. Redeemer remained debt free and communicants reached an all-time high of nearly 350 in 2002.
2003-2007 – Theological Dispute
In 2003 many members of Redeemer had a theological dispute with the Bishop of the Diocese of Florida over the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson in the Diocese of New Hampshire. They formed an alternative church affiliated with an Anglican bishop located in Uganda. This was known as “The Anglican Realignment.” However, they physically remained at the 7500 Southside site, although it was Episcopal Church property. Thus, in 2006 the Diocese of Florida took successful legal action that established the precedent that departing congregations cannot remain on church property. Over four stressful years Redeemer saw many of its members leave. The last, including Rev. Lebhar, left on May 20, 2007.
2010 – Growth and Health Resume
The Parish was severely impacted following this separation. The Diocese provided supply priests for over a year and Mother Davette Turk returned to the Parish from time to time during the period. The Reverend Vincent G. “Chip” Seadale served as rector in 2008-2009, followed by The Reverend Wallace Malcolm “Mal” Jopling (Marsha) who was appointed Rector on April 18, 2010. He had previously served as rector at Christ Episcopal Church, Monticello, FL.
Under the personable Fr. “Mal” Redeemer put its painful period behind it. Its focus quickly returned to the spiritual needs of its congregation and community, resulting in a growing and healthy parish.
Mother Sandy Tull became assisting priest on August 1, 2013 until her retirement on March 1, 2015. Mother Amy Slater became the University of North Florida Chaplain in July 2014 and maintained an office at Redeemer until January 10, 2016 when she was appointed assisting priest at Christ Church, Ponte Vedra. She also participated in celebrating Sunday worship services.
The parish offices were relocated from the second floor of the Education Building to the Parish Hall Building in 2010 “. . . to be closer to parishioners.” Remodeling was made possible through a contribution by members Tom and Betty Petway. The former second floor administrative suite was rented to a local business.
In 2011 a new wooden Cross of the Redeemer, handmade by Sue Carmichael, Vicar of St. Mary’s Mission, was presented to the congregation. It was hung above the altar and has become the “trademark” of Redeemer.
Fr. Mal Jopling retired October 1, 2015. Fr. Robert Cowperthwaite was appointed Priest in Charge in November, 2015. He had recently retired as rector at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Franklin, Tennessee after serving 25 years before retiring to Northeast Florida.
Fr. B. Wiley Ammons became the new Rector of Redeemer on March 14, 2016 and he preached for the first time at Redeemer on Palm Sunday, March 20.
Fr. Wiley, trained as an engineer before attending seminary, brought great energy, professionalism and love to Redeemer. He had served three years for the Diocese of Florida as the Canon for Youth Ministry, was Summer Camp Director at Camp Weed and was the founding chaplain for the University of North Florida. Fr. Wiley came to Redeemer from Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Jacksonville, having served there as Deputy for Outreach Ministry.
Senior Wardens Rody Borg and Bruce Taylor carefully nurtured Redeemer’s future during 2015-2016 as they led the congregation through its leadership changes.
Continuing a long tradition of contributing, parishioners Marcia Tjoflat and Ann Jackson presented to Redeemer a complete set of handmade vestments made of hand painted fabric on Fr. Wiley’s first day of work.
During his first year, Fr. Wiley has professionally staffed the Sunday services nursery, started Sunday School classes, hired a Director of Christian Formation, strengthened the sense of member discipleship and emphasized the importance of youth and young families to the long-term future of Redeemer. He is also very active in matters of the Diocese of Florida.
Over the ten years since 2007 when Redeemer essentially restarted, average Sunday attendance has grown from about seventy in 2010 to over one hundred forty today. Attendance trends in 2016 suggest continued growth. Pledges grew from $197,205 in 2011 to almost $370,000 for 2017. Total revenues grew from $293,413 in 2011 to $431,583, in 2016, including rental income.
While the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer is 60 years old, in many ways it is a modern, new, young and vibrant congregation full of enthusiasm, new faces and fresh goals each week of the changing worship seasons.
March 11, 2017
Compiler: Scott Trundle
Diocese of Florida files
Fifty years of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer – Bill Stich
Brief history to 1960 - Rev. Columbus Smith
Brief history, circa 1970 – Rev. Peter Horn
Personal church files – Linda Kattman
Parish files – Judy Jackson
1957,58,59 Conrad R. Cote
1960, 61, 62,62 William H. Skinner
1964 James H. Wiesenfeld
1965 Carl Speed
1966,67,68 John Simko
1970 William H. Skinner
1971 Andreas R. Shaaber
1972 William L. Jones
1973 Eugene Bissell
1974 William B. Stich
1975, 76 George Caribaltes
1977 Mrs. Betty Skinner
1978 William B. Stich
1979 Mrs. Betty Caribaltes
1980,81 Everette W. Masters
1982 Eugene Bissell
1983,84 Gerald (Jed) Smith
1985,86,87,88 John Hayt
1988-90 Robert Negri
1990-91 Rick Terrell
1991-92 Bert Pittman
1993-95 Pat Callaway
1995-97 Steve MacDonald
1997-99 John Commins
1999-2000 Mrs. Connie Parsons
2000-2001 Johnny Serber
2001-2002 John Peed
2002-2003 Tracy Pierce
2003-2004 Drew Edwards
2005-2006 Bill Schroeder
2008, 09,10 Rody Borg
2011,12 John Kattman
2013,14 Tom McMorrow
2015 Bruce Taylor
2016,17 Rody Borg
1957 Henry W. Prior (Priest-in-Charge)
1959 Columbus B. Smith
1964 Roger K. Steinhauer
1968 Peter M. Horn
1976 James R. Culliper
1984 E. John ‘Jack’ Dyer
1987 Davette Lois Turk (Priest-in-Charge)
1988 Neil G. Lebhar
2008 Vincent G. ‘Chip’ Seadale
2010 Wallace Malcom ‘Mal’ Jopling
2015 Robert Cowperthwaite (Priest-in-Charge)
2016 B. Wiley Ammons