Our History

HISTORICAL FACTS ABOUT CHAPEL BY THE SEA

  • First met at a pavilion at the Red Coconut Park, then in various homes, on boats and even in a casino until constructing the island’s first church building in 1938.
  • Initiated by Presbyterians in 1932.
  • First met at a pavilion at the Red Coconut Park, then in various homes, on boats and even in a casino until constructing the island’s first church building in 1938.
  • Started the community’s Easter Sunrise Service on the Beach in 1939, which continues today as a service of the Beach Ministerial Association.
  • Helped start the sister churches on our island.  Hired a Roman Catholic priest to come to serve Catholic Mass beginning in 1945 and continuing until the Catholic Church of the Ascension was organized in the 1950s.
  • The church bell was rescued from the scrap yard during World War II. What would have been used to make bullets became used to announce worship services on the island.  It was installed in the bell tower by soldiers from Page Field in 1942, and is now on display in the narthex of the sanctuary.
  • Served as the community’s first movie theater in 1942.
  • Started the island’s first Vacation Bible School in 1939, and has continued to provide a community Vacation Bible School without interruption since.
  • We gave our original sanctuary away.  As we prepared to build a larger sanctuary in 1985, we donated the original worship facility to a sister church in Fort Myers.
  • The stained glass windows of the Chapel were made by a craftsman in Stone Mountain, Georgia, who wished to honor his mother, who was a member of our church.  One of the windows was declined, as it showed a whale and whales are not found in our local Gulf waters.  That window can be found in a private home on Bay Street of Fort Myers Beach.
  • All but three windows in our present sanctuary came from the original Chapel by the Sea:  the Dolphin Trinity Window and the Kings Crown were designed specifically for the 1985 Sanctuary.
  • The pipe organ was added in 1994, but only after great difficulty.  After writing a check to the Moller Organ Company, that company declared bankruptcy.  Investors tried to revive that company, which had made organs for Camp David, the Air Force Academy Chapel, and many of the nation’s largest churches.  They were able to construct only a few organs before they finally closed shop forever.  Chapel has one of the last two Moller Organs ever made.
  • In 2005, Chapel by the Sea suffered over $1.5 million dollars in damage from Hurricane Charley.  The original Dolphin Trinity Window was destroyed.  The center of the window, showing a ship with a cross shaped mast, miraculously survived and has been placed in a shadow box behind our ship-like pulpit.
  • In 2010, while the nation and our community suffered through a difficult economy, our church members and friends rallied to save Chapel by the Sea.  With its foundations having eroded as a result of age and the floods of Hurricane Charley, we were within months of seeing the sanctuary collapse.  Through the sacrificial giving of many, Chapel’s foundation was restored so that we can continue to serve the Lord and the community for many years to come.

 

PALM SUNDAYS AT CHAPEL BY THE SEA

Palm Sunday has always been a special time in our church.  Many of our most important events were held the Sunday before Easter:

  • We recognize the birth of our church as being on Palm Sunday, 1938.
  • The first worship service took place on Palm Sunday, April 10, 1939.
  • The first worship service in the first enlarged sanctuary, Palm Sunday, 1940.
  • The first pews were added and dedicated on Palm Sunday, 1942.
  • Hired a visiting priest to offer the island’s first Roman Catholic Mass on Palm Sunday, 1945.
  • The final worship service in the original sanctuary, Palm Sunday 1984.
  • The dedication of the present sanctuary, Palm Sunday 1985.
  • Dedicated the pipe organ, Palm Sunday, 1995.
  • Kicked off the campaign to save Chapel by the Sea by rebuilding its foundation, Palm Sunday, 2010.