Our past, it's helped us arrive at our present, and points
us to our exciting future
In 1977, Sanibel was selected by the United Church of Christ Board for Homeland Ministries as a site for a Mission Church. The Rev. Dr. James W. Lenhart was appointed minister. Dr. Lenhart conducted the first meeting of the Church in the Lighthouse Point Condominium Club House. In 1978, services were moved to the Dunes Golf and Country Club where they were often interrupted by the cash register ringing in the next room. The Rev. Dwight O. Jackson and Rev. Dr. Robert L. Burt served as speakers during the summer. In June of that year, plans were formed for the organization of the Church. The Charter and Covenant were written, committees formed and Donald R. Manchester elected first Moderator. The United Church Board for Homeland Ministries purchased 21 1/2 acres of land along Periwinkle Way with plans to deed four acres across from Periwinkle Place Shopping Center to the Sanibel Congregation UCC. The first sign was placed on Periwinkle indicating the future site of the Church. The Rev. William Nelson was recruited to assist Dr. Lenhart during the intense organizational activities. In 1979, the Church Charter was signed by 38 members at a Service in the Dunes Golf and Country Club. Dr. Lenhart retired due to ill health and the Rev. Dr. Webb Howard was appointed Interim Minister. The Services were shifted to the Sanibel Community Association building, Periwinkle Way. In December, Rev. Howard initiated the first Christmas Eve Service with carol singing on the Lighthouse beach. In 1980, Rev. Mark Burns was summer Interim Minister. The Rev. Dr. Theodore Holland assumed duties as full time Minister. The first Church budget was $30,000. In 1981, new officers were elected. The United Church Board of Homeland Ministries established a $10,000 grant for preliminary studies of our own building. A building committee was formed with Allen Lloyd as Chairman. At the invitation of Father James Hubbs, Rector, our Services were moved to The Episcopal Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Periwinkle Way. Rev. Holland resigned and the Rev. Richard Stein was called as Minister. The Constitution and Bylaws were adopted at the Annual Meeting in 1982. A Bible Study group was started and a Choir formed. Rev. Stein was officially installed as Minister. In 1983, Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ appeared before the Sanibel City Planning Commission and was recognized as an Institution under the Sanibel zoning laws. At the 1984 Annual Meeting, the first Building Fund Campaign was authorized by the congregation. The campaign with the theme, "Responding to Today, Building for Tomorrow" was directed by Rev. Haskins, of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, Office of Church Building. The Sanibel Congregational Women in Mission (SCWIM) was organized and the plans were finalized for the new Church building. The building site clearing was begun and halted for a time by the City of Sanibel for vegetation code infringement. In 1985, SCWIM adopted a Constitution and Bylaws. Ground breaking ceremonies were held at our newly cleared site. Members of the Congregation took turns driving gilded spikes into the ground marking the building pilings. The new Church building was dedicated in 1986. Additional meeting and Sunday school rooms were added to the undercroft in 1994. In 1998, additional choir and office space was added to the existing office.
We grew from 38 original members to 657 members in 2002. Our former Minister, the Rev. Dr. Randall H. Niehoff, came to us in September of 1991 and was joined by Associate Minister, the Rev. Sandra R. Boler, in 1997. In 2002, we celebrated with joyful hearts our 25th anniversary. Beginning in 2003 and extending through 2004, we initiated and completed several beautiful Memorial projects involving the renovation of our courtyard and Memorial Gardens. We also installed a walkway from the street to the front of the Church to facilitate parking in areas across Periwinkle Way. No Sanibel Island history will be complete without mentioning the visit from Hurricane Charley on August 13th, 2004. There was a great deal of damage done to the trees and homes on Sanibel and Captiva islands. Fortunately, the Church was spared significant damage. In January of 2005, the Rev. Dr. James Boler joined Ran and Sandy as Associate Minister. We were fortunate to have Pastors and Teachers who provided us with inspired leadership and ministry. We have had several Parish Nurses, who have all been highly skilled and deeply appreciated. The first was Sue Kerzisnik, who began as a volunteer before 1999 and was commissioned that year. Marilyn Roll served from 2002 to 2009. She was succeeded by Carol Gross. When Carol retired in 2015, Linda Convertine joined the Church staff as Parish Nurse. Pastor Niehoff and our two Associate Pastors retired in 2008. Interim ministry served us until the Rev. Dr. John H. Danner was called as Senior Pastor and began his ministry in January 2010. In July 2011, Rev. Deborah Kunkel began serving the congregation as Associate Pastor. Her call includes many pastoral duties, with a special focus on children and youth ministries."
Our Sanibel Christian Preschool was founded in 2013. Under the leadership of Preschool Director Ana Abella and with excellent teachers, the school offers a high-quality education in a loving environment for children from age 2 through pre-K.
Even as Sanibel Island is a special place, the Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ is a center for all to join together to worship God, to nourish ourselves spiritually as we serve God, and to reach out to help those in a needy world.