© SAINT RAPHAEL'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
5601 Williams Street, Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931
Pastor's Cell: 239.571.3600
The first Episcopal service on Fort Myers Beach was Evening Prayer, held in the Community Hall during Lent of 1949. It was conducted by The Reverend Richard Brown, the Rector of St. Luke's in Fort Myers.
In early March of 1951, a group of devout Fort Myers Beach Episcopalians petitioned for permission to organize the Saint Raphael’s Mission. The Reverend Richard Brown was the guiding light for this fledgling group of twenty. Regular services were held in the Fort Myers Beach Community Hall. Efforts for the donation and sale of property on which to build a church began.
By early 1952, tentative floor plans were created by island resident, Cyril Shawcross, and then received approval. The acquired property on Williams Street was described as “high and with plenty of shell”. In March of 1953, the newly formed Vestry of Saint Raphael’s met on the property to stake out the foundation boundaries. Saint Raphael’s would be a modern mission style building made of sand, coquina, and limestone. The simply designed building would be in the shape of a cross. It would also be built completely by islanders using local materials. Other congregation members began building pews and other interior appointments.
The first formal service held in the still unfinished church was Holy Eucharist, celebrated by Father Hull, on December 20, 1953. However, it is said that the most memorable early service was Father Hull’s 1953 Christmas Eve Midnight Mass. It was simple, with lights (minus their shades) hanging from the rafters and pine branches and Florida holly adorning window sills and pews. Roger Shawcross offered marimba accompaniment for the hymns. The congregation had grown to 43. It is easy to imagine their sense of atmosphere and community as they attended their first Christmas Eve Midnight Mass in Saint Raphael’s.
January of 1954, saw the laying of the cornerstone and the Dedication of the church and its furnishings. The cornerstone contains memorials, including Father John Hull’s most precious possession – the bible he read daily. This was the same Bible used at his 1905 ordination and that he carried in his saddle bags during his mission work in the Diocese of St. Rupert’s Land, Canada. He had also carried this bible into the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains when he was the Missionary to the men who built the Grand Trunk Railroad.
And so it began. This beloved church has served Fort Myers Beach and the surrounding community for over 60 years and strives to continue that service for years to come.