History of Saint Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church

Visiting Episcopal priests conducted services in homes and at various Sanibel Island locations until the 1950's when the closest Episcopal services were at St. Luke’s in Fort Myers.  

In 1957 islanders asked St. Luke’s for help establishing services on Sanibel in the winter months. Thomas Madden, on leave to St. Luke’s, obliged and on February 6, 1958 he started celebrating services at various Island locations. In September St. Michael & All Angels became a Mission of the Diocese of South Florida and in June started two Sunday Schools, one for white children, one for blacks. The ECW organized fund raisers and in 1960 opened a thrift shop on a hotel porch. Meanwhile Fr. Madden's Eucharistic services with traditional liturgy and quality music formed a foundation still practiced today.

Architect Gustel Kiewitt contributed architectural services for a church building which was completed Palm Sunday, 1961. It included a small apartment for the Vicar. September, 1962, Fr. Madden made Saint Michael’s the first church in the diocese and one of the first in Florida to be racially integrated. He retired in 1971 and Fr. James Hubbs became Vicar. In 1974 the resale shop, now called Noah’s Ark, was expanded and parishioners' persistence paid off when Saint Michael’s was granted status as a self-sustaining parish. Four years later a Parish Hall was added followed by a new pipe organ. The new Book of Common Prayer came into use and lay men and women became scripture readers and Lay Eucharistic Ministers.

Fr. Hubbs left in 1986 and Fr. Bill Dodd was called. He and his family moved into the newly purchased rectory.  A capital campaign enabled expanding worship space, cutting a road to relieve traffic congestion, creating a new Noah’s Ark building which was expanded five years later, and the purchase of a new organ. In 1993 a Columbarium and Memorial Garden were added and the ECW crafted needlepoint altar rail cushions. Saint Michael’s helped lead development of subsidized housing on Sanibel, and the establishment of Iona Hope Mission in Fort Myers. Fr. Dodd retired in 1999 and Fr. Purvis was made Interim Priest. The greeters program was established at this time.

Donald Fishburne started January, 2001. He focused on more lay participation and organized the Church into a system of commissions, one being Parish Growth which included the Greeter’s Ministry and Suppers For Six to help parishioners become better acquainted with one another. Rev. Suzy Post was employed as Associate Rector from 2002-2007. In 2003 the Flower Guild, the first in the Diocese, and Adult Forums, which included interfaith studies, were started. Blessing of the Animals began and further facility improvements were made. An Outreach Commission, supplementing the work of Noah’s Ark, undertook a Habitat home building project, and a Men’s Ministry embracing bi-weekly meetings and an annual retreat were established in 2005. A church bus to bring Shell Point residents to services was contributed, an annual newcomers event was established and lay led Wednesday evening services were started. The stewardship campaign was shifted to January when snowbirds returned and neighborhood meetings were started. In 2006 the first Parish Nurse was employed and visiting theologians from Great Britain lived in the church apartment and enriched Church programs.  In 2008 Fr. Fishburne resigned.

Rev. Dr. Ellen M. Sloan joined us at St. Michael's in 2009. She focused on congregational development, strengthened pastoral care, and created a holistic approach to the extensive outreach efforts of the parish while also increasing the line item budget for Outreach Grants to $60,000.  Numerous capital improvement and congregational projects were undertaken: Renovation and Renewal of the Campus, Catastrophic and Renewal, Spiritual Development, Beautification of the Campus, and Outside Music Musicians and Concerts. The donation to the Renovation and Renewal Fund resulted in the major renovation of the Sacristy, Sunday School, Madden Room, Flower Guild Room, restrooms and Gathering Place - completed and dedicated in 2017 – as well as the new office building project currently underway. A Strategic Planning Process for the parish was undertaken in 2015/16 which resulted in Vision and Mission Statements, as well as in Core Belief Principles. The Vestry was proud to complete all action items in the subsequent three to four years. Also, during her tenure, Youth Ministries and Vacation Bible School were started, the Healing Ministry at St. Michael’s was expanded and Morning Prayer returned. Other new ministries included Taizé services, a Sacred Dancers Ministry, Women at the Well Spirituality Group, Beach Eucharists, and an annual series of lectures and concerts called "Nourishment of Body, Mind and Spirit.”  Along with the History and Archives Ministry, Ellen encouraged the establishment of an annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Event - now in its fifth season. After ten years as Rector of St. Michael’s, Ellen resigned in September 2019 to spend more time with family.

The Rev. William (Bill) Van Oss was called to Saint Michael and All Angels in July, 2020.  Given the health risks to our congregation during the dangerous 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, in-person worship and ministry meetings were already suspended prior to his arrival.  Fr. Bill quickly worked to establish diverse virtual programs as alternative ways to stay connected with parishioners by embracing ministry and worship opportunities online, introducing small group gatherings that adhered to CDC guidelines in-person, and developing outdoor Worship Services to conduct when safe.  In collaboration with the new Digital Ministry team, Fr. Bill greatly expanded the worship and social offerings online to complement our traditional services when they return.  Even though these are challenging times, Fr. Bill and the Vestry will oversee the approved and fully funded church office building work, resulting in extensive physical improvement changes to the church property in 2021.








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