Our History

A Group of people interested in establishing a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregation in Venice, met with members of the First Christian Church of Sarasota and regional representatives on August 26, 1962, at the home of Charles Clemmons in Venice Gardens. This meeting resulted in the holding of worship service the following Sunday at the Bay Trailer Park.

On Easter Sunday, April 14, 1963, the Congregation opened their charter roll with 27 persons signing as charter members. Within a week, four additional persons united with the new community of faith. Membership totaled 55 persons by the end of the year.

The new congregation changed meeting places in early 1964, moving to the Masonic Temple, where they remained until a permanent home could be erected. The move was a wise one, for attendance and interest picked up immediately. The need for a permanent home was increasing, and in September 1964 the congregation voted to purchase a five and one half acre site. The First Christian Church of Sarasota provided half the purchase cost to enable the new congregation to move more quickly on the purchase. The Board of Church Extension of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) provided counsel in the purchase of the site and guided the congregation in a study of their needs as they planned for their first unit. Construction on the first unit began in the fall of 1964 and dedication services were held for the first multi-purpose unit on March 20, 1965.

The congregation, having moved on through the stages of organization and the erection of their first unit, worked with the Region of Florida and the United Christian Missionary Society, under the leadership of their interim minister Gilbert Perry. A call to their first full time resident minister was in June 1966. Growth continued of this energetic congregation and by 1974, it was involved in another building program: a Fellowship Hall, which provided partitioned classrooms and a kitchen, dedicated on September 22, 1974.

In 1992, another building was added next to the Fellowship Hall to include four new rooms including a library, an adult classroom, a choir room, and two small Sunday School rooms. The new building provided more utilization of the Fellowship Hall for various activities and more seating at Fellowship Dinners. The congregation enjoyed a steady growth of new members, and attendance through the winter season doubled with the faithful participation of our dual members from the north.

First Christian went through some hard times at the end of the 90’s which led to a drop in attendance. These problems coincided with the sale of their building on Venice Avenue and the construction of our present building on Center Road.

In August of 2000 the church made the decision to live, which meant that we needed to go back to the beginning. The By-Laws were rewritten, a new organizational structure was created, and a new Vision from God was birthed.

In 2010 a new Vision was born. A Vision of being “A premier teaching church that transforms lives through the truth, love and power of God.” This Vision was amended in August 2014 to remove two words (“premier teaching”) that had proven to be stumbling blocks for many people. Our updated Vision is to be “A church that transforms lives through the truth, love and power of God.” What you see before you today is a church that is a “Work In Progress”. We are striving to be all that God wants us to be and we are excited to see what new things God has in store for us.

Pastors serving the congregation have been: Larry Chambers (1966-68); Stephen Meisburg (1968-70); Paul Joynes (1970-72); Fred Dunbar (1972-77); James W. Mackey (1978-89); Robert Anderson (1989-92); Don Varnadore, (1992 – 1999); David Miller (2000 – February 2015) Lead Pastor Phil Schmunk (December 2015 – Present)