All Saints’ Episcopal Church is one of the oldest churches in the Diocese of Southeast Florida, where more than 100 years of dedicated worship services have been celebrated. The town of Jensen Beach dates back to 1881, when Danish immigrant John Laurence Jensen established his pineapple farm here. The history of Jensen Beach, Sewall’s Point, and All Saints’ Episcopal Church are inexorably linked.
The earliest reference to Episcopal activity in our region appears in the diary of the Rt. Rev. William Crane Gray, Bishop of the Missionary Diocese of Southern Florida, who visited various settlements along the Indian River in the year 1893. On the 23rd day of January, Bishop Gray visited Eden, Florida, and preached in the local schoolhouse. Later that day, he walked the three miles down to Jensen Beach where he delivered a sermon in the parlor of the Jensen Hotel.
This was the first Episcopal service conducted in the Waveland area – the original name for the region between Crossroads Hill near N.E. Center Street, south to the tip of Sewall’s Point, and west to Warner Creek. In this formative period, the Church’s missionary efforts along the southern reaches of the Indian River were entrusted to Archdeacon B. F. Brown of Titusville among others.
Building the Church – 1897 to 1940
During these pioneer years, the small congregation of Episcopalians held their monthly devotional services at first in private homes and later in a schoolhouse. The commencement of a building program was made possible by a gift of five acres from Charles and Mary Racey to be used as the site for the church and the cemetery grounds.
In 1897, funds were raised for the construction of the church building, led by Charles Racey, and in the following year All Saints’ Episcopal Church became a reality. On February 18, 1899, Bishop Gray returned to Waveland to consecrate the structure.
The residents of Stuart joined those from the Jensen area for services until 1925, when Martin County was created and Stuart became the county seat. A year later, the Stuart communicants established their own mission and purchased a building, which was dedicated in 1932 as St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. This led to a dramatic decrease in attendance at All Saints’, and the population shifts to the south resulted in the ceasing of regular services at All Saints in 1940.
A New Beginning – 1949 to 1977
Almost a decade later the population of the area had once again increased to the point where All Saints’ Church could hold weekly services, conducted by a number of retired clergy and other clergy who enjoyed the gentle winters. After being knocked off its foundations by the devastating hurricane of 1949, the church building was restored for a wedding for one of the daughters of a pioneering family.
In 1958, a native Floridian and a graduate of the University of Florida and Berkeley Divinity School, the Rev. Allan B. Purdom, was called. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, he was ordained a priest on December 23, 1958; his first celebration of the Holy Eucharist was on Christmas Eve. When the church became self-supporting, the 1961 Diocesan Convention approved All Saints’ as a parish in the Diocese of South Florida, making Father Purdom the first Rector. In 1959, a residence adjacent to the church property was purchased, renovated, and expanded to serve as a parish hall. The primary carpenter was Carl Houg. This building, while upgraded and subsequently expanded, carries his name.
The Move on the Hill – 1962 to 1977
In 1962, Father Purdom was called to a parish in St. Petersburg, and was succeeded by the Rev. Norman B. Feaster, a graduate of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. Father Feaster arrived from Pompano Beach. During Father Feaster’s tenure, the original rectory was torn down. The church was moved in 1963 from its original location to the current location so that more efficient use of the land could be enjoyed. The church was brought to the pinnacle of the hill, surrounded by the cemetery and parking areas.
Through funds bequeathed by Isabel Kline, air-conditioning was installed in 1965. In 1966, a new rectory was built on the original site of the church. New stained glass windows were dedicated, including one the Rector and Vestry gave in thanksgiving for Isabel Kline’s bequest.
Upon Father Feaster’s departure to Broward County, the third Rector, the Rev. James Willard Lynn was called. A native Floridian, he and his wife Earlene attended Florida State University. He was awarded a BA in 1957, and in 1960 he graduated from the School of Theology, University of the South. The Lynns were the first family to live on the site of the original church in a newly built Rectory. The rector’s children, Julie Dorothy and Rusty Willard, were both confirmed here in 1968. Rusty served as an acolyte to his father. They stayed for only two years, 1967-1969.
In 1970, the much-beloved fourth Rector, Frank R. Alvarez, was called. A stained glass window, offered in his memory, resides in the sacristy. A Nashotah House graduate, this priest from Miami oversaw the continual growth of the parish. He died in 1977.
The Church Is Enlarged – 1978 -1988
The Rev. Jonathan B. Coffee was named the fifth Rector in 1978. He received his theological education on the West Coast, at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and arrived from All Souls Church, Miami Beach.
In 1979, due to overflow crowds, the original church edifice was enlarged with the greatest care taken not to alter the rich character of the past. Existing back walls were pushed out to make seating room for 60 additional people, and a choir loft was added under the rose window. The contractor, himself an artistic man, painstakingly duplicated the hand-paneled native pine walls, milling each strip at the seam for complete authenticity. Ultimately, one could not distinguish where the old ended and the new began.
The highest number of yearly worshippers in the history of the parish was recorded in 1984, with nearly 23,000 reported in the parish registry. In the advent season of 2005, Father Coffey and his wife Mary were honored when the Vestry designated the old Rectory, where the Coffey family members were last to live, Coffey Hall.
Prior to the arrival of the sixth Rector in 1988, Father Paul Bourne served as the priest in charge, and the life of the parish continued, ably led by him and the Vestry.
Celebrating a Century – 1988 to 2004
From 1988 until 2004, the Rev. Thomas F. Ryan, Jr., another graduate of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, served as the sixth Rector and his wife, Courtney, served as parish administrator. In 1988, the rectory became the Administrative Offices for the parish. In 1994, the church was extended again. In 1998, a yearlong celebration of the 100 years of ministry of All Saints’ buildings was held. This joyous occasion included a grand banquet and a special choral concert by the choir, enhanced by a new Allen Digital Organ. The festival Eucharist of the Feast of All Saints’ was led by The Rt. Rev Calvin O. Schofield, Jr.
When Father Ryan retired at the end of 2004, he had the distinction of having served sixteen years, longer than any other priest to date. Unfortunately, the parish was no longer self-supporting and was returned to mission status.
Our Current Church – 2005 to Present
The Rev. W. Frisby Hendricks, III, a “preacher’s kid,” came to All Saints’ from Holy Trinity, West Palm Beach, as the interim Priest. “Father Frisby” completed his studies at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in 1974 and was ordained in the Diocese of Southern Virginia. His wife, Jean Ann, and three sons, Cary, Geoffrey, and Christopher, joined the parish in March 2005. Soon, the attendance and pledges increased and the church was on the brink of returning to parish status again. In the Autumn of 2007, Father Frisby was asked to stay at All Saints’ as Vicar, due to the decision of the Rt. Rev. Leo Frade.
Thirty-one years after the General Convention of 1976 approved the ordination of women, this parish joyfully celebrated the ordination of its first female vocational deacon, Jane Hostetter, on December 15, 2007. Bishop Frade allowed Deacon Jane to continue to serve the parish that supported her with prayers and love throughout her postulancy and candidacy.
Throughout 2009, All Saints’ leadership was focused on completing the financial and administrative requirements to regain the status of a self-supporting parish. The Right Reverend Leo Frade, Bishop of Southeast Florida, presided at the Celebration of a New Ministry and the Reverend Walter Frisby Hendricks, III became the Seventh Rector on Saturday, November 7th.
The people and clergy of All Saints’ continue a life of service and prayer in this, the northernmost parish in the Diocese of Southeast Florida – Thanks be to God!
History created by Joyce Fletcher Menard, with assistance from Father Frisby.