In 1956 the Rev. Paul Reeves, Rector of All Saints Church, Winter Park, Florida, encouraged by his Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Henry Louttit and led by the Holy Spirit, embarked on the project establishing a parochial mission. Members of All Saints whose homes were generally north and east of downtown Winter Park were approached and given the opportunity to take part in this extension of the church. On October 14, 1956 Father Frank M. Brunton, priest-in-charge, conducted the first service of the new mission in the auditorium of Lakemont Elementary School. There were 39 persons present.
In a few months the budding mission had accepted a donation of property in the “New” subdivision of Tanglewood from the developer and had employed Francis H. Emerson, AIA to draw plans for a combination parish house-church. By June 30, 1957 they had installed the Rev. Christopher Breese Young as Vicar.
Building Fund pledges permitted construction to begin by the spring of 1958 and services were held in the new building by the end of the summer. Housing for Father Young was provided when the home at 1816 Toy Lane was purchased in November 1958.
The need for educational facilities was considered a priority and very soon plans were drawn for a classroom building. In September 1959 construction began to provide space not only for Sunday School, but also for a parish kindergarten known as St. Richard’s Academy. This was later changed to Bishop John D. Wing Academy to honor a former bishop of South Florida.
At the Diocesan Convention in May 1960, the Mission of St. Richard’s was granted parish status with Fr. Chris Young its first rector. Shortly thereafter on July 1, 1960, Fr. Young resigned to join the Chaplain’s Corps of the United States Navy. The Rev. Hollis Buchanan was called by the vestry to replace him. He was installed as Rector in spite of the fact that the installation ceremony was postponed because of hurricane Donna. It was during this time that the church was built and the worship services began in the new building.
Subsequently the Very Rev. Barry Howe, Dean of St. Peter’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Florida was called to be Rector in October 1978. He was followed by the Rev. Jonathan B. Coffey, Jr. in 1983 and the Rev. Grayson B. Garvin in September 1989. The Rev. Kevin A. Wyld became Rector in April 1999 followed by the Rev. Thomas A. Downs in October 2004.
Clergy who have served during the transitions have included the following: The Rev. Ronald Brokaw, Priest-in-Charge from September 30 through July 1, 1978; The Rev. Watson Nieman, M.D. retired, served as Interim Rector and as assistant to Fathers Coffey and Garvin. Also during that time the Very Rev. Osborne Littleford, Dean Emeritus, Cathedral Church of St. Luke, Orlando served as Interim from January through September 1989. The Rev. Richard J. Bowman was Interim Rector prior to Fr. Kevin Wyld, the Rev. Dr. Thomas A. Downs was rector from 2004 to 2010. Subsequently, the Rev. Canon Robert J. Vanderau became priest in charge and in 2011 the Rev. Alison P. Harrity became rector.
Others called to Ordained ministries and service at St. Richard’s have included the following: Deaconess Harriet Holt English, Deacon Florence Biller, Deacon Ausburn (Burt) Price, and Archdeacon Linda Brondsted. In addition, the Rev. Marion Thullbery, the Rev. Timothy Vance and the Rev. Karen Anthony were ordained at St. Richard’s. In the early 1980’s St. Richard’s carried the nickname of “The Diocese of Tanglewood” because of the extensive list of clergy in the parish family. They were as follows: the Rev. Benton Ellis, former headmaster of Trinity Preparatory School; the Rev. Thomas A Downs, former Canon to the Ordinary for Bishops Folwell and Howe; the Rev. Robert Miller, retired Canon for Christian Education, Diocese of Chicago; the Rev. John Palarine, former Canon of Youth and Education under Bishops Folwell and Howe; the Rev. Barclay Wilson; and the Rev. Ronald Brokaw who is retired from association with Trinity Prep School and has served under Bishop John Howe as Canon to Honduras, companion diocese of St. Richard’s and the Diocese of Central Florida.
St. Richard’s is recognized for many reasons, one of which is its position as first in several areas. Florence Biller was the first woman ordained to the perpetual diaconate in our Diocese; Rebecca (Becky) Wilson was the first woman to serve on a vestry in 1967 and Peggy Gordon held the position of Senior Warden for the first time in the Diocese of Central Florida. Marion Thullbery joined the staff while she was a seminary student and was ordained to the transitional diaconate and the priesthood, becoming the first woman priest ordained in this diocese.
In March 1967 plans were begun for a new church. Schweitzer Associates, Architects were selected to develop a master site plan. Mr. Nils Schweitzer, President of the AIA Committee on Church Architecture and an Episcopalian and former student of Frank Lloyd Wright, designed St. Richard’s as it stands today.
According to the special bulletin, the officiant, assisted by the builders, laid the stone engraved A.D. 1970. After striking it three times he said, “Here let the true faith and fear of God, with brotherly love, ever abide, and may this place now set apart with prayer, and with the invocation and praise of the Most Holy Name, be evermore the Temple of the Most High God,” the trumpets sounded, followed by “Praise ye the Lord, because the foundation of the House of the Lord is laid.” The people shouted, “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!” The first service in the new church was held on Ash Wednesday, February 24, 1971.
The history of the music program reflects the dedication and talent of this parish from the first acquisition of a second hand piano to the recent memorial gift of a harpsichord. Many of the parishioners volunteered their talents on the piano or electric organ through the 1970’s. Mrs. Hazel Somerville was the first fulltime organist and choirmaster. Later Mrs. Ginny Koepkey joined the staff followed by Dr. Bradford Gee as director of our music program. Mr. Robert Miller, assisted part time by Mr. Fred Selph, became organist and choirmaster following Dr. Gee, and then Mr. Geoffrey A. Shoffstall. Our Visser Roland Pipe Organ, the handbell ringers, the youth and adult choirs augment the ministry of the music director and add a glorious dimension to our worship.
Structurally the church remains as originally built, but many refinements and appointments have been added to enhance its beauty. The banners are representative of the varied gifts of the congregation as they adorn the walls. The Christian seasons of the year are used at the altar at the appropriate times. The original banners were designed by Betty Wolfe, Cathedral Church of St. Luke, and the needlework artistry of Mary Nan Johnson, Della Smith and Carolyn Abdalla add to the beauty of the hangings. The beautiful needlepoint kneelers were designed under the guidance of Mrs. Martha Ellis and completed by various ladies of the church.
The Lady Chapel was placed in the northeastern corner of the sanctuary in 1993 as a memorial gift from Frank and Marion Lightbown in memory of Christopher and Mark Lightbown. This area provides an intimate worship space for weekday and special services.
St. Richard’s Episcopal Church is truly the legacy of many dedicated Christians who had a vision for a new mission in Winter Park.
5151 Lake Howell RD.
Winter Park FL 32792
Episcopal Church 5151 Lake Howell Rd. Winter Park FL