If you wanted to go to church in Mount Dora 140 years ago, you were out of luck. Central Florida was still wild timber land. But starting in 1880 settlers were beginning to clear the land and plant laurel oaks and orange trees. This is where our story began.
We started small—a tiny group of central Florida’s pioneers began meeting at each other’s homes for Bible study and prayer. As the group’s numbers quickly grew, they began to hold meetings in a local school house. The work of the Methodist Church was officially underway.
In the century that followed, our church experienced miraculous growth as central Florida modernized. We remember where we came from so we can remember not just how we’ve changed, but also how we’ve stayed the same.
Our First Church Building
1884: The time had come to build a new church. Its original location was at what is now the southeast corner of Baker and Fifth, a block or two from our current location. The church’s first women’s group, called the Ladies and Pastor’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Mount Dora—what a mouthful!—donated the first $100 to fund the new building.
1888: We purchased a 40-inch church bell from the the Cincinnati Bell Foundry. More than 130 years later, it’s still the same bell we ring every Sunday morning.
1889: After nearly five years of fundraising and construction, the tiny church was finally ready. This building would serve its members’ needs for more than 50 years.
1925: By the time membership expanded from 20 to 200 in the following decades, our congregation had outgrown its quarters. The leaders started a movement to build a new church. It would take another 15 years to raise the funds.
1940: The old church hosted its last Sunday service on a warm August morning, and was torn down the following day. During construction, the congregation held its services in the Mount Dora community building.
Our Second Church
1941: Construction of the new church—our current sanctuary—was finally completed. It looked much different than it does today. There were no stained glass windows, no additional buildings, no transepts, no parking lots, and no restrooms!
1950s: As membership grew into the hundreds, we added a number of important structures to the modest sanctuary, including the balcony and the east and west transepts, allowing it to seat nearly 700. We also built the space behind the sanctuary, which we now refer to as Fellowship Hall.
1962: We received an empty lot adjacent to our church. This gave us space to build what is now the children’s wing, Friendship Hall and the youth basement.
1972: The women’s organizations of the church were unified as United Methodist Women. It’s certainly a much shorter name!
1973: We received the organ and chimes that are still in use today. This was also the year we mailed out our first newsletter—now known as the Gospel Gazette.
A New Century for Growth
1980: Just in time for our 100th anniversary, we completed construction of the narthex (that’s the front entry area of our sanctuary) and installation of our beautiful stained glass windows.
1983: We established our prayer chain, which is still going strong.
1995: Our mission teams went on their first international trips to Zimbabwe, the Virgin Islands and Hondouras for various relief projects. Our first cub scout group began meeting on our campus.
1997: We created our memorial garden in the southeast corner of the yard next to the sanctuary. Members are welcome to enter the space for prayer and reflection.
2000: We purchased the property that houses our Chapel and Christian Enrichment Center (commonly called the CEC Building).
2005: Our church celebrated its 125th anniversary by overhauling the interior of the sanctuary for the first time since its construction 65 years prior. Key in this renovation was the expansion of the stage/pulpit area.
2006: The newly expanded stage was put to good use with the introduction of a third service—our contemporary service—which needed space for a grand piano, a drum set, guitarists and singers.