A Brief History

The history and growth of the Church of the Good Shepherd and the City of Lake Wales seemed to parallel in the early years. The community was founded in 1911, but did not become a city until 1925. The City grew with the "Land Boom" which affected most of Florida in the early and middle 1920's.

Credit is given for the founding of the Church of the Good Shepherd to a group of ladies who initiated a program to form a mission in Lake Wales. In 1924-25, Mrs. P. A. Wheeler enlisted the good offices of the Rev. Evan H. Martin of Bartow to visit Episcopalians who were interested in establishing a mission in Lake Wales . The first services of this group were held in 1925. The mission congregation held services in several available buildings in Lake Wales until 1926 when the lot on which the present church is located was purchased.

After purchasing the lot, the treasury was at a low ebb but the congregation was anxious to have a church. Contributions enabled the purchase of building materials but there wasn't enough to hire professional builders. A dozen or so men of the congregation volunteered their services and building was started on Wednesday, March 31, 1926. By Easter Sunday, April 4, 1926, a rough floor was laid, studding was up, part of the siding was on, and some of the roof rafters were in place. The first service was held in the new, but unfinished church building, on Easter in 1926. About 50 members were present.

It was not until later in 1926 that the congregation could afford windows and doors to completely enclose the building. During this construction period, a gentleman stopped by to observe the activity. Learning a church was being built, he offered to furnish a bell. This gentleman's mission in life was furnishing bells for little churches which could not afford one. A belfry was added to provide for the unexpected gift.

In 1926, The Rev. G. W. R. Cadman was appointed by Bishop Wing to serve the congregation . However, Lake Wales shared Fr. Cadman with churches in Haines City and Auburndale . Although the church's finances suffered during the depression of the early 1930 's, on June 1, 1933, all indebtedness for the original church building had been paid.

In 1937 the mission received The Rev. G. Gladstone Rogers as its first resident priest. As one of his first projects, Fr. Rogers emphasized the need for a parish hall to serve the needs of youth Christian education, women's endeavors, and fellowship. Ground for the parish hall was broken on May 14, 1939, and the resulting building is now a part of the existing parish hall.

The youthful enthusiasm of Fr. Rogers and his wife, Ruth, did much to aid the steady growth of the mission. Emphasis was given to youth programs, including a successful junior choir. Mrs. Rogers also initiated a tradition of the Christmas Pageant which is still an important part of our celebration of the Christmas Season. Mrs. Rogers with Mrs. F.C. Buchanan started the Episcopal Church Thrift Shop in 1944.

In 1944, The Rev. Joseph T. Urban succeeded Fr. Rogers. Under Fr. Urban's leadership, the mission became self-supporting and achieved parish status in 1946. In 1950 another major step was taken when the existing sanctuary and choir were erected on the east end of the original church building. In 1951, The Rev. Frank M. Butler became the parish's second rector. He was succeeded by The Rev. Canon Richard I. Brown who led a successful campaign to raise funds to enlarge the Nave. This project caused the destruction of the last portion of the small, original church and enabled the church to serve a much larger congregation.

The first service in the new Nave was held on Christmas Eve in 1959. Through generous gifts and bequests, the indebtedness for this major improvement was paid in 1963. To meet the continuing growth, the Vestry purchased a house (now the Nursery) and adjoining lot immediately across the street from the existing church in 1960, and added five new church schoolrooms on the east side of the Parish Hall in 1962.

Canon Brown retired in 1969 and The Rev. Robert J. Brown became the fourth rector of the church. He carried on the work of his predecessors until his death in 1971.

The Rev. R. Stanley Sheffer was installed as the fifth rector on January 23, 1972. In 1976-77, the Nave of the church was beautified with stained glass windows and the Parish hall was renovated to make it more attractive and useful for congregational meetings and fellowship.

In 1976, the free standing belfry and the colonnade were erected creating the attractive inner courtyard. The church also acquired an apartment house and vacant lot across the street from the church to provide for future expansion.

The Helen P. Campbell Building was in part made possible by the bequest from her estate in addition to funds borrowed from other church funds. The building is used for youth activities and church functions. The building, subject to authorization , is available to the community for use by non-political clubs, organizations and groups.
A pipe organ which was acquired in 1986 has contributed to the entire music program of the church. Fr. Sheffer accepted a call to St. John-in-the-Wilderness, Flat Rock, North Carolina in 1988.

The Rev. Harold R. Warren became rector in January 1989. The parish under his leadership increased its spiritual and educational offerings as well as its youth activities and an additional house (the Kenney Youth Building) was acquired and renovated for youth activities. Father Warren left in May 1996 to become the rector of St. Timothy's Church in Lake Jackson, Texas.

The Rev. Thomas R. Seitz, Jr. became the seventh rector of Good Shepherd in May, 1997. He is actively engaged in promoting the growth of the church, youth programs and stewardship education, and increasing the endowment.

In December, 2004, Palmer Wood realized a lifelong vocation to ordained ministry at his ordination to the diaconate at the diocesan cathedral.

On March 6, 2005, Bishop Howe dedicated new handicapped-accessible bathrooms and renovations to the parish hall, kitchen, library, offices and choir rehearsal room.

In June, 2006, Beverly Dampier retired as office manager after 22 years of service and Lisa Carter was hired as parish administrator, thereby relieving the rector of some of his administrative responsibilities.

Current Youth Leaders Matt Brown and Julie Motis help staff the Wednesday evening programs for all ages, including worship, dining, and education.

Addy Hartley was retained in 2007 to serve as wedding coordinator. Father Tom hired M.L. Brown in 2013 as bookkeeper following the death of Jaymie Malone.

Joan Brawley completed her seminary training under the auspices of the rector and vestry and was ordained by Bishop Howe to the priesthood in our church in January, 2008. Joanie was hired as a part-time Priest Associate, following Father Roberts’ retirement after 26 years of service to our parish and St. Anne’s, Wauchula. Joanie trains and supervises the Stephen Ministers and provides pastoral care and thoughtful preaching to the parish.

In 2008, the parish finalized a partnership with a mission in the town of Santa Maria in our companion diocese of Honduras. In 2010, thanks to two generous parishioners, land was purchased for the mission, which is now named the Church of the Good Shepherd. A church was consecrated by Bishop Allen in 2016.

After twenty years of service, the pipe organ console was replaced and the pipes were moved to a new chamber in the chancel in 2009.

Deacon Suzanne Mulkin joined the Good Shepherd family in 2009, assisting with parish calling and volunteering at the Thrift Shop.

The Vestry endorsed John Motis as an aspirant for the vocational diaconate in 2010. He was ordained after he completed his studies at the diocesan Institute for Christian Studies in Orlando, currently serving as diocesan disaster coordinator and facilitator of the bishop’s “Fresh Expressions” initiative to plant non-traditional congregations.

Recently, the Vestry endorsed a plan by our parents to make the Kenney Youth Building, Nursery, and Campbell Building, with their common playground and basketball court, to become a complex of facilities dedicated to the spiritual nurture of our infants, toddlers, elementary, middle and high school students.

Father Tom has welcomed the opportunity to mentor Patti Behnstedt as a vocational deacon in Bartow and Alex Earl and Kevin Bartle as postulants for Holy Orders.

One common thread throughout most of our history has been the Thrift Shop on Orange Avenue, which has grown under the leadership of Tomi and Max Blackburn to the point where the Shop has netted over $50,000 for the past few years in support of many programs and outreach projects.

Thus, in the period of over ninety years, the church has grown from its modest beginnings in a small town into a congregation which prides itself on its "sense of family" and its accomplishments. An additional source of pride is the fact that the church has accomplished its objectives without having the burden of any indebtedness.