During the month of November, St. Alban’s Church (now Cathedral) commemorated its 40 years of ministry in Central Florida with both reverence and joy as parishioners were walked down memory lane.
St. Alban’s Cathedral began its celebration on November 4, 2017, with a ‘70s-themed party with disco dance music where parishioners dressed in bell-bottoms, love beads and long hair and munched on ‘70s food favorites.
On Sunday, November 19, at the Mass, Bishop Grundorf delivered a sermon which chronicled the beginnings of St. Alban’s, taking the congregation from its inception in a small side Chapel in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in downtown Orlando, to its present-day location in Oviedo, Florida (a suburb of Orlando).
After the service, the congregation observed Thanksgiving by honoring St. Alban’s founding members and their families at a Fortieth Anniversary Dinner in Grundorf Hall attended by past and present members of the Cathedral.
Forty years ago, Mrs. Lillian “Golly” Tarr placed a small, personal ad in the local Orlando Newspaper. It simply read; “Has Your Church Left You?” and included a phone number to respond. A handful of phone calls and a few meetings in her modest living room resulted in Golly and her like-minded friends forming a new church mission – possibly the smallest in Central Florida.
They briefly met in a small side Chapel in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in downtown Orlando, but as word spread about their mission, they outgrew that space and moved to a Masonic Lodge.
Father Rowland Roberts, a late vocation priest, became the Priest-in-charge under the tutelage of Father (now Bishop) Clark Dorman.
In 1979, then Suffragan Bishop Walter H. Grundorf was assigned by the Bishop Ordinary to take charge of the Mission Church. It quickly became obvious the Mission needed a more permanent location, so in 1981 they rented a storefront on the busiest street in Orlando, and begin welcoming more and more parishioners who were looking for a service that expressed the teachings of Christ through the moral and traditional values contained in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. While the storefront was adequate for services, volunteer Sunday School teachers had to borrow keys to the building next door and hold classes in the carpeted hallways.
Before long, this intrepid band of Christian soldiers outgrew the 800 square-foot storefront and began looking for a permanent location to build their church. Suffragan Bishop Grundorf and the Mission Committee contracted to purchase and build on the site of an old orange grove in Oviedo, Florida. The plan was simple. Harvest the oranges for a few years which would provide seed money to start the Church. This was a great idea until the great freezes of ‘83/’85 destroyed every orange tree. While the grove died, nothing could kill the passion of an Anglican Church in Central Florida, so the parishioners self-funded their project and began building first a parish house (Kimsey Hall Parish House) and then a full-fledged Church building next door.
The construction of all the church buildings on this property was truly a labor of love by our ever-growing family of parishioners. While they were always short on cash, they never lacked faith or enthusiasm for the job at hand. Each family helped in their own unique way, from providing simple labor to offering their licensed contractor skills at reduced rates.
After the land purchase and during construction of the Parish House and Church, the state began construction of a freeway with an exit just a few hundred yards from the church property, providing better access from the entire Orlando Metropolitan area. The church was able to purchase additional property for future expansion and in 2003 constructed a 10,000 square-foot fellowship hall (Grundorf Hall), which would accommodate badly-needed Sunday school classrooms for our ever-growing youth and young-adult population, as well as provide a place to hold parish dinners, events and fundraisers more comfortably.
Now, in their fortieth year, St. Alban’s Cathedral is proud to have served as a teaching and training ground for many men who have gone into the priesthood. Many of these men have gone on to other churches to continue to spread the word of God. The Very Rev. Ralph Waterhouse, who started at St. Alban’s, was serving as Vicar of Holy Cross, Knoxville, Tennessee, when he accepted the call to St. Alban’s in 2008 and in 2009, became the 2nd Rector and Dean, when Bishop Grundorf resigned after 30 years to become a full-time Bishop Ordinary and Presiding Bishop.
The blessings bestowed upon St Alban’s have been many, and St. Alban’s has always tried to give back more than it receives. Through the years, St Alban’s has been involved with many outreach project and programs. Some of the current outreach includes supporting: HOPE Helps, Inc., by providing food, clothing, Back-to-School and Christmas items to local families in need; Operation Christmas Child by filling shoeboxes to spread the Gospel to children of third-world countries; the Sanford/Orlando Crisis Pregnancy Center by volunteering and conducting fundraisers, Grace ‘N Grits preparing and serving meals to the homeless; and the Christian Service Center’s Soup ‘R Sunday Food Drive. St. Alban’s started a garden on the property to provide literally tons fresh vegetables to HOPE Helps, Inc. and now has a local college tending the garden as their community service project. They also have a Parish Nurse Program which provides a variety of health services both for our parish and parish neighbors.
St. Alban’s has come a long way during the past forty years. The Cathedral has been blessed with strong leadership, dedicated members, and the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ. While they are proud of what they accomplished, they also know that the Lord has much more for them to do.
With the Lord’s blessing and his grace, St. Alban’s will continue to move forward. They hold dear the sacrifices of those who gave so much of themselves for this Church, and service to our Lord, Jesus Christ. Dean Waterhouse continues to expand the ministry of St. Alban’s, which now has 400 members and a children’s Sunday School of over 60 children.