Chapel By The Sea Dissolving Congregation

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Two years after Hurricane Ian destroyed the Chapel By The Sea church building on Estero Boulevard, the congregation will cease to exist. Church members were notified by letter that the church will dissolve September 30, 2024.

The letter stated: “Our prayerful motion to dissolve the congregation of Chapel by the Sea effective September 30, 2024, was affirmed by a majority vote. Those of us on the Commission were saddened by the necessity of this decision, but our year-long analysis supported and confirmed this reality.”

What happens now?

Church leadership will continue to meet over the next four months to determine the future of the property and a number of other issues. “One of our first considerations will be to explore whether or not we can recommend to our Presbytery that Chapel’s land and monetary assets be held in trust for three years in order to determine how Fort Myers Beach will evolve as a residential community compared to a rental/tourist one.”

For those that are wondering: the mahogany cross, dolphin window, bells, and baptismal font were all saved and are in storage. The ship’s bell has been loaned to Cypress Lake Presbyterian Church to open services, and the chimes have been loaned to Faith Presbyterian Church.

Vice Mayor Jim Atterholt, who along with his wife Brenda, were members of the church, would like to find a way for the town to display the glass window at the new town hall with a plaque commemorating the history of the church.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Always on our Sunday walk to church when we visited Lahaina Inn each January..
    It should be rebuilt….Let the money stay in trust until sanity recovers on Estero Blvd…

  2. My grandparents lived in Sunnyland trailer park and when we would visit them they would take us to the Chapel By The Sea on Sunday. It was a memory I’ll never forget. As a teen, young adult, and later as a father, when visiting FMB, I would always got to the Chapel and relive those memories of them. I am deeply saddened by this news. God bless everyone affected by this.

  3. I am not a member but have the FONDEST MEMORIES of this little church. We spent several Easters on the island and always attended service here. NOT what supports a congregation, I understand, but I do wonder what “analysis” reveals the reasoning behind “dissolving the congregation”. Is it lack of funding to rebuild, lack of membership, a mandate by the presbytery? Just wondering. I’m glad that key “memorabilia” is being donated and I hope that the stained glass piece does in-fact stay on island at a new town hall- if it can be enjoyed by all.
    BTW- when we were attendees at this church, we always marveled at the WARM WELCOME we received by so many members. And hopefully THAT SPIRIT will live on!

  4. Mary, the assault on the concept of community began 20 years ago when a council allowed absentee homeowners along island neighbor streets to rent their houses as short term motels.
    Long time residents along tnise neighborhoods no.longer knew their neighbors, only strange faces coming and going each week.
    The concept of community was vastly changed by the idea that a property owner should be able to do anything they
    want with their property. That’s not true of course. Govetnments have always had regulatory powers over properties.

  5. I am sad to read this. I am not a member but feel that the churches ,Bay Oaks , and non profits like Kiwanis, Lions , Women’s Club etc make us a community not a tourist destination . Our goal should be to remain a community.

    • I agree wholeheartedly Mary. It’s almost impossible to think that we will last as a community on FMB. Even the Town Council are supporting these big corporations. Encoureging them to build more Condo’s, Seasonal Rentals and resorts for tourism, where they used to be community friendly.

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