70 Years of Worship by the Sea!
Norah Atkins, a winter resident of Clearwater Beach from Canada, had long thought the children who lived on the beach should be offered religious education. So in 1949 she decided that she would work with other residents to start a church. With the help of neighbors and friends, as well as the Clearwater Beach Association, the Jaycees, and several local businesses and congregations, she organized the Clearwater Beach Community Church, soon to be known as Chapel by the Sea. At the inaugural worship service, 120 people attended. A committee was formed, plans were developed, and, through the generosity of the Skinner family, land was donated on which a building could be constructed. The Chapel was designed to be, and became, an interfaith community church in every sense of the term – a church of the community and for the community.
Chapel by the Sea is interdenominational, but participates with the International Council of Community Churches and the Florida Fellowship of Community Churches. The Chapel was instrumental in founding Religious Community Services, an agency consisting of over 80 Christian and Jewish congregations, which provides food, clothing and shelter for those in need through its Food Bank, spouse abuse shelter, and two transitional housing programs. At the Chapel there has always been a heavy emphasis on missions and outreach, and it is one of the major supporters of RCS. It also belongs to the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce and its members are active in many local charities and civic organizations.
As a community church, the Chapel provides services for all beach residents and visitors.
We are progressive in our theology and we place a heavy emphasis on freedom of thought and belief as we encourage our members and friends to search and question. Our congregants come from many different religious backgrounds, or no religious background. The strengths of the various traditions come together as we strive for personal and spiritual growth. We believe in enriched living, inspired learning, and expanded loving . . . we invite all who are interested to join us on our journey!
The first service was held on March 6, 1949 at the Jaycees building. The charter and bylaws were signed the next month. The land was donated, fundraising began, and on February 10, 1952, 400 people attended the first worship service at Chapel by the Sea, 54 Bay Esplanade, Clearwater Beach, Florida.