Riverside Presbyterian Church
At 8 pm on January 23, 1956, sixteen members and three guests met in the home of Mrs. Helen Trabue, 141 South Atlantic Avenue, Cocoa Beach, to form Circle 8 of the Women’s Association of Rockledge Presbyterian Church, Rockledge, Florida. They learned from Rev. C. E. (Charles) Sellers, pastor of the Rockledge Church, that the Presbyterian Church U. S. A. planned to establish a church in Cocoa Beach and he stressed to the women that they could lay the foundation for the work of the future church.
The Circle officers were: Chairman, Mrs. Edward Rosevear; Co-Chairman, Mrs. M. T. (Ann) Azulay; Secretary, Mrs. Carl Farris; and Treasurer, Mrs. Joel (Teddy) Brown. The Circle worked with the Synod of Florida and Dr. Charles T. Martz, Synod Executive, in plans for the proposed church. Among other things, the women canvassed the Cocoa Beach area to determine the number of Presbyterians living there.
At the recommendation of the Rev. Claude Fausnaugh, pastor of the newly organized Palmdale Presbyterian Church, Eau Gallie, Florida, Dr. Martz wrote to Rev. Charles William Pfeiffer, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Hillsboro, Illinois, explaining the situation in Cocoa Beach and inviting him to visit the area. Rev. and Mrs. (Clarabelle) Pfeiffer came to Cocoa Beach on April 23, 1956, and, accompanied by Rev. Sellers, visited several of the families interested in a Presbyterian Church.
Arrangements were made with St. David’s-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, located in the 300 block on South Orlando Avenue, Cocoa Beach, to use their sanctuary, and on April 29, 1956, Rev. Pfeiffer conducted a worship service with 56 people present. Following the service, a meeting was held in which Rev. Pfeiffer and the congregation agreed to work together in establishing a Presbyterian Church in Cocoa Beach. This ministry was under the Board of National Missions which paid Rev. Pfeiffer’s salary, car allowance, and housing allowance.
The first regular worship service for the group was conducted by Rev. Pfeiffer on June 3, 1956, at 11 am in the sanctuary of St. David’s-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church. There were 44 people present plus two adults and seven children in the nursery at the Bill Taylor home, 449 S. Atlantic Avenue, Cocoa Beach. The sermon topic was “The Temple of God.€ Subsequent worship services were held in the same location until September 17, 1956, when the building was struck by lightning; they were then held in the home of Mrs. Trabue.
In the words of Mr. Pfeiffer, “The organization of this work had to be elastic enough to serve many purposes. Not being an organized church we called ourselves a ‘Presbyterian Fellowship.’ We were not governed by a Session but regulated our needs through a ‘Steering Committee’ composed of Edwin Kyte, Donald Butler, M. T. (Ted) Azulay, David Glasser, Sr., David Birrel and Joel (Gene) Brown, and Trustees, William T. Taylor, Mrs. Ruth Shurtz, and Garland Reynolds. This arrangement continued until formal organization by Presbytery.”
The first Communion Service was conducted on June 8, 1956. The first Women’s Circle meeting of the new group was held on June 18, 1956, in the home of Mrs. Louis Bonesio with 28 women present.
On July 18, 1956, the congregation voted to purchase 120 feet extending west to the Banana River on the west side of AlA, one-half mile south of the 520 Causeway. The price was $16,000 and the owner was Dr. C. K. Wall, of Thomasville, Georgia. In considering whether to purchase property more centrally located, the vote was 13 in favor of the north AlA location and 4 in favor of a central location. Pledges made to pay for this property were made in the name of the First Presbyterian Church of Cocoa Beach. In addition to pledges, there was a substantial gift from Mr. and Mrs. Gus Edwards, Cocoa, other outside gifts and more than $500 raised by the Women’s Circles from a family dinner, two bake sales, a barbecue and several Christmas card coffees. The local group paid $4,000 and the balance was loaned by the Board of National Missions and the Synod of Florida.
On August 30, 1956, a “get acquainted” dinner at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles R. Johnson, Merritt Island, was attended by about 65 people.
The Church School was started on September 9, 1956, with 34 children attending. Mrs. Ethel Traum was in charge of Christian Education. Miss Marlene Minella was Sunday School Superintendent and Mr. Alfred Traum was Secretary Treasurer. This followed a meeting of Sunday School teachers on August 27, 1956. Classes for children up through age 5, including the Nursery, were held in the Bill Taylor home. The balance of the classes were held in the home of Mrs. Trabue until the damage at St. David’s made it necessary to move the worship service to her home. Those Sunday School classes were then moved to the John Robers’ home, 166 N. Orlando Avenue, Cocoa Beach. All classes were conducted at the same time as the morning worship service.
On September 19, 1956, the Steering and Financial Committee met at the Bill Taylor home and voted to petition Southeast Florida Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church U. S. A. to organize a church in Cocoa Beach, Florida, on October 7, 1956. A slate of Elders and Trustees was proposed for presentation at a later date.
The Service of Organization was held at the Community Church, 126 S. Atlantic Avenue, Cocoa Beach, at 8 pm on October 7, 1956 with Rev. Charles T. Martz preaching. Elected, ordained and installed as elders were Don Butler, Joel Brown, David Birrel, David Glasser, Edwin Kyte and Ted Azulay. The church was named Riverside Presbyterian Church. The program included the Organization of the Church, The Presentation of Official Books from Presbytery and The Declaration of Organization. The Trustees elected at this time were William T. Taylor, Mrs. Ruth Shurtz and Garland C. Reynolds. Sixty-five members were accepted at this time. (Membership was not closed until the end of 1956 for charter members, and thirteen more were accepted before that time making a total of seventy-eight charter members.)
At the first Session meeting on October 17, 1956, a request from Rev. Martz, Synod Executive, that the church change the name from “Riverside” as there were already three churches in the Presbytery by that name, was considered but not approved.
On November 8, 1956, Don Butler was named temporary chairman of the Building Committee to study plans, costs, etc, for a church building; Mr. Butler was later made permanent chairman. Committee members were Carl Farris, Mrs. David Glasser, Joel Brown, Charles Johnson, Mrs. Harry Brower and William T. Taylor.
By this time the Women’s Circle had grown to 44 members and was divided into two groups with Mrs. Raymond Holland president of Group 1 and Mrs. Barbara Taylor president of Group 2. Both groups met on the third Monday night of each month.
On December 16, 1956, the worship services were moved to the second floor of the Minella Building (later Ramon’s Restaurant) on the 520 Causeway and the Church School classes were held in the nearby homes of David Glasser, 124 E. Suwanee Lane, and Don Butler, 131 W. Park Lane, Cocoa Beach. An important event of the first year was the Christmas Program held at 5 pm on December 16, 1956, in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Johnson, Merritt Island. Over 100 people attended and $127.00 was placed on the Christ Child’s tree as a gift for the new church.
At the Congregational Meeting of January 16, 1957, the Building Committee presented plans and sketches for a new church building. This was a three-phase program with June, 1957, the proposed completion date for the first phase. The cost of the first phase including fill, landscaping and street grading was set at $30,000. The building was to be financed by a fifty percent loan from-the Board of National Missions, twenty-five percent loan from Florida Synod and the balance provided by the local congregation. By this time, there were 91 members in the church.
A Building Fund Drive was conducted on January 27, 1957, under the direction of Dr. John Reed of the Board of National Missions. This produced $24,963 in cash and pledges. On March 6, 1957, Session authorized the Building Committee to negotiate a contract, pending the approval of the Board of National Missions, with M. C. Minella to build the first unit of the church building on a cost plus ten percent basis with a guaranteed top price of $25,800. The structure of 38 x 82 feet was to be situated 235 feet from the highway. The Ground Breaking ceremony took place on March 17, 1957, at 11:15 am. The first shovelful of dirt was turned by Rev. Pfeiffer followed by Mr. Glasser for the adults and Bonnie Azulay for the children.
On March 21, 1957, Session considered a request, in the form of a letter from Robert Stoddard, that the church relocate to a site north of the 520 Causeway. Mr. Stoddard represented local businessmen concerned that Florida law forbidding sale of alcoholic beverages within 2500 feet of a church would curtail motel business potential. The vote was unanimous in declining Mr. Stoddard’s proposal.
The Easter worship service on April 21, 1957, was held at Jake’s Bowlarama across the street from the Minella Building as the room regularly used for services was not large enough. The Catholic congregation was meeting in the Bowling Alley, but Riverside changed the hour of its service to adjust to the situation.
The first worship service conducted in the new church building was on June 21, 1957, however much remained both inside and outside to complete the building. There were 98 people present. At that time two wings for Church School classrooms and a Nursery were under construction. The Service of Dedication for the first two stages of the new building was held at 3 pm on October 6, 1957, with the Rev. Charles Martz, Executive of the Synod of Florida, as the principal speaker. The structure included six classrooms, a kitchen, two rest rooms and a large room used for worship services and social gatherings. (This building is now Knox Hall.) The first social function in the new building was held on July 31, 1957. Over 100 people of all ages ate well and enjoyed an evening of Christian fellowship.
As of February 3, 1960, Mr. Pfeiffer’s status at Riverside was still that of Stated Supply. His salary and allowances were paid in full by the Board of National Missions from June, 1956, to May, 1957. One-third of the total amount was assumed by Riverside from June, 1957 to May, 1958; two-thirds, from June, 1958, to May, 1959, and the total paid by Riverside after that. At a special Congregational Meeting on February 21, 1960, the congregation voted unanimously to call Mr. Pfeiffer as Pastor of Riverside. This was approved by Presbytery on April 26,1960, and Mr. Pfeiffer was installed at 8 pm on May 9, 1960, with Rev. Harold Faust, Vero Beach, presiding.
On February 15, 1961, the Session approved a suggestion from the Women’s Association that “a newsletter be sent to church members, visitors and prospective members at least once a month€ and thus “Down By the Riverside€ was created.
The period of about four months at the end of 1961 and the beginning of 1962 was of considerable significance, at least from a publicity standpoint, for Riverside. During the time he was in the area before the first orbital flight of the earth on February 20, 1962, Col. John H. Glenn, Jr. and his wife visited the church occasionally for worship services. Riverside was not casual about this. The astronaut was greeted with screams of delight, requests for autographs and many good wishes. Church was held amid press and TV cameras and crews and church attendance was greatly inflated. In a special ceremony Col. Glenn was presented with a Bible made especially for him by the American Bible Society, and he delivered a short acceptance speech from the pulpit.
After considering the need for a new sanctuary as early as February, 1961, a special Congregational Meeting was held on November 4,1962, at which it was decided to have a Sanctuary Building Fund Drive in the Spring of 1963. The campaign, under the direction of Dr. John Reed of the Board of National Missions, was conducted on March 3, 1963, and $42,400 was raised. The cost of the sanctuary was planned as $75,000. The Building Committee chairman was David Birrel (Died June 1963).
An architect was chosen in March, 1963, finances were approved in June, the design for the sanctuary was approved in July, and the building contract was signed on September 17, 1963. The sanctuary was planned west of the existing structure consisting of about 2700 square feet, 25 feet in height and topped by a steeple. There was to be a divided chancel allowing worshipers to focus their attention on the cross and communion table at the front of the sanctuary.
The Ground Breaking Service, conducted by Rev. Pfeiffer, was held on September 22, 1963, during the morning worship service. Ground was broken by a golden plow with Rev. Pfeiffer holding the plow handles and members of the congregation pulling on ropes to move the plow through the soil — symbolic of the team spirit, as Don Butler said in a brief speech.
On January 9, 1963, Rev. Pfeiffer indicated to Session his plan to retire but expressed a desire to preach the first sermon in the new sanctuary.
In accordance with this plan, at the Congregational Meeting on January 12, 1964, Rev Pfeiffer announced that he would retire and dissolve his pastoral relationship with Riverside effective January 31, 1964, subject to Presbytery approval on January 28, 1964. At this same meeting, the congregation voted to make Rev. Pfeiffer Pastor Emeritus Riverside subject to the approval of Presbytery.
A Pulpit Nominating Committee had been named to choose a new minister at a Congregational Meeting on October 20, 1963, in anticipation of Rev. Pfeiffer’s retirement, and on March 15, 1964, the congregation called Rev. Nicholas Bray Bosworth from Mifflin Presbyterian Church, Gahanna, Ohio, after hearing him preach at Riverside on that day. Rev. Bosworth preached his first sermon as the Pastor of Riverside on the subject, “In The Beginning God,” on April 19, 1964, and was installed on April 26, 1964, at 7 pm with Rev. George Edgar, Ft. Pierce, preaching.
The new sanctuary (Riverside Chapel) was finished and the first service held there on Palm Sunday, March 22, 1964, with Rev. Pfeiffer preaching. As it turned out, Rev. Bosworth preached the last sermon in the old sanctuary and Rev. Pfeiffer preached the first sermon in the new. The new sanctuary was dedicated on May 17, 1964, at the 11 am worship service with Dr. Charles T. Martz, Synod Executive,preaching.
The year 1964 provided many material “firsts” for Riverside — the first minister’s office (The minister’s office was in the west wing of Know Hall and Aurilla Birrel served as the first part-time church secretary.), church office, church secretary, church telephone, church custodian and the first specially printed Riverside bulletins. The church came into the national spotlight briefly when Rev. Bosworth gave the benediction at the July 14, 1964, session of the national Republican convention in San Francisco. As of the end of the year, there were 307 members.
At the Annual Congregational Meeting on January 17, 1965, the congregation voted to organize a Board of Deacons. Those elected were Charlotte Lee, Myrtle Miller, Dorothy Robson and Brian Grigsby for three-year terms; Muriel Mahon, Betty Sergent, Helen Trabue and William Dickson for two-year terms and Mary Harvell, Eunice Schwitters, Edward Ashley and William Graham for one-year terms.
On June 5, 1966, Riverside celebrated its Tenth Anniversary with a worship service in which Rev. Bosworth preached the sermon and Rev. Pfeiffer was in charge of the Anniversary Ritual.
A request by the Women’s Association to use Knox Hall for wedding receptions was approved by Session on March 22, 1967, and a list of policies and charges pertaining to the use of church facilities was approved on April 19, 1967. (The Women’s Association created a Wedding Reception Committee to be effective the first of 1968.) Members of the church had a new experience from April 9 to 12, 1967– they gathered their families together, dressed them up and went to the church to have their pictures taken for the first pictorial church directory. The directories were distributed in October, 1967, and were received with a mixture of pleasure and distress depending on the result of one’s own picture.
On June 21, 1967, a major purchase was approved by the church — a Rogers organ costing $6995. (The final payment was made early in 1972). Another evidence of the growth and expanding needs of the church that year was the creation of the position of Wedding Coordinator on December 20, 1967. Also in 1967 the Junior High Fellowship began the “Chrismon” decorations. They added more the following year and these are used in our sanctuary during the Christmas season.
The need for additional facilities for Church School classrooms, meeting rooms, storage space and other changes in buildings at Riverside had been faced as early as January 26, 1966, when Session created an ad hoc Building Committee. On July 9, 1967, the congregation approved plans for a Christian Education building and general improvement of existing facilities at a total cost of $60,000. There was a Ground Breaking ceremony for the education building between worship services on October 1, 1967, and a Cornerstone Ceremony was conducted at noon on October 13, 1967, by John T. Rouse, Jr., Grand Master of Masons in Florida. The cornerstone was sponsored by Canaveral Lodge 339 of Cocoa Beach and Merritt Island Lodge 353. The following documents and mementos were placed in the archives box of the cornerstone: Masonic documents, the program of the dedication service of the church sanctuary and a church bulletin, a tape recorded sermon of Rev. Bosworth, business cards of the builder and cornerstone maker, notation of Architects/Engineers for sanctuary and education wing, church photographs, pictorial church directory of 1967, brief history of church by Rev. Pfeiffer, sketch of cornerstone location, copy of “Down By the Riverside”, Riverside Church School curriculum books for all ages, copies of local newspapers dated October 13, 1967, (“Orlando and Brevard Sentinel” and “Today”). The new building (Calvin Hall) was dedicated on January 21, 1968, at 6:30 pm with Richard Gray, Chairman of Presbytery Christian Education Committee, as speaker. On February 21, 1968, Knox Hall, Calvin Hall and the Westminster Room were so designated by Session. (The Westminister Room was in the west wing of Knox Hall, and was used for Session meetings.) At this time Riverside had 517 members.
The possibility of employing a Director of Christian Education was considered on March 2, 1966, when Session appointed a Director of Christian Education Survey Committee. This was replaced by a DCE Seeking Committee on September 28, 1966. Mrs. Lois L. Pfeffer was approved as DCE on January 17, 1968, to be effective February 1, 1968.
On January 24, 1968, Session made a decision that affected most of the homes of Riverside members for that year and many future years. The request of the Women’s Association to compile and sell a Riverside Cookbook was approved. It proved to be a best seller among the ladies of the church.
A major project was undertaken in June, 1968. Riverside was host church for the meeting of the Synod of Florida from June 4 to 6. Organization, planning, meal planning, lodging arrangements, purchase of flatware and dishes, food preparation and purchase, work and rain, rain, rain were involved. The quality of the planning was indicated by the fact that the church realized a profit of $500.00.
The next few months were severely troubled for Riverside. Rev. Bosworth and his wife had problems culminating in a divorce which was final on August 30, 1968. A Presbytery investigation in connection with this resulted on November 7, 1968, in Rev. Bosworth’s being deposed from the ministry, and Presbytery declared the Riverside pulpit vacant, both effective November 21, 1968. Rev. Bosworth resigned as pastor on November 9, 1968, and Session acknowledged his resignation. (It should be noted that appeal to Synod on June 11, 1969, changed Rev. Bosworth’s revocation to suspension for one year, and subsequent appeal to General Assembly on June 4, 1970, reversed the judgment of Presbytery in deposing Rev. Bosworth.)
This series of events was deeply divisive for Riverside as loyalties split the church with the result that several members left the church, and among those remaining, there was considerable disharmony. At this sensitive period in the history of the church, Dr. George Arthur Buttrick came as Visiting Pastor from January 5 through March, 1969. Dr. Buttrick was a retired minister of outstanding national reputation. His was a positive, healing ministry that laid the foundation that enabled Riverside to begin to heal and ultimately to grow again.
On November 17, 1968, a Pulpit Nominating Committee was elected, and on April 20, 1969, Rev. Robert L. Lowry was called as Pastor by the congregation subject to Presbytery approval. His first sermon as Pastor was on June 1, 1969, and was entitled, “On Working Out Salvation.” Rev. Lowry was installed on June 15, 1969, at 7:30 pm with Prof. David G. Buttrick preaching. Before Rev. Lowry’s arrival, Lois Pfeffer resigned, effective May 31, 1969. Personalities and circumstances were not propitious for a Director of Christian Education at Riverside at that time.
The next few years were a period of enrichment for the church–particularly in the area of Christian Education, which was of particular concern to Rev. Lowry. Dr. Dietrich Ritschl, Rev. Robert Taylor and Prof. David G. Buttrick visited as guest teachers and speakers in 1970. Teacher education, curriculum planning, seminars, workshops, log-in groups and adult classes were added to regular Church School classes to expose members to new ideas, concepts, questions and outreach. On February 3, 1971, Mrs. Lois Lowry was approved by Session as part-time Christian Education Coordinator.
There was challenge starting in 1970 in the cutbacks in the Space Program leading to a serious decrease in the population of Cocoa Beach. In spite of this, Riverside managed not only to retain its membership but to grow — membership at the end of 1969 was 527; 1970, 528; 1971, 542; and 1972, 592. The church grew in programs and organization as well as in numbers. Bylaws were written in two parts — Part I for the Congregation was approved at the Annual Meeting on January 19, 1969, and Part II for the Corporation was approved at the Annual Meeting on January 24, 1971. In January, 1971, the Board of Deacons held its First Annual Luncheon for Winter Visitors at the church after one of the regular worship services. The creation of a Beautification and Long Range Planning Committee was approved on March 15, 1971. (The work of the committee gradually merged with that of the Board of Trustees and as a result it was never formally dissolved.) The second pictorial church directory was issued late in 1971 after the pictures were taken in August of that year. The Parish Plan under the Evangelism Committee of Session was set up in October, 1972, dividing the congregation into twelve parishes to better reach and care for the needs of members.
It was during this period that the congregation of Riverside (along with the rest of the area) started to change from primarily young families with children to older retired couples. The average age of the congregation began to increase and the potential for growth in the Church School decreased. It was necessary for the church to adjust to these changes and continue to meet the needs of all members.
A big decision for the years of 1973 and 1974 was whether or not to trade the land on the Banana River west of the church for the land north of the church on AlA. This proposal was made to the church on June 29, 1973, by Maurice B. Gralla, the owner of the land north of the church. After much investigation, analysis and discussion, including an opinion survey of members of the congregation, the decision was made in August, 1974, to retain the land west of the church. The issue was divisive, but it demonstrated clearly that disposing of the river property was not a viable option for Riverside.
As early as January, 1973, the need for an assistant to the Pastor was discussed. On April 25, 1973, Session approved Mr. William Linder to act as an assistant, with emphasis on calling, with no salary. On March 27, 1974, Session voted to actively seek an Assistant Pastor. On March 6, 1975, Rev. Earl B. Stewart was proposed as Assistant Pastor and was approved by Session effective July 1, 1975. Presbytery approval was granted on April 22, 1975. Rev. Stewart was installed during the regular worship service on July 13, 1975, with Rev. Frank Morgan, Ft. Pierce, preaching. Rev. Stewart’s first service at Riverside was on July 20, 1975, and his sermon was entitled. “Ageless Truth in an Age of Doubt.”
On June 25, 1975, Rev. Pfeiffer celebrated fifty years in the ministry, and on June 22, 1975, Riverside honored him at a reception at the church following the morning worship service.
The years 1975 and 1976 were years of movement and turnover for the church. Rev. Lowry accepted a call as Pastor of Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church, St. Augustine, Florida, and resigned as Pastor of Riverside on September 21, 1975, to be effective November 3, 1975. The church also lost its Christian Education Coordinator when Mrs. Lowry moved. A Pulpit Nominating Committee was elected on October 12, 1975, for the purpose of calling a new Senior Pastor. On July 11, 1976, Rev. Stewart resigned as Assistant Pastor, effective August 31, 1976, to become Senior Pastor at United Presbyterian Church, St. Cloud. Florida. On July 25, 1976, the congregation voted to call as Senior Pastor Rev. L. Rex Pedlow from the First Presbyterian Church, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, effective October 5, 1976. This was approved by Presbytery.
The position of Historian was created by Session on September 21, 1976, to be appointed annually by the Judicatory and Administration Committee of Session.
On October 3, 1976, Riverside celebrated its Twentieth Anniversary with an Anniversary Program during the morning worship service. This was followed by an old-fashioned birthday party in Knox Hall which included a display of church memorabilia. The theme of the celebration was “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” Hebrews 3:4
Rev. Pedlow’s first Sunday at Riverside was October 10, 1976. His sermon was entitled “Only Then Did I Live.” The arrival of Rev. and Mrs, Pedlow brought a delightful new sound to the church — their Irish accents (they are citizens of North Ireland). Rev. Pedlow was installed on November 7, 1976, at 4 pm with Rev. J. Robert Booker, Executive Presbyter of Northeast Florida Presbytery preaching. A reception honoring Rev. and Mrs. Pedlow was held in Knox Hall immediately following the service.
During 1976 the congregation displayed ample evidence of its ability to be united and productive in the absence of a Senior Pastor. Position descriptions for all salaried and non-salaried church employees were written including purpose, responsibilities, relationships, compensation and church profile for each. Employee Status Forms were also compiled and work was begun on updating the Bylaws. The Church Roll was reviewed with the result that 60 members were removed as inactive. This brought the membership as of the end of 1976 to 506.
At the Annual Meeting on January 30, 1977, the congregation voted to increase the number of Trustees from 9 to 12 to facilitate the work of the Board of Trustees, and three additional Trustees were elected at that time.
At the same meeting the congregation expressed a desire to investigate the purchase of the land on AlA immediately north of the existing church property, and the Session appointed a Land Purchase Committee to handle the matter on February 15, 1977. The owners were contacted and price and terms of sale were agreed upon. The purchase was approved by the congregation on June 5, 1977, and later by Presbytery and General Assembly. A special pledge drive and various fund-raising events were held to raise the money necessary for the down payment. The required amount of $35,000 was raised, and on September 13, 1977, the land purchase was closed. (The Women’s Association held a Rummage and Bake Sale on July 29 and 30 netting $1750 and a benefit luncheon on November 10 netting $300.41 to aid in raising this money.) The total purchase price was $75,000. (This is the property on which Fellowship Hall and the Sanctuary now stand.)
On April 19, 1977, Session approved Mrs. Jean Booker as part-time Director of Christian Education, effective May 1, 1977.
On September 20, 1977, the Land Purchase Committee was dissolved by Session as it had fulfilled its duties. On October 20, 1977, the Long Range Planning Committee was created by Session as a sub-committee of the Program Development and Support Committee of Session to study “future changes and modification of church facilities so that funds would not be improperly used.”
Riverside celebrated its Twenty-first Anniversary with a worship service on October 30, 1977. This was followed by dedication of the newly-acquired land north of the church and a tree-planting ceremony on the new property. The event ended with a luncheon served in Knox Hall by the Women’s Association.
New choir robes were approved by Session on March 15, 1977, and were displayed and dedicated at the worship service on November 20, 1977. Dedicated at the same time were the 102 stoles for the choir made by the Women’s Association. Through the years the Riverside Choir had been an invaluable asset to the church; its loyalty and outstanding performance have been a continuing blessing.
The three-year Risk Evangelism program sponsored by the United Presbyterian Church was approved by Session in May, 1976, as part of the Riverside program and after several months of committee work and training, the events involving the congregation were started in November, 1977. Some activities were to be long-term and some, short-term.
Updating the Bylaws of the church was started in 1976 and completed for Session approval on September 20, 1977 (to be approved at the 1978 Annual Meeting). The Articles of Incorporation were also altered where necessary to be consistent with the Bylaws. The Judicatory and Administration Committee of Session prepared Personnel Policies for the church in 1977 and they were approved on February 28, 1978.
The first Hymn-Sing, conducted between worship services when the extra winter visitors made two worship services necessary for about three months each year, was held on February 5, 1978, and met with tremendous approval. The leadership was outstanding, and the audience participation was enthusiastic.
A program of Cassette Worship Services for shut-ins and others wishing to hear services they had missed became operational in June, 1978. The cassettes included the sermon, music and prayer from each Sunday service. The program was made possible by a memorial gift of three cassette players and with the cooperation of several individuals and groups to organize and implement it.
A Memorial Book was started in 1978 listing all previous church memorials and providing for recording future memorials.
The Women’s Association held its second Rummage Sale (now an annual event) in October, 1978, making $2,360, and part of this was designated for the land purchase of 1977.
The third pictorial directory for the church was distributed in June, 1979 — the pictures had been taken in February of that year.
In 1980, the Watson Bell Choir was organized following a gift of two and one-half octaves of Shumerich handbells. Robes were made by Bell Choir members and the Women’s Association, and the first public performance was at the worship service on Sunday, May 25, 1980. This is a fine new musical resource for Riverside!
The second Women’s Association Cookbook was assembled during the year and was available in October, 1980 — it was a success financially and gastronomically. The three years of the Risk Evangelism program were completed in 1980. It started strongly but limped to a close. The membership of the church was 508 on December 31, 1980.
On February 22, 1981, at a Special Congregational Meeting, the recommendation of the Long Range Planning Committee was approved to spend $1750 to have an architect draw up plans to show the options available for several remodeling projects — including enlarging the sanctuary, Knox Hall and kitchen and providing a choir room and maintenance building. (This was later altered by Session to include the cost of a new sanctuary.)
On October 7, 1981, Riverside will be twenty-five years old. This Silver Jubilee will be celebrated during the month of October, 1981, with the theme:
Thankful for the heritage of past Riverside
Grateful for the opportunities of present Riverside and
Eagerly anticipating personal involvement in future Riverside.
Dorothy M. Andrews Historian
Riverside Presbyterian Church observed its 35th anniversary in a celebration held during morning worship service on October 6, 1991. The following Anniversary Snapshot was given by the Church Historian:
(Years prior to 1982 omitted)
The United Presbyterian Men were organized in 1982, and although they have served Riverside in many, many ways, one of their most valuable assets is the Super Chefs, begun in 1983.
Rev. Pedlow retired in April 1986, and the Rev. James B. Hatch, Jr. was appointed as interim pastor.
The Rev. Dr. A. Allen Brindisi was called in May 1987, and his first sermon as our minister was June 28. He served Riverside until December 1, 2000.
The Teen Bell Choir was begun in 1987.
The first Spring Carnival was held in 1988, and has become another Riverside tradition.
During the years 1988-89 we joined in celebrating the Bi-Centennial for the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.
The first Crop Walk in Cocoa Beach was sponsored by Riverside on March 12, 1989. 235 persons participated and over $6,000 was pledged. This has become an annual event.
The Rev. Dr. Robert Gamble was here from September 1989 to January 1990, in the position of Pastoral Consultant for parish visitation. The student intern program was initiated and, in June, James McCracken arrived to begin a 15-month commitment, thus Riverside effectively became a “teaching church”. Jim left in August of 1991; Jane Nicholas joined us for a 10-month commitment, on September 1, 1991, to begin to make footprints in her own shoes.
The Memorial Garden was established in 1991 and dedicated September 8, 1991.
Glenn Arnold has been our music director since 1967. Millie Strieter, our church secretary, has kept continuity in the church office through pastoral transitions. She served faithfully in the church office until November 1991 when Debbie Kamataris came on board. Through the past years there have been carpenters and cooks, gardeners and hardheaded businessmen, teachers and caregivers, dedicated pastors and personnel, and volunteers with willing hands and loving hearts. We’ve shared problems and picnics, joys and sorrows, smiles and songs! We are richly blessed.
A beautiful banner was created through the skill and artistry of Ann Brindisi, Louise Coleman, Ginnie Dansey and Lucy Renz. “The cross of Jesus Christ is displayed in colors representing the blues of the Florida sea and sky, against the white of our sand beaches, highlighted by the gold of our abundant sunshine. The seagull reminds us that this cross rises in our midst here in Cocoa Beach.” The banner was presented during the singing of our Anniversary Hymn for which Dr. Brindisi composed the words.
After the close of the worship service, a reception was held in Fellowship Hall. The cake was in the shape of an open Bible, and was cut by John Robers, a charter member. The mortgage on the Fellowship Hall was burned. Jim Walker, Chairman of the Long-Range Planning Committee, conducted that ceremony.
Helen McNamara, Church Historian
Since this writing, that was included in the 1991 Annual Report, there has been lots of history being made here at Riverside.
Millie Strieter retired in November of 1991 after twelve years as church secretary. Debbie Kamataris began as church secretary in November 1991 on a part-time 20-hour per week basis. Debbie is now the Office Administrator and has a full-time job at 40 hours per week.
Jane Nicholas, Pastoral Intern, left in June 1992. Barbara Ann Hedin, who was here for a year beginning September 1992, followed her as Pastoral Intern.
Glenn Arnold celebrated 25 years as Organist/Choir Director and was roasted with a dinner and celebration put on by the Super Chefs in Fellowship Hall on September 18, 1992.
Groundbreaking for the new sanctuary was on May 30, 1993. The new sanctuary will be located behind Knox and Calvin Halls on the site where the playground previously was. The playground has been moved to the west side of the current sanctuary.
The 205th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church was held in Orlando, June 2-9, 1993. Many volunteers from Riverside attended.
The congregation voted to proceed with a search for a new associate pastor under the guidance of the Associate Pastor Nominating Committee (APNC) and nominated Jane S. Nicholas as associate pastor. She came to Riverside on September 1, 1993, along with her two children, Jeff and Jolene, and was ordained to the Ministry of Word & Sacrament at an installation ceremony on September 26, 1993.
Allen Brindisi joined the congregation at Davidson College Presbyterian Church in Davidson, North Carolina on December 1, 2000.
Riverside called Daniel Drew Robinson (wife Karin and adult daughters, Mandy & Erin) to Riverside and Pastor Dan was installed on June 30, 2002.
Notes by Debbie Kamataris