The Church began February 7, 1965 when there was phenomenal growth of the whole county because of the “Space Age”.
The following words were written by charter member Bill Webb, who was lay leader of the church:
“The District Superintendent of the Melbourne District, Dr. Bruce Ganaway, was searching for property for a meeting site in Rockledge, so a lease was temporarily signed with the newly-completed Cocoa-Rockledge Garden Club to at least have a meeting place.
The Rev. Ned T. Keller, appointed by Bishop James W. Henley, held the first scheduled worship service on January 3, 1965. The Garden Club overflowed with 210 people, a building that was built to accommodate 140! People were standing because there were not enough chairs. It was an exciting time! On Organization Sunday, February 7, 1965, 206 persons were accepted as charger members of the Rockledge United Methodist Church.
The Garden Club was not large enough for the two adult Church School classes, the Joy Class and the Pathfinders, so they had to meet in private homes. The class members would race to get their children in Sunday School in the Garden Cub then race to the home where their class was being held. Fiske Boulevard looked like the Daytona Speedway!
Also, there was no place for a church office. The church was fortunate enough to purchase the parsonage at 954 Brunswick Lane in Rockledge. The bedroom at the top of the stairs became the church office. All church meetings were held in the living room.
The property where the church is now located, approximately four acres, was purchased for $35,000. Groundbreaking services were held on December 26, 1965 and the first unit, a multi-purpose sanctuary/fellowship hall was completed on June 19, 1966. With the membership growing, a wing for classes and scout meetings was added in early 1968 and a second wing for Church School classes was finished that year.
In August 1988, the dreams of over two decades were realized with the groundbreaking for the new Sanctuary. Excitement grew as the building rose. A special ceremony was observed Christmas Eve 1988 as the members filed from the service in the old Sanctuary, to assemble by candlelight under the stars, on the newly poured floor of the new Sanctuary to sing Christmas carols. The new Sanctuary was dedicated May 7, 1989 in an emotional ceremony highlighted by several charter members transferring special artifacts from the old to the new Sanctuary.”
The swift growth of membership leveled off in the 1990s as the slowing of the space program and economic difficulties came to our area. The completion of the sanctuary’s stained glass windows in 1995 was a major accomplishment of the congregation. In 1994, we began a strong program of Vacation Bible School with “Almost Heaven” and have continued almost every year to run a well-respected community wide VBS. The first Disciple Bible Study was completed in 1996 and for many years, we had a strong program of Disciple studies 1 through 4. In 1999, the first Stephen Ministers were commissioned and the program continues today under the leadership of Janice Long. We expanded into “Saturday Night Live”, the first contemporary service on Saturday night. The contemporary service moved to Sunday morning as a second service for several years before the church returned to one worship service on Sunday mornings.
The start of the millennium brought a renewal of our relationship with our Sister Church “La Ceiba de Yareyal” in Holguin, Cuba when Dr. Manuel Garcia paid a visit there. We started some strong outreach programs where we went monthly into the local prisons and begin Prison Fellowship Angel Tree. 2004 brought us the life changing “40 Days of Purpose” with almost every member in a small group and reading the same book “The Purpose Driven Life”. In 2007, “Sisters of the Vine” began and put on yearly retreats and issued a cook book. We began the children’s bus ministry in 2008, where we went to local neighborhoods for crafts and also brought kids in every Sunday morning for breakfast and church. King’s Kids started in 2009 at Andersen Elementary with a weekly after school program and continued successfully for several years.
Our mission support work began in 2009 with Lynn and Dori Cazier, missionaries with CMF, International in Kenya, Africa. They have visited us twice and work with the Maasai tribes to build Christian churches and ministries there. Guy Wickman and Mary Ann Dierdorf visited our Sister Church in Cuba in 2012 and we have sent church members yearly since then plus monetary and medical support. We paid off our sanctuary mortgage in 2009, a happy occasion! We did several years of Back to School Bashes where we gave away hundreds of backpacks and school supplies to our community’s children. In 2009, a Wednesday evening prayer time was introduced and the sanctuary continues to be open every Wednesday for prayer.
In 2012, we participated in the ambitious “Celebrate Jesus” project where in the month of July we visited several hundred houses around our church and culminated in a huge Block Party. In 2014, we joined “Family Promise” where our church hosts homeless families four times a year on our campus. We have a thriving Senior Fellowship group meeting monthly for over 10 years, as well as yearly visits from the traveling NOMADS who have blessed us with countless church and parsonage projects.
We celebrated 50 years of ministry in February 2015 and had a Golden Anniversary weekend with many former Pastors, charter members and friends attending the party and the worship service.
-Connie Maltby, Rockledge UMC Historian