Harvey Memorial Community Church, 300 Church St., traces its origin to 1940, when a minister, the Rev. Joseph C. Harvey and his wife, Joan, retired to Bradenton Beach.
After 50 years in the ministry, the 77-year-old Harvey looked forward to relaxing in the sun and fishing in the clear waters of Sarasota Bay.
But he soon discovered a need for his services because there was no church on the south end of Anna Maria Island.
He began to hold Sunday services for all who wanted to attend in the meeting hall of the Pines Trailer Park. This was the beginning of the Little Church by the Bay.
The membership grew, and worshippers decided to become a real church. They were chartered on June 24, 1946. On Oct. 4 of that year, the first meeting of the Bradenton Beach Church and Social Service Association was held.
In 1948, they purchased a former United States Army barracks, which was barged from the old airport in Holmes Beach, and reassembled on Church Street.
It was ready for the dedication service on Oct. 9, 1948. Harvey continued his ministry for 11 years from the beginning in 1940. In 1951, he retired and was replaced by the Rev. Arthur Simms.
In 1952, the congregation voted to change the church’s name to Harvey Memorial Community Church. In 1953, Harvey died and left behind an enduring legacy.
In keeping with Harvey’s intention that the church remain a social association, many civic groups have held meetings over the years in the church, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Red Cross, the Bradenton Beach City Council and the library. The only condition was that they should face away from the pulpit.
Since its beginning, the church has seen many changes. The building was enlarged in 1955 to add 50 percent more seating.
In 1956, the first baptisms were performed in the Gulf, which is a tradition still practiced by current pastor the Rev. Stephen King.
In 1957, the pulpit and communion table were hand-crafted by Gerald Ensing. Remarkably, Ensing had been blind for 60 years.
The name of the street was changed from Pine to Church Street. In 1964, a belfry was erected on the roof to house the electric chimes. In 1967, Wayland and Jeanne Guthrie donated the land Harvey occupied to the church.
In 1974, a cross was erected on the belfry. The first of the stained glass windows was installed in 1975, and now there are 13 colored-glass windows, each with a different theme.
In the 1990s many things were added to the building, including new air conditioning and a public address system,
This year a new lighted sign was installed.
Except for a short time in the late 1960s when interim preachers were used, there have been only six pastors to serve the needs of the people of Harvey Church.
They are the Reverends Harvey, Arthur Simms, Myron J. Bunnell, J. Clement Walker, William Grossman and King. These ministers have all been dedicated to the principle of the “Unity Of All Christians,” something Rev. Harvey believed in deeply.
Harvey Memorial Community Church is both a link to the past and a bridge to the future of Bradenton Beach.
Through the years Rev. Harvey’s guiding principle has always been followed. The standards of community service and Christian fellowship keep Harvey Memorial together.