All Saints celebrates 50 years in “ageless” traditional edifice

All Saints celebrates 50 years in “ageless” traditional edifice

 

It’s been 50 years since the All Saints Episcopal Parish moved south from its former location on Hendricks Avenue near I-95 to the beautiful brick edifice it inhabits at 4171 Hendricks Avenue and to celebrate that anniversary members will do so in retro style.

On All Saints Day, Sunday, Nov. 1, the All Saints members plan to look back on the rich history of their present sanctuary and honor the members who built it, many who are still active within its membership.

A special Eucharistic service will be held followed by a family-style luncheon. Parishioners will don period clothing reminiscent of what members might have worn 50 years ago and enjoy a tasty spread of dishes routinely cooked in 1965. After lunch, docents will provide tours of the facility.

Also part of the celebration following the service will be a demonstration of Plein Air painting on the church grounds. The First Coast Plein Air Painters will set up their easels to paint the classic brick church “in the open air,” the style of painting in the mid-19th century, when artists worked in natural light. The public is welcome to observe the painters at work.

Heading the 50th anniversary planning committee was San Jose resident Dr. John Lovejoy, Jr. and his wife, Harriet. Lovejoy’s parents were on the church’s original planning committee in the 1960s when the church sanctuary was built.

Although the church cornerstone was laid Sunday, September 12, 1965, the congregation chose to celebrate their anniversary Nov. 1, All Saints’ Feast Day, for which the church was named. The cornerstone contains a hymnal, a cross, and a newspaper from that time.

“It’s a big day for us, Nov. 1. It’s the Feast of All Saints Sunday,” said church pastor Father Donovan Cain, who lives in San Marco. “It’s a great milestone, 50 years, for our beautiful church sanctuary.”

Traditional contemporary blend

AllSaints_02Unique to All Saints is its traditional church design, which differs from other religious structures built in Jacksonville during the same time period. Designed by Jacksonville architects Saxelbye and Powell, the edifice is modified Norman Gothic architecture and features a striking large stained-glass east window located immediately to the rear of its white Vermont marble altar. The two-story window, which is entitled The Creation, was designed by Dr. Henry Lee Willet of Philadelphia, who used faceted glass to symbolize the aspiration of man toward God, said San Marco resident Paula Moore, Junior Warden at All Saints.

“It’s more like a sculpture than stained glass,” Moore said. “It depicts God’s creation of the earth, moon and sun in swirling colors. It faces east so when the sun comes up the light streams through it. When the rising sun comes through the window it’s very dramatic,” she said, noting that the congregation wanted to have a window that would provide interior light while still maintaining a sense of mystery. “People look at it and see all sorts of things. It was designed with enough mystery that people worshipping in the church see different things in it.”

The Christus Rex cross, which was hand carved out of walnut by an artist in Charleston, is suspended in front of the Creation window and above a spacious marble altar. According to a newspaper article written when the church was dedicated, the Christus Rex symbolizes the risen, reigning Christ. “It’s a very simple design making for a dramatic place to worship,” said Moore.

The uniqueness of the church rests in its mixture of contemporary design with traditional, Father Donovan said. “Some of the architecture of the 1960s has remained stunning and beautiful and some is dated,” he said. “In our church some pieces reflect the 1960s and some are ageless. It’s a good combination of both. Whoever designed All Saints had good sense. Our church will look beautiful as long as it’s in existence.”

160-year history in the community

All Saints got its start in 1855 when a small group of Episcopalians met in the waiting room of the old Jacksonville-St. Augustine Railroad in South Jacksonville. Later services were held in the home of Mrs. Alexander Mitchell in Villa Alexandria. In 1877 plans were drawn up to erect a church at 1228 Hendricks Avenue near Gary Street, and in December 1890 the All Saints Episcopal Mission was consecrated by Bishop Edwin Garner Weed.

Until 1936, All Saints was a mission, supported by the Diocese of Florida. The land in the 4100 block of Hendricks Avenue was purchased in 1947 and plans were drawn up for a new building. The original church stood at 1228 Hendricks Avenue until June 1955 when the congregation moved south and began worship at its present location in what is now the church’s Parish Hall. During the following 10 years, the current sanctuary was designed and construction was completed in 1965. The original mission edifice was deconsecrated in 1955 and sold to Dr. J. Harold Newman and Abe Newman, who eventually dismantled it when the Overland Expressway was constructed in the early 1960s.

As its congregation looks forward toward its next 50 years, the church’s timeless design will remain a tangible demonstration of the openness of the Episcopalian church, said Moore. “It’s a sanctuary for our community as well as a house of worship,” she said. “It’s a special, beautiful place in our community, an opening, welcoming place. That’s what I love about it.”

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News
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