Parsonage Complete

April 9, 2021
By BBadmin7502

BY TONYA BRAMLAGE
From the demolition of the Fellowship Hall, to the lifting of the old church building, to clearing the site for foundations, the vision of the Lighthouse Methodist Church parsonage building has now become a long awaited reality. “Parsonage” may be an old fashioned term for the housing a church provides to its clergy, but there is nothing outdated in all the little touches that are incorporated throughout the new building revealing the love and care that was taken in the design process.
The original parsonage was built in 1913. Over the past 100 years, more than 60 pastors and their families have called the parsonage home. Island children attended weekly Sunday school and kindergarten classes on the screened front porch. “It was very important to us that we replicate the porch to its original design.” Among those children in attendance at those Sunday school classes on the porch, was the local Island resident, Betsy Joiner. The oldest church on Gasparilla island, The United Methodist Church was chartered on July 10, 1910. Established by the Reverend D.B. Sweat in 1912, the Lighthouse United Methodist Church of Boca Grande shows in its historic registry, that the church had seven total Sunday school classes. Six for children and one for adults, with weekly attendance ranging from 43 to 54 children and approximately 10 adults by the hallmark year’s end.
Since the building of the church, hurricanes and termites alike have come and gone without leaving any damage to the foundational structure. It has been recorded that the parsonage was built out of the “heart of pine”, which when cured, is extremely hard and veritably indestructible. Heart pine is the heartwood of the longleaf pine tree, which is no longer harvested for commercial use and is only available now as reclaimed lumber. The original floors have been restored throughout the entire building showcasing the beauty and longevity of its use. Longleaf is the strongest and densest of all the pine woods, nearly the same density as red oak. Those who built the church must have been visionaries for it has most valiantly stood the test of time. It has been enjoyed and added to over the generations both past and present.
When Rev. Dr. Matthew Williams and his lovely wife Joy moved into the parsonage in 2015, there had been little to no improvements made toward the building since the 1960s. He recalled, “The hot water heater was rusted out, appliances were in ill repairs, and a portable air conditioner set in the window was used to cool the entire house.” The original floors from 1914 were painted over and covered in badly worn carpet. Original crank windows covered with plexiglass remained sealed shut, while others were covered by hurricane shutters that had not been removed for far too many seasons. Presently, 3 to 4 inch thick studs make up the sidewalls to the newly renovated church office that once served as home to so many of the church’s forefathers.
Maintaining historic significance in the historic district of Boca Grande was one of the primary objectives of the building committee. The parsonage shares the very same wood on its freshly sealed and varnished floors that is found in The Gasparilla Inn. Among the more modern amenities of the parsonage, now includes Pastor Williams’ own soundproof office. Nowadays most buildings in Florida must be built to a specific building code. Specifications require new construction satisfy certain wind load ratings. The Florida Building Code is a set of standards, guidelines, and regulations that are established as benchmarks in regards to the protection and preservation of buildings against hurricanes. Fulfilling these necessary requisites, the entire church staff moved into the remodeled parsonage in the middle of February 2021 with full assurance that it had been constructed with the highest hurricane rating possible.
Red painted doors traditionally signal a designated place of sanctuary, refuge, and safety when they are seen on church buildings. The tradition dates back centuries and has many meanings associated with brightly sanctioned church entryways. Historically, individuals that are in need of shelter enter the building trusting that they will not be captured or harmed inside the holy walls of the church. The sign of the red door not only offers a promise of physical and spiritual protection to all that would enter, but they also serve as a heralding reminder that ALL are welcome here. One need only enter through the freshly painted red threshold of the Lighthouse United Methodist Church of Boca Grande to revel in the experience.