After much prayer, a small group of about 16 adults began meeting over a storefront on November 1, 1885 and formed the Church of the Ascension. In a letter from Mrs. Munnerlyn (one of the original families) to her daughter, she wrote, “it was a miracle the way our Church did ‘ascend’ from our prayers.” The first congregation of Ascension met in a second-floor room above J.K. Munnerlyn’s General Store.
Welcome to Church of the Ascension
History of the Church
The Episcopal Church dates to at least the second century, when merchants and other travelers brought Christianity to England. St. Augustine of Canterbury's mission to England in 597 marks the formal beginning of the church under papal authority. In its modern form, the church dates from the 16th century, when royal supremacy was established and the authority of the papacy was repudiated. As England began colonization, the Church of England was established on every continent. Over time, these churches gained their independence, yet stayed connected with the Anglican Communion.
Ascension’s congregation breaks ground for its first church building. The property, on 440 Court Street, is purchased for $50. Ascension’s first sanctuary is built in what was commonly called “Florida Gothic” and there is a picture of it in our church office.
Two years after Ascension hired their first full-time rector, we broke ground for our current structure.
All major renovations to the original building are completed, including two increases in the size of the sanctuary, once in 1935 and again in 1961. The original structure included the first four window bays and sat a congregation of 250. The additional five windows bays were added years later, increasing the seating to 500.
Ascension Day School is founded. Since 1967 we have welcomed pre-schoolers, age 2-5 into our Day School. We nurture each child’s academic, spiritual, and social development. The Day School family is a significant part of the Church of Ascension family.
St. Paul’s, Clearwater’s Independent School, was founded in 1968 by a group of families seeking a private school in the Episcopal tradition, combining the values of outstanding academics with respect, honesty, integrity, and inclusiveness. Through 1976, the school used Ascension’s education building as a campus. The close relationship between St. Paul’s, its families and the youth of Ascension continues today. Successive generations of the founding families are current members of Ascension and continue to play a role in the life of the school. The rector of Ascension has served as chaplain, conducting weekly chapel services and the Christmas Lessons & Carrols service. St. Paul’s 8th grade graduation ceremony is held at the church. Our rector has also offered pastoral care to students, faculty, and their families.
The Betty Jane Dimmitt Carillon Bell Tower is dedicated with 49 Dutch bells. Ascension has one of only four carillon towers in Florida. On November 25, 2012 we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the carillon tower with a special concert in memory of Larry and Betty Jane Dimmitt.
The beautiful Létourneau Pipe Organ installation is completed — the chancel pipes in 2001 and the pipes around the Rose Window in 2003.
Today, Church of the Ascension with its distinctive Florida Gothic architecture and elegant stained glass is a grand historic landmark in the city of Clearwater.
Church of the Ascension is a welcoming and caring community and is well known for her long history of community outreach. Our parishioners are committed to working in their community to enrich the lives of others. Over the years, Ascension has had a strong hand in founding or helping to found several organizations, such as Religious Community Services, the Pinellas Center for the Visually Impaired (originally Channel Markers for the Blind), The College Fund of Pinellas County, and The Samaritan Counseling Center. Our parishioners continue to participate in and develop outreach projects to benefit our communities in Pinellas County and communities beyond home, including a mission church and school in the Dominican Republic. Several parishioners and church groups participate in a variety of programs benefiting children, teens, and adults at the local, national, and worldwide levels.
Worship and Christian formation at Ascension are central to the life and energy of the parish. The clergy and staff of Ascension work hard engaging, equipping, and enabling our parishioners on their spiritual journey. As a community at worship we gather weekly to remember the stories of our faith and the history of the saving acts of God. Since it’s ‘ascension from prayer’, Church of the Ascension has emphasized that we must be active and intentional about our commitment to worship and our spiritual journey. Programs like Sunday School, ALPHA, Bible studies, video and book studies are important to the spiritual direction and life of our faith community.