Christ Church Among the Oaks: The Little Congregation that Could

By Jack Tull, Christ Episcopal Church, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
Posted Dec 1, 2022

Christ Church Among the Oaks

A second worship site for Christ Episcopal Church, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida (Diocese of Florida) began services in late 2002 at the Serenata Beach Club in South Ponte Vedra Beach under the guidance of a group of committed Christians and The Rev. Milton Murray.  The vision was to be a beacon of hope to transform lives together, through the love of God in Christ. Our love for God and for one another inspires us to come together to build life-changing relationships, in an affirming, loving environment where all are welcome. That vision over the next 20 years has become a reality. By avoiding the cost of a typical “brick and mortar” church this small congregation of 70 parishioners is able to devote their time, talent and treasure to support local ministry partners.

Bishop Chalfant and Steve Harrison

Over time, the congregation dug in to establish hands on relationships with six local ministry partners under the guidance of Steve Harrison, the former Christ Church Administrator, and led spiritually by The Rt. Rev. Edward Chalfant, the retired Bishop of Maine. These relationships involved financial support and active participation of members of the congregation with each of the ministry partners.

The local ministry partners that are supported are:

Learn to Read
Improving literacy for over 200 individuals each year at no cost to the student. Improved reading skills lead to better paying jobs, higher levels of education, healthier lifestyles, and a better overall community.

St. Gerard’s Campus
A non-profit maternity home and Christian high school for pregnant teenagers, promoting empowerment through education and strong Christian values.

St. Francis Housing Crisis Center / Port in the Storm
Engaging those experiencing homelessness to achieve stability, self-sufficiency, and a viable plan for their future by providing a safe, stable environment, access to essential services, and supportive connections. Port in the Storm provides shelter and support for young adults 18–24-year olds. A water backup in their building caused over $200,000 in damage and insurance denied their claim. Members of Christ Church Among the Oaks donated nearly $100,000 to get repairs done. The congregation also supplies a full meal to the residents at St. Francis House the first Friday of every month.

Council on Aging
Provides the opportunity for every person in St. Johns County to enjoy wellness, longevity and quality of life choices within a strong, healthy community.

Pie in the Sky Community Alliance of St. John County
Pie in the Sky is grassroots, volunteer-based organization providing hope by serving with dignity and respect to alleviate hunger and social isolation through the home delivery of healthy fresh produce to low-income senior citizens.

South Woods Elementary
Creating a secure community that will instill in all students a desire for academic excellence, fostering the development of caring, productive citizens. Each Thanksgiving members of this small congregation provide complete Thanksgiving dinners including a turkey and $25. gift card to 90 families. In addition, members of the congregation provide mentoring to the students and provide breakfast bars to students each morning.

The Rev. Sandy Tull

In July of 2020 Bishop Chalfant retired and the spiritual direction was taken over by The Rev. Sandy Tull with the planning and administration being accomplished by a Servant Board. Music continued to be provided by a very talented couple, Boril Ivanov and Claire Hunsinger.

In January 2022 the congregation was asked to move from Serenata Beach Club. After an extensive search for a new location the congregation moved to the North Shores Improvement Association Community Center just south of the Beach Club. The building is ideal for Sunday worship and is situated among many beautiful oak trees thus the name Among the Oaks. The congregation continues its work with its ministry partners in reaching out as God’s grace empowers us to do.