St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church

Our History

The Parish of St. Mary Magdalene was envisioned by members of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Fort Lauderdale when the population began moving north.  It determined on March 18, 1960 that a mission church in The Everglades was needed.  Two months later the first vicar, the Reverend Ernest J. Ault, moved into a vicarage in the new city of Margate and began services in his living room.  By September of 1961 the congregation of 37 families met in a tent on a 66th Street lot, intended for a church building.  A year later ground was broken for a contemporary redwood and block structure which would accommodate 100 people. The communicants increased from 114 in 1962 to 160 in 1964 whilst the population of Margate stayed at 4,000, half retirees and half young families. By 1969 a new vicar, Edward Bubb, proposed an addition to the church in the form of a panel-fab building to accommodate the additional parishioners.  Fathers Gregory Taylor and Thomas Ryan had each served two years when Father Gordon Morey came to Margate 1974 to oversee a dramatic change.

Ground was broken on September 22, 1974 for a new church in the adjacent city of Coral Springs promoting discounted sites to churches.  The population was predominantly young families.  The city gave a special one-day certificate of occupancy for the nearly-completed building for the 1975 Easter Sunday dedication.  The modern stone and glass building was called an “earth church” because of its interior colors.  Side windows were amber Plexiglas, pews were upholstered green and the floor tiles were gray.  The altar is a single piece of coral rock found on the site during construction.  The congregation tripled in membership to 290 families by the end of the decade.  Memorials included a pipe organ and substantial funding for the Parish Hall.

Father Stephen Eichler was installed in 1993 bringing renewed energy and outreach.  A total renovation of the church included changing the amber Plexiglas to clear glass, upholstering the pews in red, replacing the floor tiles and wooden lectern with coral rock renditions and replacing the rough-hewn railing at the altar with a finished rail.  The original altar rail was moved to the choir loft.  A new organ was installed as a memorial and the Parish Hall was renovated.    The congregation again grew in step with city’s expansion from 79,000 to 120,000.

Father Mark H. Sims became rector in 2003 and Mother Cynthia E. Gill became Associate Rector in 2005.  Deacon Lorna F. Goodison joined the clergy in 2006.  Dr. David Kerr Park became Organist and Choirmaster in 2012, enlisting instrumentalists from the congregation to join the music program and reviving the bell choir.  Permanent stone tables and benches have been installed around the exterior of the church entrance to encourage fellowship after services.  The look and sound of St. Mary Magdalene Church changed from traditional to dynamic. 

As the church approaches its 50th anniversary in 2014, our history will be examined to explain how we came to know Christ and to make Christ known. 

                                                                                                                    prepared by:
                                                                                                                    Wendy Wangberg
                                                                                                                    Church Historian