The history of the Episcopal Church in Mount Dora actually began over six decades before the founding of St. Edward the Confessor (now known as St. Edward’s Episcopal Church). In 1893, the Rt. Rev. William Crane Gray, newly consecrated bishop of the Missionary Jurisdiction of Southern Florida, made his first journey around the territory which General Convention had separated the previous fall from the expanding Diocese of Florida. He visited Mount Dora in the spring and selected a lot suitable for a church building. However, during his episcopate he held services and preached either in the Methodist or Congregational churches, and the Episcopal presence remained an unnamed mission station until in 1914, when the Rt. Rev. Cameron Mann became bishop, it was listed in the Convocation Journal as an unorganized mission named St. Luke. Several years later, in 1922, it appears as an organized mission named Trinity. It became dormant sometime during 1926 as a result of the collapse of the real estate boom. It would be another three decades before the Episcopal Church established itself in Mount Dora with the founding of St. Edward the Confessor.
1956 – St. Edward’s was organized as a mission on February 5th, following a service presided over by Canon William Hargrave, Executive Secretary of the Diocese of South Florida and later first Bishop of Southwest Florida. The service was held in the home of the late Maria Hartridge and was attended by 35 persons. Until the end of April, services continued in the Masonic hall. The congregation purchased a two-acre estate, formerly the Bardwell home. Convenient to the center of the city, it came complete with a house, two orange groves, and a swimming pool. At the annual convention of the Diocese of South Florida on May 22nd, St. Edward’s was accepted as an organized mission. The house was remodeled with the ground floor serving as the church and Sunday school, and the second floor as living quarters for the resident vicar. The first resident vicar arrived October 1st, and by the end of the year, seating capacity (85 people) was stretched to the limit.
1958 – September 23rd witnessed groundbreaking for a new church building. The architect was A. Wynn Howell of Lakeland, Florida. Construction on the new church structure was completed on February 1959. The service of the Laying of the Cornerstone took place on March 11, 1959. Mr. Howell planned for St. Edward’s to be a living demonstration of the Biblical “Rock of Our Salvation.” He accomplished this through the use of native Florida fieldstone in building the nine buttresses which support the roof. Carrying through the theme of the Rock of Salvation is the altar. All the rock in the altar is the same stone used in the exterior construction with one exception–a piece of marble from the reredos of the high altar at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, England.
1959 – Easter Day, March 29th, marked the first services held in the new church structure which had been constructed on the property.
1965 – The statue of St. Francis located by the goldfish pond, was given by Mr. Andres Moynello in loving memory of his parents.
1966 – The faceted glass windows in the choir loft and beside the main doors were created by Nobis Decorating Company, Canton, Ohio. Many memorials were given in the name of loved ones for the windows. The altar in the Lady Chapel was the gift of Mr. and Mrs. John Webster Haines, II, in memory of their son, John, III, who was killed in World War II.
1967 – As the parish of St. Edward’s grew, so did the need for space. Sunday school classrooms and Hartridge Hall were constructed next to the church with the existing swimming pool incorporated into its design. There is a stone in the building which is carved with “A.M.D.G. 1967.” The abbreviation is for the Latin Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, or “to the greater glory of God.” The final stages of the project included a parking lot built by Superior Asphalt Company. After eleven years of serving as sanctuary, vicarage, Sunday school classrooms, and meeting hall, the Bardwell house was deconstructed and removed from the property.
1969 – Parish status was achieved at the April 28th annual convention of the Diocese of South Florida.
1974 – February 5th was a day of special celebration. Free and clear of debt, the church was consecrated by the Rt. Rev. William H. Folwell, Bishop of Central Florida, one of the three dioceses into which South Florida had been divided. The consecration was 18 years to the day of that first worship service in the Hartridge parlor. This service was attended by nearly 300 people in contrast to the 35 present at that first service.
1978 – The Parish suffered a split in the Congregation over the ordination of women to the ministry. Nearly 300 members who were against the National Episcopal Churches decision to accept women into the ministry left St. Edward’s to form St. Charles the Martyr which no longer exist.
1979 – The Reverend Robert I. Maurais (Father Bob) was called to be the Rector of the Parish.
Father Mike Snatterly was called to be Rector.
2006 – St. Edward’s celebrated its 50th jubilee on February 5th. In attendance were the former priests of St. Edward’s, as well as, the current bishop, the Rt. Rev. John W. Howe.
2008 – The Reverend Robert I. Maurais (Father Bob) was called out of retirement by Bishop John Howe to serve as the Interim Parish Rector after a second split in the church over the National Episcopal Churches decision ordain priest’s regardless of their sexual orientation.
2009 – The Reverend Robert I. Maurais (Father Bob) was named Rector Emeritus of St. Edward’s Episcopal Church.
2010 – Father Edward B. Bartle was called to be Rector in April.
2015 – Father Edward B. Bartle notified the Vestry of his intent to retire as the Rector of St. Edwards.
2016 – The Vestry called our current Rector Father Mark Lafler.