Southside Christian Church began its journey of evangelism in 1962. Much before then, however, eleven people launched the effort to establish this new church, one more clearly patterned after the New Testament. During 1960-1961, Mildred Hill* and Bonnie Sharp met with local area ministers from St. Petersburg, Wauchula, Clearwater, Lake Wales and Ft. Myers to finally get support to start the church, originally known as Southside Christian of Sarasota.
Space was rented at the Elks Club behind Riverview High School as a temporary location to hold services. The inaugural service was held Sunday, March 18,1962 with fifty-one persons attending, and nine persons placing their membership. The first baptisms were done in Philippi Creek.
John Mullins, an Elder from the Central Christian Church in St. Petersburg, drove over to preach and lead the original congregation until September of 1962, at which time Roland M. Lotridge was called to be the first full-time minister.
The current church property on Webber Street was donated by Mrs. Isabel Avary, and bonds were sold to the church members for the construction of the buildings. In 1965, the 250-seat sanctuary, social hall, kitchen, two restrooms and minister’s study were built, and furnished, at a cost of less than $50,000.00. Tom Myers and Ernie Coven, both Elders, contributed greatly to the building and oversight. Mr. Coven was honored with the key to open the door for the first service.
There was a full week of services scheduled for the dedication of the new church building on Webber St., beginning with the actual dedication ceremony at 3pm on Sunday, March 28,1965 and a special service each night through Friday.
In later years a new office complex was built, the fellowship hall enlarged, two wings of classrooms added and the sanctuary remodeled. More recently the kitchen has been remodeled.
Roland Lotridge retired as the minister in September of 1978, continuing to attend until his passing in 1999. The second minister was Robert E. (Bob) Miller who served until 1987. Curt Leonard, the current minister, has been faithfully serving the church since that time and will reach a 25-year anniversary of service in May of 2012.
Southside has helped start two additional area churches since its' founding: Parkway Christian Church (now Whitfield Christian Church), 1989, and New Hope Christian Church in Osprey,1997.
* Founding member Mildred Hill continues to be a special regular attendee at Southside. We current members at Southside, in turn, treasure Mildred and her centenarian memories and wisdom.
Click here to view a picture album of Southside’s Historical Story.