HISTORY OF ST. JOSEPH’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Particular attention s given to 7.2 acres of land at the intersection of Newberry Road (State Road 26) and County Road 241 South.
By January 1982, the diocese had completed the purchase of that site. On February first, the Rt. Rev. Frank S. Cerveny, Bishop of Florida, authorized Father Edsall to begin preliminary planning for the organization of a mission church to be established on the land.
The first organizational meeting of persons interested in worshipping together began working to form a new Episcopal church in West Alachua County, Florida, was held on February 13, 1982, at the home of Father and Mrs. Edsall. Twenty-three persons were present.
The first Eucharist on the site was celebrated in a clearing with a portable altar on May 14, 1982 at 6:00 p.m. with thirty-two persons present.
Since the Chapel of the Incarnation in Gainesville was without a priest at the time, they offered their church as a temporary worship space for St. Joseph’s if Father Edsall would take their services as well. On this basis, regular Sunday worship as a congregation began on Sunday, July 4, 1982.
Meanwhile, Father Edsall, Thomas Crowley and John Resh had begun regular meetings with Colman Brown of Koblar Constructors and Engineers for the design and construction of a 50 x 110 foot multipurpose building. It is true that not a pencil touched paper without prayer and that the Holy Spirit would design and bless the building. The design was quickly approved by the diocesan Architecture Committee, financing arranged, and construction began almost immediately. By mid-September, the steel framework was already in place.
Christmas Eve, December 24, 1982, found a new church, filled with enthusiastic worshippers gathered for the Midnight Mass, the first celebration in the new building.
Growth has been steady since the first day. A great influx of young families necessitated the construction of a classroom building in 1988. As of June 1992, 109 persons had been baptized and 131 persons (all adults) had been presented for Holy Confirmation.
In June 1993, Father Edsall, having served the church as a parish priest for 37 years, retired as vicar of St. Joseph’s.
In June 1994, The Rev. John DiLeo began his tenure as vicar of St. Joseph’s. In January 1995, St. Joseph’s was admitted as a parish of the diocese, no longer a mission church. In July 2009, Father DiLeo, after serving this parish for fifteen years, resigned as Rector, to pursue a different call.
On February 22, 2011, the Vestry formally announced the selection of The Rev. Richard Pelkey as the new Rector of St. Joseph’s. Fr. Pelkey’s first Sunday as celebrant was March 27th. Almost seven years to the day, on March 25, 2018, Father Pelkey celebrated his last Sunday with St. Joseph’s. Fr. Pelkey accepted a call to a parish in Virginia.