Shalimar United Methodist Church is 70 Years Old Today!

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Today is July 17, 2021, and it is a special day! Shalimar United Methodist is 70 years old on the day this article is published. I hope you will take some time reading this article to give thanks to God for the span of years and reach of ministry from our Church. The seven decades are abundant with worship services, people coming to know Jesus, and disciples being made. If you want to know more about Shalimar UMC church history, Anne Porter, our Historian, can give you more detail. In this column, I will have a brief word about the WOW of Shalimar! The origin, the pastors, and those called to ministry from the congregation.
There is a surprise and even WOW when I think of Shalimar UMC. As you know, Shalimar is a small town, and not everyone knows about Shalimar, Florida, or Shalimar UMC. The Church was named after the town. Shalimar means "by the beautiful water." That makes us, the Church by the beautiful water.

Shalimar UMC began in the Florida Drive Inn concession stand. The concession stand was located presently in the parking lot in front of the Family Life Center. Rev. John Lane led the first service on June 17, 1951. He was also the pastor of First UMC of Fort Walton Beach. Rev. Lane planned the first service on the date of John Wesley's birthday. Imagine the Shalimar campus of today beginning in one small concession stand! There must have been the aroma of popcorn in the air on this historic Sunday! If you want to know more about the story, you can find out more details from member Joe McLain. He was present and fourteen years old for the first service!
In the first 70 years, Shalimar has often flown under the radar. Generally, people do not know about Shalimar in our conference, as our community is not well known beyond the Emerald Coast. When I first learned of Shalimar UMC, I received word I would be the Associate Pastor here in 1983. I knew nothing of Shalimar but soon discovered Shalimar was a great church! My first thoughts of Shalimar UMC were WOW! When I moved here and experienced Shalimar UMC for the first time, it became one of the greatest moments of my life. I remember the inspiration of singing the First Song of Isaiah each Sunday at 8:30 and 11:00 back in the 1980s! As I have talked with others, I have found the WOW is not unique to me. Shalimar is under the radar until you live here, and there is a WOW! What a precious jewel the congregation has become here on this part of the Emerald Coast!
Shalimar UMC has had fifteen senior pastors. Most of them are displayed with photos on a wall just outside my office. These include Rev. John Lane, Rev. William Bruner, Rev. Jimmy Connor, Dr. Floyd Enfinger, Dr. George Gilbert, Rev. Bob Dickerson, Dr. Ralph Hendricks, Rev. Cecil Bradley, Rev. Lamar Brown, Rev. Robert Vaughn, Rev. Dick Wright, Rev. David Chunn, Rev. Ken Autrey, and Dr. Larry Bryars. In addition, there have been at least 18 Associate Pastors appointed to Shalimar in the 70 years. In addition, there have also been several Diaconal ministers and Deacons serving on the pastoral staff.

One of the things that stands out to me in Shalimar's history is the number of persons called to ministry from this congregation. These include Hunter Bethea, Kim Kwasigroh Burke, Matt Curry, Lori Galambos, David Goodpaster, Darren McClellan, Clint McBroom, Michelle Olson, Christina Sheperd Parrish and Sarah Smith. There have also been worship leaders emerge as Shannon Spencer Hull and Josh Walker.  I am sure others have been called in the earlier history, but these are the ones I know. What a great record for a church! Also, some of our current young people may likely respond to God's call in the future!

In our 70 years, hundreds and even thousands have professed their faith in Jesus and have been baptized. We have had 3,640 Sundays and sermons. That would mean tens of thousands of worship services, programs, ministries, preschool days, celebrations of life, and special events. Our Church came a long way from the humble beginnings of the Florida Drive Inn Theater Concession Stand 70 years ago! Today we are the center of daily activities, ministries, and worship for our community!
As I am writing this, I hear the First Song of Isaiah sung in the '80s every Sunday playing in my head. "Surely it is God who saves me; I will trust in Him and not be afraid, for the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, and He will be my Savior." Amen! Thank you, Shalimar UMC, for 70 years of impacting this community. As always, the future is bright, even moving out of a pandemic! May the next 70 years be impactful for Jesus in making disciples!


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Philip McVay

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