The idea of a second Presbyterian Church in Winter Haven took root in early 1957 when a group of people from First Presbyterian Church, supported by their pastor and elders, determined that 44 members desired to form a new church in the fast-growing southeast part of town. By April 20, 1958, the newly formed congregation had grown to 68. And on that day, the Presbytery of Tampa Bay officially organized Hope Presbyterian Church with those 68 charter members.
Church services were held at Winter Haven High School until a new building was completed in December 1961. The large 8-acre corner property on which Hope Church stands was a gift of the John A. Snively family, charter members of the church.
Design and construction of what became known as the Education Unit was the first building project and was situated on the rear part of the property. It was on the site where our McGrath Hall and Education Building is now located. Shaped roughly like an "H," the long hallways contained offices and classrooms, and there was also a large meeting room where worship services were held. The first Garden of Hope was in the enclosed courtyard. Within the first 10 years, the church grew to 330 members.
The congregation looked forward to realizing its vision of a new santuary to be built on the hillside. A dedication service was held on March 9, 1980, with 450 members committing the breathtaking new sanctuary to the service of the Lord our God. The huge Celtic cross designed and carved by member Elmer Kaiser immediately became a focal point of worship at Hope Church. The grand Franz Heissler organ was installed and dedicated in 1987. And still the church grew in service to God in Winter Haven.
For a time, the church also held early morning outdoor drive-in worship services. People drove up to the area near the flag pole and parked their cars in a semi-circle facing the outdoor pulpit.
By 1995 it was clear that even more building space would be required and existing space would need to be redesigned. A complex project commenced which would result in a new office and music practice room facility, the building we know as Administration. Major renovation of the Education Building resulted in the enclosure of the Garden of Hope, which became Friendship Hall, the construction of an industrial size kitchen, and new classroom space. The former offices along the sides of the sanctuary were remodeled into meeting rooms and libraries. A brand new Garden of Hope was designed and situated between the buildings and included a quiet meditation garden.
In the summer of 2007 we moved out of our gloriously worn-out sanctuary while it was "spruced up." In 2008 we dedicated a beautiful colubarium addition to the Gardens of Hope. In 2013, Fellowship Hall was renamed to McGrath Hall to honor Dr. Thomas McGrath who had served as Pastor of Hope for 23 years before his retirement.
And in the last 2 years, we added a lovely garden archway and a new paved area in the Gardens so we can enjoy outdoor services and weddings.