Killarney Baptist Church of Winter Park, Florida had her beginnings in the heart of God. On May 7, 1951 a group of committed individuals met in the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Griffin to make plans for the organization of the church. The name “Killarney Baptist Chapel” was chosen because of the desire to locate near the Killarney Elementary School. The church began on June 3, 1951 with Sunday School and Morning and Evening Worship services. Forty-seven people were in attendance that day.
The organizational meeting was held on July 15th at the First Baptist Church of Winter Park with 38 people affirming their intention to support the new work. Rev. W.R. Clarke was the moderator and Rev. Hicks Shelton of Louisville, KY preached an inspiring message on the New Testament Church.
1951 W.R. CLARKE, INTERIM PASTOR
The first property consisted of five lots purchased on June 7, 1951 by Joel P. Phillips Sr. in the name of Killarney Baptist Church. Early worship services were held in a private home with Rev. W.R. Clarke as interim pastor. Mr. John Griffin and Mr. Joel P. Phillips Sr. were elected as the first deacons. Joe R. McCloud became the first Sunday School Superintendent. In August of that year, 25 children attended Vacation Bible School at the home of Rev. Edward Furginson.
Killarney’s heart for missions was already pulsing and $25 was received on the organizational day to be sent to the Cooperative Program. It was agreed that ten percent of all undesignated receipts would be sent to World Missions through the cooperative program (This amount grew to 30% for all mission giving in 1960).
Killarney was growing and soon it became too large to meet in private homes, and so they began meeting in the auditorium of the Killarney Elementary School on August 12, 195, until they were able to move into the new building, for which ground breaking ceremonies were held on August 5, 1951. The new building was a two story construction, with chapel on the first floor and Sunday school classrooms on the 2nd floor. It took only 6 months to have the building ready for occupancy and the first service was held in the new building on February 3, 1952. Mr. John Griffin was Chairman of the Building Committee.
It was a day etched in the memory of all who had worked so tirelessly to get the building ready for occupancy. Saturday night prior to opening day brought torrents of rain, which flooded the uncompleted 2nd floor and leaked into the newly prepared first floor causing an early Sunday morning crisis which was met by brooms, buckets, and mops wielded by the deacons and Sunday school teachers before the crowd arrived for morning worship. Two hundred twenty-two were in attendance at Sunday school that morning!
Killarney’s first baptismal service was held on November 11, 1951 at College Park Baptist Church. Eight believers were baptized. Just one year later, on October 26th the first baptismal service was conducted at Killarney. The first deacon ordination service took place in October 1952. Those ordained at this first ordination were Oscar Bergstrom, Ben Larson, Joe McLeod, and Edward Parker.
In a little more than a year, the annual report to the Association in October 1952 reflected 12 baptisms and 62 additions by letter. A total membership of 121. The church had acquired $64,000 in property and reported mission gifts of $1,222.
1953 MAURICE BARNES, PASTOR
On November 4, 1953 Rev. Clarke resigned as Interim pastor and God provided the first Shepherd for this little church. Rev Maurice R. Barnes was called from Louisville, KY on November 11, 1953. He served God at Killarney for 10 years, moving to a new field of service on April 21, 1963. Under his leadership Killarney moved forward to assume her place as lighthouse and to impact the community with the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. In 1953 the church purchased the property which was used as the first pastorium.
In 1956 Killarney dedicated a new education building, presently referred to as the “L” building, under the leadership of D.A. Woodward, Chairman of the Building Committee, and purchased additional property adjoining the church property. In 1959, continued growth led Killarney to begin dual worship services and to acquire the property for the construction of a new Sanctuary. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the Sanctuary were held on Homecoming Day, June 4, 1961. The cornerstone was set 1 year later on June 3, 1962 and the first service was held in the new sanctuary on October 7, 1962 with great rejoicing and renewed commitment to seek out and lead the lost to the knowledge of life in Christ. Dan K. Slattery was the Chairman of the Building Committee and was assisted in technical areas by David Stone.
During this time, our love for missions found expression in the sponsorship of East Orange Chapel in Bonnieville, with Rev. John Culver as Pastor in 1961. In 1962 Rev. Robert MacAllister of Fairview Shores Baptist Church in Orlando was called as pastor of that chapel. Four years later in 1966, East Orange Baptist Chapel became University Baptist Church and the property was transferred to University Baptist on July 10, 1968.
1963 PASTOR CLAYBORN E. LANDERS
On July 7, 1963 Killarney called Clayborn E. Landers of St. Joseph, Missouri as Pastor and he served God s Killarney’s shepherd for eleven years, leaving November 1, 1974. Under his leadership the library was dedicated, the first full-time secretary was added, and the Killarney Child Care Center began with Betty Baker as the Director. Missions involvement continued with Killarney’s sponsorship of Dr. Landers in the Trans-Atlantic Evangelistic Crusade in South Africa in 1967, and by extending financial assistance to the First Baptist Church at Goldenrod.
1974 KEN SMITH, PASTOR
The handbell ministry began on October 8, 1969. On December 15, 1974 Rev. Ken Smith was called as pastor of Killarney and he served until March 1, 1978 leading the church in providing a separate youth facility and the remodeling of the kitchen and the education building in 1976. A fulltime staff position of Minister to Youth was created and first held by A.T. Stewart.
1978 DR. HERB HESTER, PASTOR
On the second Sunday in September 1978 Dr. Herb Hester became God’s choice as pastor. Under his leadership Killarney has extended God’s love in an additional way. The construction of our Christian Life Center and youth building began September 8, 1981 with Bob Culton serving as Chairman of the Building Committee. Pastor Hester encouraged members to give ourselves fully to evangelism and to join him in the exciting and fulfilling life of prayer.
In March 1982, the church purchased its first bus enabling Killarney to take mission trips and engage in other travel activities. The deep current of love for missions continued to manifest itself in May 1983, when Killarney voted to partner with Pastor Steven Umholtz in the development of Solid Rock Baptist Church in Pennsylvania. Killarney provided financial assistance and took worked alongside of our sister church through annual youth mission trips. In July 1986, KBC members set out for a five-week mission trip to Solid Rock Church. Mission trips were also made to New Orleans Semen’s Mission in 1982 and 1983.
1987 RON BRADLEY, PASTOR
Ron Bradley followed Herb Hester as pastor. Under his leadership the sanctuary was remodeled, and the church reached out to our community and beyond through tutoring at Killarney Elementary; sponsoring a mission trip to Trinidad; the production of an outdoor Christmas musical; adoption of Russian Circus members stranded in Orlando; and meaningful outreach to single parent families. Additionally dinner parties and game nights in the gym were favorite activities.
Pastor Ron was best known for his children’s sermons. They were and educational treat for both the kids and the adults.
1997 JIM HAMMOCK, INTERIM PASTOR
The church family will always remember Jim Hammock who led Killarney as interim pastor following Pastor Bradley’s ministry. He was a favorite of the people serving with energy, humor, in-depth Bible studies, and a loving spirit.
1999 STEVE STEWART, PASTOR
Steve Stewart served as pastor from 2000-2006. He came as a young, energetic, progressive leader. He was willing to try new things way outside the old box and not afraid to explore new roads. He introduced PowerPoint presentations and new technology to enhance our Sunday morning worship and learning experience.
Pastor Steve along with Music Director, Ed McGinnis added KBC’s first praise team to join our choir in leading music during our worship services. During Pastor Steve’s tenure the church began a new outreach to students at Rollins College. Many concerts were also presented by national music artists.
Pastor Stewart initiated many forms of outreach beginning with a neighborhood block party for our neighbors. He also began a missions’ offering called “JARS FOR JESUS” in which individuals brought an offerings of spare change collected throughout the year. During this period of ministry, three missionaries were commissioned by the church; food was collected for the “Desert Storm” victims; and five trailer loads of relief and generators were sent to Sri Lanka after the tsunami. Other outreaches included distribution of water bottles, light bulbs and batteries for smoke detectors tax day and election days; Trunk or Treat; block parties; and giving out Bibles in door-to-door visitation throughout our area.
During this period of time God led Killarney to be deeply involved in disaster relief. The impetus came when Central Florida was devastated by three hurricanes. For 100 days, church members fed and cared for neighbors and assisted with repairs and rebuilds; housed national workers who came to provide assistance; and housed the coordinating teams from the North American Mission Board and Samaritans Purse.
Also during Pastor Steve’s tenure, Killarney began its relationship with Samaritan’s Purse filling Shoe boxes with items to send to different parts of the World. Multiple groups have traveled to Atlanta to help prepare the boxes for shipment around the world.
Pastor Steve Stewart along with five other members of our congregation went on a mission trip to Cuba, and Sarah Pylant and Alex Greene went with Student Life on a Mission trip to Ukraine. Each year Killarney also ministers to the children of prisoners through Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree Ministry.
2005 DR. MARK STEPHENS, INTERIM PASTOR
In 2005 Pastor Steve Stewart was called to Pastor Church in the Farms in Jupiter Florida. Dr. Mark Stephens was called to serve as Interim pastor. Mark was a professor for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, teaching classes at distance learning sites here in Florida. He taught that transition brings excitement and change, and a new turn in the Journey for Killarney Baptist Church. He was excited to have the opportunity to minister to the people of Killarney. Through his leadership Killarney completed the remodeling of the Phillips Building upstairs. He specifically prepared us for a new phase in the history of KBC through Bible study and special prayer meetings.
2006 RON PLEDGER, INTERIM PASTOR
In September the church called Ron Pledger as Interim Pastor. He had a passion for reaching people for Christ having served as a vocational evangelist through music and preaching. He continued to lead Killarney through the end of the year.
In December 2006, Killarney licensed Jeff McCauley, one of our exceptional student ministry leaders, to the Ministry. He and his wife, Kim, moved to Raleigh, N.C. to continue their Ministry in January 2007.
2007 BRUCE MAYHEW, PASTOR
Finally with much prayer and searching for a new pastor, Killarney called Bruce Mayhew to serve as its new pastor. In February 2007 Rev. Bruce Mayhew was installed as Pastor of Killarney Baptist Church. With much anticipation and excitement Killarney was entering a new phase.
One of Pastor Bruce’s top priorities was to lead Killarney to be faithful to the Great Commission by being a disciple-making church. He began this through a Sunday School training program and a church-wide study of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God.
KBC also adopted a new three-word vision statement: “Reach, Love, Unite.” These three words summarized our mission, motivation and the end goal.
The mission Jesus gave to us is to reach people for Jesus Christ—making disciples.
We are motivated by our love for God and our love for people.
Through this great calling Jesus is bringing people from all times, languages and ethnicities together in unity as the family of God.
Pastor Bruce continued to lead Killarney in creating new ministries such as “Think Tank” which reached school children on Wednesday nights through devotionals, homework help, tutoring and games.
Alex Greene participated in a Southern Baptist Mission trip in the Checz Republic where he taught English classes.
In September of 2007 Richard Israel resigned as Student Minister after 16 faithful years. He molded the lives of many youth and their walk with Christ. His Bible teaching, leadership of the youth and involvement in mission trips and service to the community leaves a fruitful and lasting legacy.
In 2008 a new basketball program was started for kids inside and outside of our church with special visits by former Magic guard, Nick Anderson and Florida Gator guard, Nick Calathes.
Several volunteers helped Sarah Pylant with the Mission Project “Restore Orlando. Each year Killarney participates in the Central Fair Ministries sponsored by the Greater Orlando Baptist Association (GOBA), donating hygiene kits, clothes and cookies, with many volunteers helping and ministering to fair workers. Summer months are often very busy with churches from different states staying at KBC while that engaged in local missions activities.
Killarney members also engaged in an international ministry called, Bibles Unbound. With Bibles Unbound individual members of Killarney send Bibles to people who live in countries and places that are often closed to Christian ministry. This vital evangelistic outreach is conducted in partnership with local believers who are often persecuted for their faith.
In February 2009 a new program called “Angel Food Ministry” was started under the direction of Mrs. Vicki Rose. This program provided affordable nutritious food for members of the Community. Many faithful volunteers rose as early as 5:00 a.m. on the Saturday distribution day to go and pick up food and bring it back to the church for pick-up by local families and individuals.
In 2009 Killarney Church began an annual Back to School Breakfast to bless, encourage and pray for the teachers and staff of Killarney Elementary School. The church also partnered with Child Evangelism Fellowship to begin an after-school program for kids at Killarney Elementary.
In 2010 an Earthquake hit Haiti in January with enormous destruction and loss of lives. KBC participated in the “Buckets of Hope” project to send to Haiti. In March “Uganda Thunder” a group of 7 boys and 6 girls from Uganda, East Africa sponsored by Pennies for Posho, a non-profit organization for the hungry in Africa came and performed at Killarney. They presented an incredible musical presentation and gave personal testimonies of their experiences with Christ and their visit to the United States. Several Killarney members began sponsoring children through Pennies for Posho.
The R.O.S.E. Women’s Ministry is a vital part of Killarney. Once a month, the women of the church gather for dinner, hear from a variety of speakers and work together to minister to others.
In recent years Killarney has experienced a new movement of God as new people from our community are engaging in the ministry of our church. Church-wide emphasizes such as Life’s Healing Choices and Courageous have led many people into deeper engagement in the life and ministry of the church. Many people have also dug deeper into discipleship through the Pastor’s courses on How to Study the Bible and MasterLife.
Killarney Baptist Church stands on the Corner of Fairbanks and Formosa in Winter Park Florida, still a beacon of light to the Community. Many precious souls pass through her doors. Each of one has been an important part of the legacy of Killarney. Each person is a vital part of the church, Jesus said,” I am the vine, you are the branches.” We pray we will continue in God’s will. To God Be the Glory, Great things He has done.
Contributors: Savanna Rudd, Lynn Latham, Ernestine Dixon, and Bruce Mayhew