“The Lord has brought us a mighty long way.”
That’s the testimony of members and friends of Patmos Chapel Church in Apopka, Florida, as they celebrated the church’s Platinum (70th) Anniversary on September 22, 2024. More than 650 members and friends crammed into the church building to worship and praise God for His guidance over seven decades, and to ponder God’s plan for Patmos’ future.
In his welcome, James R. Doggette, D.Min., Patmos Chapel’s senior pastor, reminded the congregation: “God has spared the church for 70 years and gave it the ability to thrive. The Bible says, ‘The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years (Psalm 90:10 NKVJ).’ Now Patmos is going into its season of strength, 70 years.
“Pastor McClean and I are committed along with the church leadership to make sure that as we move into the next 70 years we continue to reach out to our community,” he said. “We’re not just a group that comes together to worship and disperse without making a difference.”
Doggette thanked those responsible for organizing the day, including Christian Taylor, chaplain and steering committee chair; Tiffany McIntyre, who organized the Sabbath dinner; and Crystal Syrracos, worship leader and praise team director. Later in the program Taylor and Syrracos honored the praise team members for their contribution to the church’s worship experience. “They do an amazing job,” said Taylor. “Not only do they sing, but they deepen our walk with Christ.”
Jerry L. Demings, Orange County, Florida, mayor, offered his congratulations in a letter to the church. “I commend Patmos Chapel for building a community center that provides youth and families with numerous recreational activities, and educational opportunities that nourish mind and body,” wrote Demings. “As one of the largest food distribution sites in the county, thank you for your continued food giveaways that have helped thousands of people who struggle to make ends meet. The food drives are a stabilizing force in the community and lift the quality of life for our residents.”
“As you celebrate this momentous occasion, I hope you reflect on the many accomplishments achieved and the years of dedicated service to the community. I pray that you and your ministry continue to grow and evolve as you enter the next chapter of faithful service.”
The morning speaker, David Franklin, pastor from Oakland, California, also affirmed the church for its achievements and praised Doggette for being an innovator willing to take risks to see the Kingdom of God built.
An Anointed Word
In his sermon, “Don’t Get Stuck,” Taylor told the story of Cori Dionne “Coco” Gauff, 19, who recently won the U.S. Open tennis tournament. Gauff became the first African American teenager to win the title since Serena Williams in 1999. She is ranked number three in the world. Franklin explained that Gauff’s road to success wasn’t easy. She fell short in five major tournaments before winning the U.S. Open. She was thankful for the losses because they made the title more precious.
Franklin explained that Gauff’s experience offers valuable lessons for Christians. God often takes us through tough times before we can achieve our goals and desires. “There’s no testimony without a test,” he said. “Don’t get stuck in fear. Don’t get stuck in comfort zones. Don’t get stuck in past mistakes. Don’t get stuck in bitterness.”
He observed that often Christians settle into their comfort zones and don’t push forward to achieve the full measure of what God wants to give them. It may be a new job, growing your business, writing a book, more education, or starting a ministry. These goals come with trials and setbacks, but it’s imperative to keep trying, keep fighting, keep moving as we receive God’s blessing.
Patmos Chapel’s 70-year history is one of embracing new beginnings. The Adventist presence in Winter Park was born out of a tent meeting held by L. S. Follette in 1937. The newly baptized members met in member homes for 13 years. The group dispersed for a short time but reorganized around 1950. These members helped Horace M. Barker conduct a 15-week tent meeting that brought new baptisms in 1953. Other members from Orlando joined the established company.
Construction on the first church building started shortly after the evangelistic meetings. Barker suggested the name “Patmos Chapel,” a reference to the Greek island of Patmos, where the apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation. The church was completed and dedicated in 1955 under the leadership of Calvin B. Rock.
Over the next 20 years, the church prospered. When fire destroyed the building in 1978, Oscar Paul, along with church members, searched for a larger property to build a 6,000-square-foot structure. Grand opening services for the Swoope Street facility were held on April 11, 1981. The building served the congregation for 18 years. As the church’s growth accelerated in the 1990s, the need for a larger facility again became a major issue. The church enlarged its structure to 24,000-square-feet.
Construction began in October 1999. In 2000, the congregation vacated the property for nearly a year. After many setbacks, including a power outage, the newly renovated facility opened on September 28, 2000. During the early 2000s the church continued to grow. In 2011, Patmos Chapel received its first associate pastor, Byron S. Crockett. In 2015, Yvette Parham, the first female associate in the Southeastern Conference, was installed. Unfortunately, by 2017 mold was discovered in the Swoope Street building, and it was deemed uninhabitable.
Though several members chose to stay in Winter Park, the church moved to Apopka in 2019. Under the leadership of Doggette, the congregation purchased the Cooper Palms Sport Complex, a 107,000-square-foot facility that features basketball and volleyball courts, baseball training facilities, a children’s gymnasium, a restaurant, and classrooms.
The center was renamed Well Activity Center, a reference to the biblical story of the woman at the well (John 4). After worshiping in temporary venues, the assembly started drive-in worship services because of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. That same year, the church also started a drive-in food giveaway that served hundreds of people. As the pandemic subsided, the church moved indoors, worshiping in the gymnasium. In March 2024, the church completed the renovation of a 9,200-square-foot sanctuary called “The Hub.”
Patmos Chapel is one of the most unique Adventist churches in North America. “Positioned in the Well Activity Center, Patmos Chapel serves hundreds of people who flow through our doors every day,” said Doggette. “This is not just a church building where people come for church events. It’s a place where people come for life events. This building is a magnet that brings people together of various ethnicities, of various social economic groups. Our mission is to mingle with them and meet needs — their physical needs, their temporal needs, their spiritual needs. We have evangelism 352 days a year.”
God has truly brought Patmos “a mighty long way.”
Much of the history was gleaned from a historical account authored by Robert Mike II for Patmos Chapel’s Emerald (55th) Anniversary Celebration in 2008, and from patmoschapel.org.
Southeastern | January 2024