Our History

In 1889, while sailing south off Florida’s western coast, George Barnes and his family ran aground off Point Ybel (east Sanibel), despite the lighthouse which had just been erected 5 years previous.  All lives were saved, but the boat was lost, and so, being a graduate of Princeton Seminary with a missionary’s heart, George accepted these events as God’s leading.  He homesteaded 160 acres on what is now Casa Ybel, raised funds, and in 1895 built and pastored The Church of the Four Gospels---the first and only church on the sparsely populated island.   And so began the long history of God’s working through Sanibel Community Church.
That first building was lost to a hurricane in 1910, but the cypress wood pews from the church were saved, and remain in use today, in the Historic Chapel on SCC’s campus.   Pastor Barnes died in 1908, and with the loss of the church building, the small church was truly rebuilding from scratch.    (For more on the Barnes’ family gospel outreach on Sanibel, click HERE)
What today is called the Historic Chapel was built in 1917 with the unofficial name of The Little Brown Church.  So called, because of the brown creosote soaked siding donated by Earnest Bailey—an early pioneer on the island.   The church met in the local schoolhouse between 1910 and 1917.
The coming years, including WW I, a 1926 hurricane, the Depression and WW II, were difficult for the small church, but the spiritual lighthouse on Sanibel never went out.  In those years, among other outreach events, a Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving dinner were held for the whole island by the church.
In 1938, the name Sanibel Community Church was officially given to the Little Brown Church.  By the 1950s the church was growing and offered a 2-week Vacation Bible School open to all island children, held at the Sanibel Community House.  
During the 1960s, SCC was involved in the formation of the first Sanibel Public Library and by 1963, with the completion of the first causeway to the island, resident population, and the church population, grew substantially.  In the following few years, a building expansion, including a family life hall and classrooms was completed under the leadership of Pastor Thaddeus Allen.   (CLICK HERE FOR A LIST OF SCC PASTORS IN 125 YEARS)

By 2008, an annual Christmas pageant titled: “Walk Through Bethlehem” was mounted each year, involving a living nativity scene, an authentic first century village and other first Christmas scenes---built and hosted by church members as an evangelistic outreach and Christmas gift to the island.  This, together with Luminary (a Christmas lighted campus) became an annual favorite for residents near and far.    
In 2012, a substantial building program was undertaken for the current sanctuary, and later, an elevation and rehabilitation of the Historic Chapel.
In the years following the building program, an annual sunrise Easter Service on the causeway island grew, until in 2019, over 2,000 people filled that outdoor space to celebrate the Resurrection.
Hurricane Ian (Sept. 28, 2022) dealt a heavy blow to the church and the island.  The church buildings stood, and incredibly, the cross on top of the sanctuary remained undamaged.  Yet through this tragedy, the light of the Gospel was never out at SCC.  The state of Florida chose SCC’s campus to be ground zero for FEMA and public assistance efforts to the island.   Church volunteers performed untold hours of work, providing clean up efforts, food, water, and ice for island residents while laundry, showers, toilets, and prayer teams were on campus for all who requested them.  During this time, Pastor Jeramie Rinne reminded members and guests, that for now, SCC had nothing to offer but prayer, the love of Christ in action and the Good News of the Gospel---that’s all.   For 6 months following Hurricane Ian, SCC met, first on Zoom and then in a borrowed church in Ft Myers.

Today, SCC is well into our 2nd century of sharing the Gospel and growing our members as disciples of Jesus.  Domestic and overseas missions is at the heart of our ministry, planting churches and training pastors in fulfillment of the Great Commission.  By God’s grace, and only as we abide in him (John 15:5) SCC will continue through the next century to build his kingdom on Sanibel Island.  

Be a part of our story...

Join us every Sunday as we gather to worship together at 10:00 am.