Our Story

It’s a pretty amazing story – which convinces us that St. Andrew by the Sea is called by God to significant service.

In 1998, a handful of people began to meet at the beach for worship.  Some had been bruised by church experiences; all sought freedom, diversity, and a fresh start.  Beneath the blue sky, as waves gently rolled, they sang:

We are standing on holy ground, 
and I know that there are angels all around.  
Let us praise Jesus now -- 
we are standing in his presence on holy ground.    

Soon they were joined by other families.  The Rev. Jim Griffin, beloved former pastor of Gulf Shores United Methodist, suggested naming their group for St. Andrew – a fisherman who brought people to Jesus.  Indeed, what happened was like something from the Book of Acts.   

In just a matter of weeks, this growing congregation sought larger venues at the civic center, then a wedding chapel, then in the community theater.  St. John’s United Methodist in Mobile lent some choir robes.  Thomasville United Methodist provided hymnals.  Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church in Gulf Shores gave acolyte robes.  People literally lined up to buy the first Bible.   

Coming from Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, and other backgrounds, they were excited by diversity.  When they drew up a charter, they explicitly stated, “All are welcome into the unifying experience of Christ, and this congregation welcomes into membership people from a diversity of religious backgrounds.  The Charter members of The Church recognize their historic connection with Methodism and their familiarity with its Wesleyan roots.  They NEVERTHELESS desire to form a non-denominational Protestant Church in the form of historic community Churches, in which their experience of Christ may be enriched.”   

Several of the early families were Jewish.  This community church embraced a distinctive cross with a Star of David at its heart, symbolizing the historic faith of the Old and New Testaments.  St. Andrew would graciously welcome all people as children of God, excluding no one.   

When land was donated on the Fort Morgan Road, the young congregation made a sanctuary of a trailer.  (“It was like a cathedral to us!” says one member.)  On a procession from the theater, everyone carried something – a Bible, a hymnal, a candlestick – all with a police escort while townspeople stood in wonder.  And no sooner was the congregation in those new quarters than it outgrew them.  Church members added a deck for overflow seating and put speakers outside.   

In November 1998, when the church was just a month old, it already had a children’s choir and 187 members, a gifted pastor in Robert Warren, and was carrying out significant outreach to the Alabama Sheriffs’ Boys Ranch, victims of Hurricane Mitch, the Christian Service Center, and the Meals on Wheels program.  The first newsletter included this note from the Fellowship Committee:   

“The socials are intended to bind us together as a caring church family – and ideas, suggestions, and requests are invited.  Let’s enjoy each other’s company and learn to support each other in every way.  Let’s laugh together, pray together, break bread together, dream together, and, if need be, cry together.  But let’s do it TOGETHER!  We must remember that despite our different experiences and backgrounds, we are all yearning for the Truth.  That is why we are together and it is what will keep us together.  Let these socials be an extension of our ministry and a way of keeping the Spirit alive!”   

That spirit, that Holy Spirit, was very present for the building of our sanctuary in 2000-2001 and Fellowship Hall in 2007.    

This is a living place.  We must be open to constant renewal – that’s the Protestant way: the Reformed church always reforming.  While this is a good church, we must never proclaim the story of St. Andrew rather than the story of Jesus, the good feeling of St. Andrew rather than the Good News of Christ.  Our calling is to point the way.     

We’re a family, and that may be why newcomers feel right at home.  (So often we hear, “This feels like coming home.”)  Of course, like any other family, we sometimes drive each other crazy.  But still, on Communion Sundays, we sing a hymn that has been a favorite since our days on the beach:   

Blessed be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love!
The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.   

And every Sunday, we still sing:   

We are standing on holy ground,
and I know that there are angels all around.
Let us praise Jesus now –
we are standing in his presence on holy ground.