The Florida frontier remained relatively empty until after the Civil War. The Diocese of Florida was organized by a convention held in Tallahassee in 1838. The first bishop of Florida was selected in 1851. During the late 1860’s, both Northerners and Southerners perceived great potential in Florida. Among the places they settled was Tomoka, which became Daytona in 1871. Daytona settlers remained unchurched until various Protestant denominations established Mission circuits so typical of frontier America.
One early mission was St. Mark’s, begun in 1877 with early records indicating that it may have been as early as 1872. The parishioners of St. Mark’s began planning a church building in the late 1870’s with the building constructed in 1883. St. Mark’s became St. Mary’s with the delivery of a cornerstone ordered from the north and brought down by boat, erroneously inscribed “St. Mary’s.” St. Mary’s is the oldest religious building in Florida still in continuous use for religious services. St. Mary’s, a Gothic Revival structure with board-and-batten sheathing has remained on its original site, growing with the community it serves. The original St. Mary’s remains the core of the present building, a visible reminder of Daytona’s earliest years.
Newcomers to our church are attracted for many reasons:
• Warm, friendly congregation
• Traditional worship services
• Dynamic preaching
• Strong fellowship
• Choral music featuring traditional hymns
Fellowship, strengthened during coffee hour, dinners, and get-togethers, is strong at St. Mary’s as people feel united as a parish. The presence of God is genuinely felt among the people and contributes to their strong commitment to their faith. The people of St. Mary’s are challenged to enhance their faith through participation in various programs and utilize their spiritual gifts.
The people of St. Mary’s are drawn from every generation and walk of life. A liturgically based mix of Rite 1 and Rite 2 services provides variety that appeals to all ages and enhances the spiritual life of the congregation. A traditional music experience is important for expression of faith.
The Memorial Garden established in 1987 and renovated in 1998 graces the north side of the church grounds. A 40-foot long crescent shaped wall is graced with a five foot statue of St. Mary in the classic “Our Lady of Grace” pose overlooking the garden and the cinerarium. This garden, enriched with a fountain and meditation areas, is a place for contemplation, remembrance, prayer, and inspiration