• Welcome
  • What to Expect
  • Children & Youth
  • Worship Schedule
  • Directions
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  • Greetings,

    Welcome to the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea, a community of people from all walks of life discovering the joy of knowing and following Jesus Christ. We gather on Sundays to hear the sacred stories of God’s love and to be spiritually nourished in sharing Holy Communion. Then, inspired by our fellowship, we strive to make God's love a living reality in our lives every day. At Bethesda, Sunday is the high point of the week. So, look around our web site. Then come and join us on a Sunday morning soon.

    Peace, The Rev. James Harlan, Rector

  • Every Sunday is where the life begins at Bethesda. We celebrate the Holy Eucharist with glorious liturgy and music. We also celebrate Holy Eucharist during the week and offer a healing service on Wednesdays. All baptized Christians are invited to participate in the Holy Eucharist when visiting Bethesda-by-the-Sea. It is not necessary to be a member of the Episcopal Church in order to receive Holy Communion. Persons who have not been baptized are welcome to come to the altar rail and kneel to receive a blessing. Cross your arms on your chest as a sign that you will not receive Communion. Click here for our service schedule.


  • FROM I-95

    Take the Okeechobee Blvd East exit (70). Travel East on Okeechobee Blvd to the Intracoastal Waterway. Cross over the Intracoastal Waterway, and continue going East to the second light (South County Road). Turn North (left) onto South County Road, and travel 1/2 mile. The church will be on the Right.


    Click here and scroll to Directions and Parking Information.

  • Having the faith of a child

    Children and youth bring such wonderful life and energy to our community. Bethesda offers a warm welcome to every child, whether parents prefer to bring their children into the worship service, or put them in the special children's worship (when available), or let them enjoy the nursery. We strive to create a place where even our littlest members know that God loves them, where all of us can grow in our faith, and where parents can find their own sense of peace and support.



  • God is Love

    Our worship is formal, intimate, transcendent, reflective, fun, and inspiring. As we celebrate our life together, we focus on God's love for each and every person and encourage one another to seek that loving presence of God. We have communion as an integral part of every service where we share together in a simple meal of bread and wine. While our worship may not be entirely familiar, we encourage everyone to join in as they are comfortable. Read more here.


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Message from the Senior Warden

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Message from the Senior Warden

Dear Bethesda Friends,

Easter Greetings to you all! This year's Holy Week offerings and Easter Day services continue to resonate with me, as I hope they do with you, through the season of Easter. I give thanks to Father James and Bethesda's clergy, staff, and lay volunteers whose efforts helped us prepare for and fully celebrate Christ's glorious resurrection.

Since I have been named Senior Warden, many parishioners have stopped me to ask what the Vestry actually does. In response, the Senior Warden's message after each Vestry meeting will endeavor to address this question with some highlights of our activities. 

The simple answer is that the Vestry is responsible for temporal (as opposed to spiritual) management of Bethesda. Though we take seriously our responsibility to be good stewards of church resources and keep income and spending on plan as much as possible, our primary focus is on longer-term objectives, summarized in the eight high priority aims and five 2017 Vestry priorities laid out in Bethesda 2017 Plan (available here). Many people, Vestry and non-Vestry, are dedicated to working on these priorities; the Vestry as a group is charged with ensuring they are accomplished.

Some thoughts on a few of these:
Our first Vestry priority reads "Consider and improve all aspects of Sunday worship and ministries." April 23rd's Sunday's Town Hall meeting, organized by Barbara Callahan, was the first step on this path. We were extremely encouraged by parishioners' attendance and participation at these meetings, despite the unpleasant weather and the day being the Sunday after Easter. The facilitated discussions produced a lot of good information which is being analyzed now. Some common "longings" emerged from these discussions, especially the desire across various groups for more time for fellowship and better fellowship experiences to complement our communal worship. You will soon see some follow up communications on the outcomes, and further meetings are planned over the next couple of weeks to consider possible directions we could take to address the challenges and longings expressed. Please plan to attend one of the next Town Hall meetings this Sunday, May 7, and Thursday, May 11, to continue these discussions.

Our Stewardship team, led by Paul Coombs, has been developing more effective ways to achieve the priority "Increase the number of pledging households and the size of pledges to meet the ministry needs of Bethesda." You may have noticed that the 2017 stewardship drive was started earlier and compressed compared to previous years. The Vestry was involved in new ways, including handing out pledge cards. For the first time, in worship services on the annual meeting Sunday, Bethesda collected pledges in an "ingathering" which emphasized the sacrificial and communal nature of our giving to the church. In response, many families have fulfilled their pledges earlier in the year, which is very helpful to the Vestry in planning projects with confidence. That being said, Bethesda still needs more commitments to fund the budget of record, so if you have not yet pledged for 2017, please wait no longer.

A third 2017 priority is "Assess the available physical space and buildings to reduce the constraints being imposed on ministry groups." Now that the very successful building restoration project is drawing to a close, the Building and Grounds Subcommittee, led by Junior Warden Gary Sullivan, is engaged in studying the various spaces and how they might be reallocated and/or configured for subdivision to ease some of the space constraints. What a wonderful problem to have, struggling to find space for all the important and vibrant ministries happening at Bethesda!

Building and Grounds is also preparing to conduct a security review for the facilities, and is looking at replacement alternatives for the church lighting system which is "aging out" and will soon lose spare parts support and technical support. 

The Vestry keeps track of governance compliance and at our April Vestry meeting we approved a resolution to adjust a Vestry subcommittee rule in the By-Laws to be more workable for the new smaller Vestry, and to facilitate development of future lay leadership.

We also discussed planning efforts for the Rector's sabbatical in 2018, especially how the congregation can share in Father James's exploration of Celtic spirituality and expand our faith together with him. The framework being developed starts with a Celtic Retreat at Bethesda November 17 and 18 of this year. Father James Reho will lead us through an introduction into Celtic prayer, spiritual practices and music, and will preach on Sunday, November 19. Other educational and fellowship opportunities throughout the season will further develop Celtic spiritual themes. Father James plans to embark on his sabbatical from late May through September 2018 in England, Ireland, and Scotland. He will travel to numerous holy, historical, and natural sites; his study and reflection will focus on themes including pre-Christian history, Celtic Christianity, and the Anglican Church today. Father James will share his travels and experiences with the congregation through a blog or travelogue. He will employ his learning and new understandings of spirituality when he leads a Bethesda pilgrimage to some of the same holy places in April/May of 2019. More to come on this wonderful opportunity to travel together on a new spiritual path. 

There is much other good work to talk about, but space is limited. In future messages, I will touch on other projects the Vestry is engaged in, to the glory of God and in service to this congregation.

Blessings and love,

Beth Cole, Senior Warden