The following history was prepared by Marguerite Matteson in cooperation with Betty Strawser and presented by Leland Bond at Southeastern Association on June 27, 1992. Slides and picture displays were also used. The church family included members and former members from the following SDB churches: Battle Creek, MI; Pawcatuck, RI; Lost Creek, WV; Berlin, NY; Denver, CO; Alfred Station, NY; Salem, WV; Albion WI; and Shiloh, NJ. Part 2 of the church history was authored by Jean Davis and added in October 2008.
The seeds of this church’s history were planted on April 3, 1982. On that occasion, Betty Furniss (now Betty Strawser) met with her uncle and aunt, Howard and Martha Scull. They listened to a taped sermon by Pastor Kenneth Van Horn of the Daytona Beach church. Betty had just transferred her membership from the Shiloh to the Daytona Beach SDB church the previous month.
They continued to meet at either the Scull or Furniss homes in the ensuing weeks. On June 5, Paul and Myrtle Cushman came for the first time. In July they had their first Sabbath School lesson using the "Helping Hand."
Myner Soper visited in May and November, calling on prospective members and giving encouragement to the small group. In January 1983, Conference President, Dr. Duane Hurley and his wife, Shireen, did the same.
About this time, the small group began to meet primarily at the Furniss home because Betty had a piano. The attendance averaged around 8 during these winter months.
On February 19, 1983, twenty-two people met in Punta Gorda at the home of Randy Webb and Richard Call. Dr. Keith Davis spoke on the Covenant. Charles Bond gave a sermon. On March 5, Leon and Stephen Lawton, and J. Paul Green spoke in Bradenton. Eleven attended.
In May, the Fouke, Arkansas church presented ten new Broadman hymnals and twelve SDB hymnals to the group. In October, nine from Bradenton joined the St. Petersburg group, making a total of thirty-seven. Later that month Leland and Lettie Bond visited Betty Furniss. They came again in April.
The first contribution to Our World Missions was made in August 1984. The church has contributed to various local charities and denominational special needs. Christmas has become a time of special giving. Disasters, such as the hurricane that devastated Jamaica and the east coast of the United States prompted special gifts.
In March 1985, nine from Bradenton went to Okechobee where Leland and Lettie Bond were located. About thirty were present.
In May 1986, the group sent a letter to Leland Bond inviting him to be their pastor. He accepted, and on October 11, the Bond’s visited Bradenton. On November 14, 1986, they arrived to stay in Willard Strawser’s Sarasota house until permanent housing arrangements could be arranged.
On November 22, 1986, ten members met for the first time in the Abundant Life church building. On December 27, sixteen were in church, including a number of visitors.
By January 1987, the group furnished the pastor a housing allowance plus expenses. That month was also the beginning of a monthly covered dish dinner. In February, due to increased attendance, more hymnals were ordered.
Martha Scull took the responsibility of leading Sabbath School very ably from the first meetings to the present (at the time of this writing in 1992).
Initially, the Daytona church helped Bradenton financially, but the new church soon took responsibility for its own expenses. Bradenton has continued its affiliation with the Daytona Beach SDB church, hoping to some day become strong enough to become a church on its own. Most of those who attend maintain their church membership in other areas. Several of the most faithful are members of other Sabbath-keeping denominations.
Attendance at church ranged wildly from a high in mid-winter of thirty-five to a low of four or five at times in mid-summer. This fluctuation was indicative of the lure of Florida in the cold seasons and the eagerness to avoid the summer heat by some of the members.
The group became melded together in strong bonds of love, partly because of common beliefs and partly because of the warm leadership of the Bonds. Leland Bond left the pastorate at the end of June 1992, but he and Lettie continued to make Bradenton their home.
Ken Davis, having recently retired from his pastorate in Salem, became the new pastor in July.
PART 2 - Authored by Jean B. Davis