Church History

The church had its beginnings when Mary Moore met the Rev Richard Byrd at a Lions Club meeting in 1956. Father Byrd was the priest at both the church in Waldo and in Keystone Heights. He held the first Episcopal service at the First Methodist Church in Hawthorne on December 16, 1956. Later services were held in the American Legion Hall. On April 29, 1957 Bishop Hamilton West held confirmation services for the original parishioners. The original seven confirmed parishioners were Mary M. & Francis R. Moore, Harland L. Kuhn, May P. & Robert L. Johnson, Betty L. Bremer and Pearl Spencer. Mary Moore, the last remaining charter member, went home to the Lord on March 20, 2013.

The church is located on SR 2082 four blocks west of US 301. The address is 21810 SE 69 Ave. on the road formerly known as W. Lake Ave. The property was purchased in 1957 and plans were made for the present church building. It was completed in 1958 and the first service was conducted by the Rev. Fred Yerkes on April 5th 1958.
The Parish House was added in 1960 as well as the courtyard between the sanctuary and the Parish House. There is a Celtic cross in the court yard that was formed by casting a mold from the cross at the Episcopal Church camp St Theresa on the Bay. The parishioners poured and formed the beautiful cross from that mold and it is still enjoyed today. A matching cross can be seen at Camp Weed and Cerveny Conference Center in Live Oak, FL.

There are beautiful stained glass windows in the church. The windows above the altar were presented by Pearl Spencer and Margaret Lambeth in memory of Tom Spencer (husband of Pearl Spencer) and Emma & Bud Waits (parents of Margaret Lambeth). The windows above the doors were presented by Joyce Sarles in memory of her mother, Lorraine Brady.                                                                                     

Father Fred Yerkes was the longest tenured priest for Holy Communion to date. He lived in Jacksonville and drove to Hawthorne to conduct services from the first service in 1958 until his death in 1989. Father Yerkes conducted services not only in Hawthorne , but at many of the small Episcopal Mission Churches in North Central Florida. He is fondly remembered and missed to this day.

The current priest of Holy Communion is Father Les Singleton who has served Holy Communion since July, 1998. Father Les has also served at the Church of the Mediator in Micanopy since Easter Day, 1983. He came to be the priest at Holy Communion in an interesting way. Father Les met Mother Diane Reeves at the Webster Flea Market on a Monday morning and she asked what he was doing Sunday. He advised that he was conducting services at 8am and 11am at the Church of the Mediator in Micanopy. She asked if he could conduct a service at 9am at Holy Communion in Hawthorne and he has been serving ever since. As Father Les says “The Church of the Holy Communion is the only church I know of that obtained its priest at a flea market!” Father Les is the longest serving priest at Holy Communion with the exception of Father Fred Yerkes.

Father Les has had a long and varied career. He was born and raised in Miami , the second of seven children. His mother had been Episcopalian and his father a Baptist. As a child he attended Baptist, Presbyterian and Methodist churches. In 1960, Les entered The University of Chicago. He began exploring churches and chose the Episcopal Church. He read widely and was influenced by C. S. Lewis “Mere Christianity” and Massey Shepherd’s commentary on the Book of Common Prayer. At the student ministry “Brent House”, he met several priests who inspired him to seek ordination. In 1964, Les entered Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston , IL . There he had the privilege of studying under renowned New Testament scholar, Reginald Fuller. He graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity cum laude. In today’s nomenclature, this degree is considered a Master of Divinity. Les continued graduate studies at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago under the Estonian New Testament scholar Arthur Voobus. Les has kept up his Greek, and uses that as a resource, as he consults multiple English translations of the Bible.

Father Les spent 3 years as curate of Emmanuel Church of LaGrange, IL, and then spent 10 years as rector of St. Stephen's, Racine, WI. In 1979, Les returned to Florida, beginning secular work at AAA in Bradenton working for Laurens McMaster an Episcopal layreader. In 1982, Les had a series of events in a single week that changed his life for the better. He turned 40, obtained his insurance license, learned his AAA sales manager job was transferring him to Ocala and best of all he met his wife, Addie.

While a worker priest, Father Les has one foot in the world and one foot in the church. Prior to his current service at Holy Communion, Hawthorne along with Church of the Mediator, Micanopy, he served at St. Barnabas, Williston and St Matthew’s Mayo. Father Les consistently continues his education and also teaches others. He has enjoyed half a dozen weeks at the College of Preachers at the National Cathedral in Washington that included “dramatize the Word”, working through Genesis in Hebrew (with Becky Wright of the University of the South), the art of Bible story telling as well as other topics. At the Anglican Institute, Les taught Church History, as well as courses on the Old and New Testament. Father Les enjoys teaching a weekly Bible study at Church of the Mediator as well as enjoying his participation in a weekly Bible study with other area Episcopal clergy. Father Les enjoys “shape note singing”, a four part harmonic a capella singing in which the tenor line carries the melody. Father Les reads in his spare time. His favorite topics are Florida history, theology and the Bible, and current events. His favorite authors are C.S. Lewis and James Michener.

However, Les has been fully engaged in secular world. While AAA sales manager in Ocala , he participated in numerous community efforts. He joined the Kiwanis, various chambers of commerce and has served as president of Ocala Business Leaders, a group of over 100 business professionals who have weekly breakfast meetings to promote each others businesses.  He was awarded a Paul Harris Fellow by the Downtown Rotary Club of Gainesville in June of 2013 for his service to the community.  Les represents our church at the monthly meetings of the Hawthorne Chamber of Commerce He is a long time member of the Micanopy Historical Society, volunteering as docent one Sunday a month. When he first retired from AAA Auto Club South, he spent eighteen months representing Dale Carnegie Systems of Central Florida.  Since July 2008 his secular pursuits have included Pre Paid Legal and SendOutCards.

Across the years, many of the church members have been employees of the local public library. The church donates food to the Kings Food Bank. These and other donations are distributed by the Assembly of God church. The church provides an annual scholarship to a local Hawthorne High graduate. The Parish House is used by local community groups such as AA and is available for rent.

Father Les says the center of his life is the One Who was crucified for our sins, Who is risen to give us new life. When speaking of the issues of the day, Les says he “threatens to go down to church every Sunday, put on his robe and worship Jesus”. The Church of the Holy Communion of Hawthorne might best be described as an intimate sized family that know and love each other well and that know and serve our Lord. The church welcomes all to join them this and each and every Sunday.