1988: In 1988, the Diocese of Southwest Florida purchased a part of the large parcel of land we now call "home." After many failed attempts, plans to establish a Mission were put on hold until January of 1992; at this time the Rev. William C. Harris, Diocesan Missioner was asked to evaluate the feasibility of starting a mission and soon plans were under way.
1994: May 14, 1992 is celebrated as the date of the first service of the North Hillsborough Episcopal Community. It was agreed to begin services on Thursday evenings at Palms Baptist Church, in the City Plaza shopping center. Forty-three people attended the first service, which included a home-made soup supper served prior to worship. On June 15 of that year, three children received the sacrament of Holy Baptism. During that same year a steering committee was established. We currently have two remaining members of that committee: Sarah Harman and Don Welch. The Rev. Larry D. Hooper was called to serve as full time Missioner to the North Hillsborough Episcopal Community in January of 1993, which began seven years of rapid growth. On April 11, the first Easter Sunday service was held on our church property. In September of 1993, the growing congregation moved to Tampa Palms Elementary School and held its first Sunday services. Attendance rose to over 100. Grace Episcopal Church became an organized mission at the Diocesan Convention on Oct. 7, 1994. As the year drew to a close the building planning process was inaugurated and our first capital fund campaign was organized. A second Sunday service was added at 8:00 am. The next two years saw rapid growth and at the beginning of 1996 we had 209 members.
1996: In 1996, a formal capital funds drive was begun. We celebrated the ground breaking for our first building and the purchase of 20 acres of additional property. The 20 acres is conservation land named Keaton's Chapel and serves as a wonderful natural oasis. The year 1997 was off to a great start with the completion of our building. On April 13th, Father Hooper literally led his flock to the Promised Land going from the elementary school to a worship service in a tent on our property. Finally, on April 27, 1997, the first service was held inside our new building. In the fall of 1997, the congregation celebrated the opening of Grace Episcopal Preschool directed by Jennifer Snow. The school soon was operating at full capacity and becoming a central focus for the outreach of Grace
The Second Mile Vision
At the end of 1999, our first Vicar departed, and the Rev. Canon G. Robert Cain was appointed Vicar. We began our "Second Mile Vision" process, during which our vision was clarified. New priorities were set, which focused on youth ministry, Christian formation and good stewardship of all of God's gifts to us. Under Father Cain's leadership we developed operational structures, ordering our life more effectively, while continuing to grow. Lee Heine, a Grace Member and former Lutheran pastor, became our Lay Associate.
In 2003, we had a year-long celebration of our first decade using the theme "Grow with Grace." A capital campaign was successful in raising $26,000.00 for our permanent marquee sign on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and construction was completed. By fall 2003, Grace had grown to over 400 members, and the Diocesan Convention recognized Grace as a Parish within the Diocese of Southwest Florida, which was one of the highlights of our celebration year. At this time, Bishop Lipscomb appointed Canon Cain as Interim Rector of Grace, and he served until June of 2004. In April 2005, The Rev'd Canon Benjamin B. Twinamaani accepted the call to be the first rector of the parish.