In March, 1997, local businessman Tom Platt secured a commitment from the Florida Baptist
Convention to assist in starting a new church on Fleming Island. He and his wife Donna met with Dr. Walter Bennett, then Director of Church Development at FBC. They met to discuss their
mutual vision of a new church to meet the spiritual needs of existing and future families coming to Fleming Island.
A Name and a Place
At a planning session in the summer of 1997, several prospective church names were
considered - including Eagle Harbor Baptist Church, St. Johns River Baptist Church - but Dr. Bennett came up with the winning name: Hibernia Baptist Church - chosen because of the historic
significance of the name Hibernia, being associated with the first settlers to a plantation on the island having come from Ireland. (Editors note: Hibernia is the ancient name for
A Family of Friends
First Baptist Church of Middleburg agreed to sponsor us as a mission of their church, and to provide funding support as well as "lend us a few families" for six months to help fill the seats around the three families who became the original nucleus of the congregation. The first worship service was held in September, 1997 with three families officially joining the congregation: the Platt family, the Bill Butler family and the McDonnel family. A few months after the first services, leadership of the church music program passed from the Hughes' to Bruce Hutson, our first full-time/part-time music director.
After about four years of loving, careful nurturing by Dr. Bennett, he concluded that "we had gotten too big for him," and he urged the church to form a Pastor Search Team to find a full-time replacement for him.
After a year's search, the Pastor Search Team was led by God to Brother Scott Yirka who preached his first sermon as our full time pastor in July of 2001 to a congregation of 130. A short two and a quarter years later - October 2003 - he preached to a congregation of 574 - an increase of 443%!
The Miracle of the Land
Hibernia Baptist Church had begun looking for land not long after the church was
founded in 1997. Dr. Walter Bennett, our first part-time pastor, had been searching during his entire ministry, and encouraged our new Pastor Scott Yirka to continue the search.
A Future Home
After an initial planning session with an architect with Lifeway about how to begin
planning the new worship facilities, the Building Team recommended to the congregation that The Stellar Group provide design and engineering services for the new facilities.
On June 27, we broke ground on our future site of Hwy 17 South. Hundreds turned out to be a part of this special day and to pray on various spots of the property for the blessings that
we have received and the many more that are to come.
2010: The Second New Sanctuary
Spiritual Growth Leads to Growth in Attendance
Hibernia’s rapid growth occurred almost as soon as we moved from Paterson Elementary School to our first new sanctuary. With 3,000 members, we were running out of space for Bible Study Groups as well as corporate worship. This growth required three Bible study periods as well as three morning worship services.
The Building Team
The design, engineering and construction of the new sanctuary were important matters to be prayed over and given careful consideration. The Building Team, consisting of Ed Rock (Chairman), Tom Platt, Keith Dease, Randy Burdine, Gary Hiers, and Associate Pastor David Poupard, oversaw the project from beginning to end.
New Features Designed
The decision was made to incorporate the following features into the new combined sanctuary and Bible Study Group classrooms:
· Square footage: 38,000
· New Classrooms: 14
· New Sanctuary Seating: 1,050 (possibly more, depending on final configuration of seats)
· Choir and Orchestra: seating for 100 choir and orchestra members (possibly more, depending on final configuration of seats)
Who Helped Build Our New Sanctuary?
To perform the critical engineering work to be performed before construction could begin the Phillips Engineering firm was selected. Matt Phillips, owner, had worked with the church in the earlier phases of construction. The architectural services were provided by the R. Scott Dean architectural firm. The design presented by Scott Dean, owner, was the one incorporated into the new building. The incredibly complex job of converting the design of the building into the building actually constructed was done by our own church member, Tom May, owner of Thomas May Construction Company. The exquisite design and placement of the beautiful pavers surrounding the new sanctuary were the work of Randy Burdine, member of Hibernia and owner of Tropical Pavers, Inc. The demandingly intricate details of laying out the uncounted miles of electrical wiring throughout the building were accomplished by Hibernia member Keith Dease, owner of KAD Electric Co.
The Focused By Grace Campaign
To start the campaign to build our second new sanctuary, in the fall of 2009, Pastor Scott Yirka asked Tom Platt to serve as the Director of the Focused By Grace (FBG) campaign. Tom accepted the challenge and immediately set out to secure the assistance of two experienced leaders:
· Reverend Clarence Hackett, Director of the Stewardship Department of the Florida Baptist Convention; and
· Larry Koster, a member of Hibernia who had experience in previous church capital campaigns.
Tom, Clarence and Larry met with Brother Scott to discuss a vision for the campaign, and began to lay out the plans for FBG.
The first three months involved a common goal
of praying, encouraging, leading and giving. That was to be
followed by a continuing effort over the next three years to sustain
1. The Principle of Prayer: Psalm 127:1 – “Except the Lord build the house”
2. The Principle of Sacrifice: II Samuel 24:24 and Hebrews 12:2 – “Not equal gifts but equal
3. The Principle of Communication: “Tell the people and trust the people”
4. The Principle of Involvement: Nehemiah 4:6 “the people had a mind to work”
The Principle of Commitment: “I will not
ask others to make a commitment until I have made
6. The Principle of Asking: James 4:2b “You have not because you ask not”
The Principle of Timing: “The
right person asking the right person at the right time in
With guidance from Clarence Hackett, Tom and Larry set out to contact people who would provide the leadership of several teams, and provided the training to them to accomplish the campaign goals.
The “high-point” of the campaign kick-off was a church-wide banquet held at Reynolds Park in Green Cove Springs at which the initial pledges were announced shortly thereafter, the entire congregation responded to the request to pray for God’s guidance in how they should participate.
The results were a church-wide combined pledge of $2,400,000.
The new worship facility will take us from an existing sanctuary that seats 500 to a new sanctuary that will seat over 1,000. Initial plans are that we will begin in the new sanctuary with three morning bible study periods and two morning worship services.
Later, in early August , 2010, Pastor Scott asked the congregation to pray that at least $100,000 contributions come in by August 23, and by mid-August, that goal had been met and exceeded!
It is anticipated that we will have our first
worship service in our new sanctuary on August 29th.