Established in 1913
We began in 1913 as a Sunday School meeting under the oak trees at the Berry family home on Branch Avenue in Seminole Heights. The Rev. P.H. Hensly, a city missionary, began the work aided by contributions from a few nearby sister churches. On June 29, 1919 the church was organized by the Rev. James F. Winnard with one elder, two deacons and 33 members, and was named Seminole Heights Presbyterian Church. Corner property had been acquired at Florida and Comanche Avenues.
The Early Years
The young church struggled in its early years. There were seven different pastors for the first seven years of the church's existence. When the Rev. H.W. Merrill left in 1926, the struggling church decided to turn its property over to the Presbytery and disband. However, the Presbytery told the congregation to hold on a little longer and called the Rev. L.E. McEldowney to serve as pulpit supply for one month to assess the situation. His one-month assignment turned into a two-decade pastorate under which the church grew into a self-supporting organization with nearly 300 members. Eventually, the church relocated to new property at Habana and Paris and became known as Seminole Presbyterian Church. Thus began a brand new chapter in the church’s ministry.
Pastorate of Richard Watson
In 1961 Richard Watson began a 16-year pastorate at Seminole Presbyterian under which the church started a kindergarten in September 1965 with one class each of 4 and 5 year olds. This new school would define the church's identity for the next 40 years. During these years, the church family also recommitted itself to personal evangelism and church planting. Seminole Presbyterian participated in a joint church-planting operation in the inner city with Mt. Tabor Baptist leading to the new Tampa Heights Community Church in July 1970. Also that year, Seminole Presbyterian began hosting the annual Tampa Youth Conference in which many young men and women were called into full-time ministry.
Move to Presbyterian Church in America
Yet as God was blessing the ministry of Seminole Presbyterian, He was about to test the church's faith. By 1969, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, US (PCUS) had begun drifting away from the fundamentals of historic Christianity. After much prayer, the congregation voted unanimously to join a more biblically faithful denomination, even with the risk that the Presbytery might not let the church leave with its property. A few months later, in God's providence, the congregation and pastors were allowed to leave the PCUS with property in hand. Eventually, Seminole Presbyterian joined other local sister churches and was received into the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) on April 15, 1975.
Growth of Seminole Presbyterian School
After the turbulent 1970s, the church was led for the next two decades by Pastors John Buswell (1980-1990) and David O'Dowd (1990-1999). During this time the church continued to define itself with its primary ministry, Seminole Presbyterian School, which expanded to include a full high school with a college preparatory curriculum, fine arts, and athletic program. But by the end of the 1990s, the growing needs of the school necessitated its formal separation from the church. In 2000, the school became its own legal entity and eventually changed its name to Cambridge Christian School with the intention of moving to a new campus. The church and school would continue to share the Habana campus for the next few years as the school was deciding on a permanent location. Then in 2003 the school decided that it would remain on the Habana campus and began the process of acquiring adjacent land for future expansion.
A Renewed Vision
Ready to begin a new chapter in the life of the church, Seminole Presbyterian called Pastor John Keen in the summer of 2004. One of Pastor Keen's first tasks was to call the church leadership together to work out a fresh vision for the church and establish a new identity apart from the school, now on a separate path from the church. After many officer retreats and prayer meetings, the leadership put forth a new vision for Seminole Presbyterian, a vision whose key focus is for Seminole Presbyterian to create, within the heart of the city, a community where people come together in Christ to build biblical, vital, and relevant relationships. The leadership came to believe that implementing this vision would ultimately mean physical separation from the school Seminole Presbyterian had begun over 40 years ago.
A Time of Transition
With the fresh new vision in mind, the church leadership decided to return to discussions with Cambridge Christian School to see if God was opening the door to bring about the physical separation of both ministries and so that Seminole Presbyterian could worship and minister in a facility more conducive to the new vision. After much prayer and very lengthy negotiations with the school, the leadership finally settled on a new agreement to ultimately sell the Habana Avenue campus to the school and allow the church to immediately relocate to a new facility. In God’s providence on May 3, 2009, the congregation approved the agreement, and Seminole Presbyterian began a new partnership with St. Paul Lutheran Church located in Seminole Heights. Returning to her roots, Seminole Presbyterian held the first worship service in the St. Paul sanctuary on Sunday, September 13, 2009.
Christ Central Presbyerian Church
On November 2, 2016, Seminole Presbyterian Church purchased the property of Christ Community Church on N. Himes Avenue and held the first worship service under the new name of Christ Central Presbyterian Church on November 13, 2016.