Our Story

Venice United Church of Christ

Fifty+ Years of God's Faithfulness

In the beginning...

Having engaged in conversation with influential people around Venice, Mr. Albert Bradley, Managing Editor of the Venice Gondolier, decided to pursue the possibility of establishing a church in Venice. 


In the meantime, by a quirk of faith, a gentleman named Rev. Dr. E. Robert Chable and his wife, Marion Boynton, established reisdence in Venice. The family physician recommended that Mrs. Chable move to a warm climate due to her rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Chable also received an offer to become Vice President of Venice-Nokomis Bank with direct responsibilities for the bank's public relations.


Dr. Chable was a licensed and ordained clergyman, having served in several pastorates, associate, pastorates, and interim pastorates in many religious denominations. He had also been Dean of two colleges, one in Michigan and the other in Ohio, before coming to Venice to accept the position offered by the bank. They sought a church where they would enjoy intellectually-respectable preaching, friendly people, and a congruent religious viewpoint. Their choice was The First Congregational Church of Sarasota where they became members.


The first Service of Worship was on Worldwide Communion Sunday, October 7, 1962. Eighty-three people attended the service which was held at the Elks Club on E. Venice Avenue in the Kentucky Military Institute.


Just a few important dates in our history:

February 15, 1963 - Dr. Chable accepted a unanimous call to be the full time Pastor.

February 24, 1963 - The congregation voted to purchase a 5.4 acre plot of land in Venice Gardens at Shamrock Blvd and Tuxedo Rd at a cost of $27,500.

1977 - Rev. Charlene Raitt (who worships with us now) was called to be our Associate Pastor. At that time, she was one of only three female ordained United Church of Christ ministers in the state of Florida.

February 7, 1985 - The first worship of Venice United Church of Christ was held in our new sanctuary.


In those early days, Venice United Church of Christ faced three challenges:

1. 1962 - deciding to establish a United Church of Christ here in Venice

2. 1964 - deciding to build

3. 1968 - moving from being a mission church to being a church in full standing in the Florida Conference, United Church of Christ


Venice United Church of Christ met those challenges and looked forward to building the body of Christ in Venice.


Ministry Milestones

In the years since 1968, there was more building which provided office space, choir rehearsal space, meeting space, Church Library space (and we have an excellent library!), and our Fellowship Hall.


Many new ministries emerged as well. Among them:

• Our Prayer Shawls have been sent to people all over the world

• Women's Fellowship sponsors activities like the Rummage Sale and the Basket Auction and donates the proceeds both locally and throughout the world

• We host the Garden Elementary Art Fest where the children's art is displayed and the music students perform

• We participate in VICA (Venice Interfaith Community Association)

• In 2006-ish, we "lived into" being an Open and Affirming church

• In April 2016, we voted that we are a WISE (Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, and Engaging) Congregation for Mental Health


Looking Forward

to the Future

We have 50+ years of God's faithfulness and, with the help of God, we will be here for 50 more years to welcome and affirm all as God's children with a bias toward yes! Amen!

Who Are We?

Our Vision

We strive to be a loving community welcoming and affirming all as God's children in spiritually-based service with a bias toward YES.

Our Mission

We are a Christian Fellowship of faith, building a community that supports each other to help feed the hungry, to clothe the naked and welcome strangers while living a life that leads to deeper experiences walking humbly with God.

Our Core Values

We see God's goodness through a life patterned after the life and ministry of Jesus Christ by:

•  Celebrating our rich and diverse heritage

•  Practicing mission and ministry to the human and spiritual needs of others

•  Providing a fertile environment for the growth of one's faith

•  Centering around worship that embraces an open and liberal theology

•  Developing caring, supportive personal relationships

•  Nurturing individuals and encouraging the use of their talents in service to others

We encourage people to think for themselves.

•  No one in our congregation dictates what another must believe.

•  All members are responsible for interpreting the scriptures and discerning God's will in the light of their own     personal experiences, and in conversation with fellow believers of all faiths.


People matter most.

•  Our congregation was organized by neighbors who were committed to living in Christian fellowship with each other.

•  It is the love of God, not shared religious doctrine, which binds our lives together.

•  We are committed to nurturing the spiritual development of every person in our community from the youngest child to the oldest adult.

We embrace diversity.

•  We do not simply tolerate each other's differences; we try to learn from each other and frow from these experiences.

•  Because of our diverse religious backgrounds, we have learned the importance of listening to each other.

•  We strive to treat each other with dignity and respect, and know that we are at our best when we talk openly and honestly with each other.

We apply our faith to the relevant issues of our day and help others.

•  Valuing our heritage, we strive to translate the good news of the gospel into our modern context.

•  We are committed to work together to discern what it means to live faithfully in today's world.

•  We openly use our resources to host programs and activities sponsored by community organizations.

We value self-reliance.

•  We are a church of "do it yourselfers."

•  The success of our church's ministry is sustained by the support and commitment of our own members.

•  Our budget, officers, committee members and even our pastors are chosen and established by a majority vote of our members.

We meet people where they are.

•  We always welcome anyone who wants to become part of our fellowship.

•  We have few requirements or restrictions.

•  We are not a pushy church, but one that allows people to progress at their own speed.

Our Vision is what we want to be.


Our Mission is what we do.


Our Core Values speak of who we are.

We keep updating our Vision Plan to be sure we're faithful to our Vision. You can read it by clicking below.

Our UCC Story

Our Story

The United Church of Christ (UCC) is a distinct and diverse community of Christians that come together as one church to join faith and action.  With over 5,000 churches and nearly one million members across the U.S., the UCC serves God in the co-creation of a just and sustainable world.  The UCC is a church of firsts, a church of extravagant welcome, and a church where "…they may all be one" (John 17:21).


Church of Firsts

Since 1957, the United Church of Christ has been the church of firsts, weaving God’s message of hope and extravagant welcome with action for justice and peace. Together, we live out our faith in ways that effect change in our communities.  The UCC's many "firsts" mean that we have inherited a tradition of acting upon the demands of our faith.  When we read in Galatians: "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus"—a demand is made upon us. And so we were the first historically white denomination to ordain an African-American, the first to ordain a woman, the first to ordain an openly gay man, and the first Christian church to affirm the right of same-gender couples to marry. We were in the forefront of the anti-slavery movement and the Civil Rights movement.  Our response to the demands of our faith is woven into the history of our country.

Extravagant Welcome

Today, we continue to change lives throughout the world. We work alongside more than 200 mission partners. We labor ceaselessly to fight injustice, in the United States and abroad. We instill our vision into our youth and young adults, forging leaders who will imagine new dreams. And we sustain and develop church leaders, pastors, and our local churches to live their faith in exciting new ways.  We believe in a God that is still speaking, a God that is all-loving and inclusive.  We are a church that welcomes and accepts everyone as they are, where your mind is nourished as much as your soul.


We are a church where Jesus the healer meets Jesus the revolutionary, and where together, we grow a just and peaceful world.

Our Awesome Staff

We are here for you

Rev. Dr. Mark Dowell


Rev. Dr. Mark Dowell holds an M.Div. and received his doctoral degree from Sewanee, the University of the South. His doctoral thesis was Art and Meditation and Its Effects on Self-Esteem in Adolescence.


Dr. Mark is also a certified Reiki practitioner. Mark has spent over 30 years in ministry helping others and making a real difference in the lives of those in his community as he strives for justice and equality for all.


Rev. Brenda Dowell


Rev. Brenda Dowell holds an M.Div. from Sewanee, the University of the South and has received awards in theology and ethics. She has a passion for chemistry and enjoys combining science and faith to share deeper truths.

Brenda believes in radical hospitality and that EVERYONE is welcome at God's table. She has a heart for missions and has used her gifts throughout her life to help give a voice to the disenfranchised, a voice to the unheard.

Pam Gansch-Boythe

Administrative Assistant


When you call the office, you'll be greeted by Pam's friendly voice. She has her finger on the pulse which helps the staff and church leaders do their jobs better.

Rich Roehr



The fancy for Rich's title is Sexton, but Rich isn't a fancy guy. However, he brings so much expertise to this position! If there's a problem, Rich can solve it.

Barbara Quinn

Musical Director

Barb is our Director of Music. She agreed to fill in for one Sunday about 13 years ago and...well, you know the rest of the story.  Barb was a music educator in Maine and now she's educating our choir and our congregation.



Arlene Smith

Financial Clerk


Every organization needs someone who can "crunch the numbers," and Arlene does that - and so much more - for us!


Pat Hodgkins

Bella Handbell Director


Pat has been directing handbell choirs for many years. If she went to a church and they didn't have one, she started one for them. We're delighted that she's here now.


Vicki Decker

Publications Clerk

Vicki is the one who gets that Sunday bulletin and Tidings newsletter onto the paper and into our hands.

Our Leadership

James Mink

Human Resources & Leadership Development

Vice Moderator

Vicky Ferguson

Good News Vision Team

Vice Moderator

Scott Mellen

Buildings and Grounds

Vice Moderator

David Crawford

Financial Administration Team

Vice Moderator

To view an illustration of our organizational structure,

No matter who you are ...

Here at VUCC, we unapologetically proclaim that ...

We welcome and affirm all as God's children. We have a bias toward YES!

This means when you visit us, you will encounter our welcoming spirit and experience warm hospitality.