Florida, is a peninsula in the extreme southeastern part of the United States, bordering Alabama to the northwest and Georgia to the northeast. The Gulf of Mexico lies to the west and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. The area of the state is 65,795 square miles (170,304 km²) and the population in 2008 was estimated at 18,328,340. In 2005 81.47% of the population was White, 16.31% were African American, and 2.52% were Asian. Florida has a large Hispanic population due to immigration from Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica. The religious affiliation of people in Florida in 2008 was as follows: Roman Catholic, 26%; Baptist, 9%; Methodist, 6%; Pentecostal, 3%; Jewish, 3%; Jehovah's Witness, 1%; Muslim, 1%; Orthodox, 1%; other religions, 1%; and non-religious, 16%.
Mennonites and Amish, largely from Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, first came to Florida in the 1920's, most of them going to Sarasota County, located over halfway down the peninsula on the west coast. The number of permanent settlers was very small and the combined total with the winter visitors never exceeded 300 until 1945. Old Order Amish, Conservative Amish Mennonites, and Mennonites (Mennonite Church) all held union services in various schools and other temporary meeting places. By 1944 the Mennonite Church group of permanent residents was large enough to organize a congregation. A new church building was dedicated in February 1946. In that same year a large bakery was bought to provide a meeting place for Old Order Amish, Conservative Amish Mennonites, and those Mennonites who cared to continue meeting with them. Thus two permanent places of worship were established about six miles (10 km) apart, each being about three miles (5 km) from the business district of the city. The winter of 1944-1945 brought a great increase of winter visitors. Since that time there has been a steady increase in the number of permanent settlers and a phenomenal growth in the number of Mennonite tourists. The establishment of a congregation and the new church building seem to be an added attraction for permanent settlers as well as for tourists. An increasing number of Mennonites owned their own winter homes in Sarasota which were unoccupied during the summer. During January and February 1949, about 1,200 persons were in attendance at Sunday morning services in the two meeting places. Attendance during the summer months at the two places combined in 1948 averaged something over 100. A mission operated by the Lancaster Mennonite Conference (MC) was established at Tampa on the west coast in 1927. In 1955 there were a total of nine organized Mennonite congregations in Florida; five at Sarasota (belonging to four conferences: Lancaster, Virginia, Ohio and Eastern, and Conservative Mennonite), with a total of 248 permanent members, and a colored mission with 10 baptized members, two in Tampa and vicinity with 43 members, belonging to the Lancaster Conference, four additional Lancaster Conference missions with 23 members, and a newly founded Conservative Mennonite mission-colonized congregation at Blountstown, 50 miles (80 km) west of Tallahassee. The total baptized Mennonite membership in Florida in 1955 was thus approximately 350. -- THB
Lasting Mennonite presence in Florida began in the winter of 1926-27 when several Amish and Mennonite families arrived in Sarasota County from Ohio. Amish and Mennonites worshiped in both German and English in what they called a union service. Mennonite missionaries from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania arrived in Tampa in 1927 and in February began holding meetings in a tent until a meeting place was built in 1928.
In 1987 there were 21 congregations in Florida affiliated with the Southeast Mennonite Conference (MC). Three other congregations are affiliated with the Lancaster Conference (MC), six with the Conservative Mennonite Conference, eight with the Brethren in Christ, one with the Beachy Amish Mennonite Fellowship, one with the New Order Amish, and one with the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church. There were two unaffiliated Mennonite congregations. Among these congregations four were Hispanic, three are Afro-American, and one was Haitian. Congregation size varied from only a few members to more than 600. The strongest center was in Sarasota County. The Mennonites of Sarasota have provided the core strength for the Sarasota Christian School (kindergarten through high school); a retirement village and nursing home operated by Sunnyside Properties; a shelter for children (Agape Homes); a two-month Bible institute (Southeast Bible Institute); a camp and retreat center (Lakewood Retreat) operated by the Southern Mennonite Camp Association; a mutual aid center (Southeast Mennonite Mutual Aid Board); a Ten Thousand Villages Crafts store (World's Attic); a religious radio station, WKZM, operated by the Christian Fellowship Mission; and a church extension program in Dade County sponsored by the Association of Mennonite Ministries.
Hertzler, Daniel From Germantown to Steinbach. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1981: 54-64.
Luthy, David. Amish Settlements Across America. Aylmer, ON: Pathway, 1985 :7.
Mennonite Brethren General Conference Yearbook 1988-89 :20-21.
Wikipedia. "Florida." Web. 8 February 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 341-342; vol. 5, 299-300. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Brenneman, T. H., Martin W. Lehman and Richard D. Thiessen. "Florida (USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. February 2009. Web. 19 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/F64.html.
APA style: Brenneman, T. H., Martin W. Lehman and Richard D. Thiessen. (February 2009). Florida (USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/F64.html.