For the past thirty years, from November to March, the Southern Palms RV Resort in Eustis has offered Sunday worship service for American and Canadian snowbirds escaping the wrath of northern winters.
This past Sunday morning’s service was the last of the 30th season, with a closing service and communion in the park’s fellowship hall, led by the Rev. Charles Granger, 82, of DeLand.
An average of 150 to 200 people — just about all of the RVers — have attended on Sundays over the years, according to a report in the (Leesburg) Daily Commercial.
“I love meeting such a wonderful group of people, a cross-section of Americana and the number of Canadians who come down here, too,” Granger said.
Christmas Eve is one of the biggest services, along with a memorial service on the first Sunday in February.
“We memorialize all of the people who have died the previous year who were a part of this fellowship here,” the pastor said.
“They call it a church, but there is no membership,” Granger said of the services at the resort, located near Lake County Fairgrounds.
“This is just people coming together.”
Granger recalled the park belonged to the city of Eustis before it was sold to individuals who owned parks all over the country. Granger had been serving as interim pastor at the First Baptist Church in Eustis when he was asked if he could preach at the RV park.
“My first Sunday, 82 people were sitting here,” Granger said.
“And what they told me was 80 percent of the people who were here for that service did not go to church anywhere on Sunday. I came back the next Sunday and we had 150 or so.”
During his time of ministering at Southern Palms, Granger was serving as chaplain and campus minister at Stetson University.
“It was a great time; I was working with both age groups,” he said of ministering to college kids during the week and to seniors on Sundays.
“I was 52 when I started (at Southern Palms) and I thought they were a bunch of old folks, and now I’m older than most of them over here.”
In those early years, he arranged for some Stetson students to preach at the RV park.
“Every one of them would come to my office on Monday morning saying, ‘Let me go again!’ They loved coming over here,” Granger said. He remained at the private college for 21 years before retiring in 1996 at age 65.
The pastor has gone through hip and knee replacements and a battle with lymphoma cancer, but strives to continue inspiring people with his tell-it-like-it-is sermons.
“Pastor Granger is just wonderful. Thirty years he has been with us,” said Judy Kryder of Michigan, who sings in the choir and cherishes the friendship she has forged with others at Southern Palms, the park that has been her winter home since 1998.
Florida’s glorious weather is what brings her back each year, she said, and she and hundreds of others hope to reunite with their pastor in November for the park’s 2014-15 season.
Southern Palms RV Resort
Southern Palms is an Encore RV resort north of Orlando in Central Florida’s Lake County.
Shopping, restaurants, and many golf courses, ranging from novice to professional, are all within minutes of the RV resort.
At the campground, relax by the swimming pool or soak in the hot tub. Take in a game of shuffleboard or test your skills at bocci ball. Check out a book at our library or dance the evening away.
Number of Sites: 889
Address: One Avocado Lane Eustis, FL 32726
Phone: (352) 357-8882
My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned sixty and that’s the law.