The Chapel was the dream of John Roser, father of Charles Roser, one of Anna Maria Island’s early land development partners. While staying at the Roser family cottage on Pine Avenue (now the home of Sato Realty), the elder Mr. Roser dreamed of building a chapel to commemorate the life of his late wife, Caroline. Roser’s dream was for a chapel open to all people of Anna Maria Island, residents and visitors alike. It would be a place of worship, prayer, and Christian learning for children and adults.
By the Spring of 1913, the chapel had been designed, constructed, dedicated, and open for use by anyone who wished to do so. With funds provided by Charles Roser and with Capt. Mitch Davis as builder, the John and Caroline Roser Memorial Chapel was constructed and donated to the people of Anna Maria Island, with the stipulation that it should always be the community’s church, not that of any particular religious denomination.
Charles Roser was a successful businessman and philanthropist, whose generosity is a lasting benefit to coastal Florida. A substantial part of Mr. Roser’s wealth came from success in the confectionery business, and he is credited by many as inventor of the Fig Newton. Sale to the National Biscuit Company (NABISCO) of his recipe and his process for machinery to extrude cookie dough with jam filling is said to be the basis of the fortune that funded Roser Memorial Chapel. Nabisco doesn’t remember the Fig Newton history in this same way, but it’s our story, and we’re sticking to it!
More than century after it first began, our beloved Chapel still stands, welcoming all who will enter for a time of peace, and closer contact with the ever living, ever loving God of all the ages and of each new day. Who could count the host of heartfelt prayers, the billows of joy and the mountains of sorrow shared in that sacred space? Who could picture the faces or recognize the voices or remember the names of all who walked through the doors? No one could but God, and God does—every marriage, every child dedicated or baptized, every loved one committed to God’s everlasting arms by families, and friends gathered in that Chapel.
In the stillness of the Chapel, one can sometimes sense the continuing presence of the small group of early Anna Maria Island pioneers who came together to worship and to study the words and ways of the Christian faith. As they grew in spirit, they also grew in numbers and as their program of mission and ministry grew, so did their building. By the 1970s the numbers of people who gathered for worship each week so exceeded the capacity of even the expanded Chapel building that a new place to worship had to be built. The interior lines of the new building were inspired by the distinctive shape of the historic Chapel.
The larger 400 seat sanctuary now houses the congregation’s weekly worship, and even that capacity cannot accommodate the winter worship attendance without the addition of a second worship service on each Sunday of the season. Other buildings on the church campus now provide space for the church’s music ministry, community food pantry, thrift store, and storage garages. The church’s congregation now comes from Anna Maria Island and beyond.