In 1952 Community Edgemoor Church, a non-denominational one room church, was erected on the corner of Pierce Street and Woodrow Wilson Boulevard. Due to financial challenges the Florida Conference of the Methodist Church took over the church as a mission. A nucleus of hard-working, dedicated individuals struggled for twelve years and in 1966 the Edgemoor Methodist Church was closed. On June 3rd of 1966 Riviera United Methodist Church was officially chartered with 35 members. Services were held at Riviera Junior High, now Riviera Middle School, and Reverend LeRoy Martin was the first full-time minister from 1966 - 1968. With the help of Christ United Methodist Church, the Methodist Conference, the sale of the formerly owned property, and the assumption of a mortgage - the present site of five acres was purchased and a new building (the present Fellowship Hall) was erected, in July 1967. At this time, there were fewer than 100 members.
In June of 1968, Dr. R. Earle Rabb was assigned to the church and under his dynamic leadership the church began to develop a caring fellowship, an increased membership, and the reputation of "a growing church for growing Christians". In August 1972, the building of the sanctuary, office wing, chapel, and additional classrooms were completed.
Joyce Weaver , an active member of Riviera, saw the need for a Christian preschool for the three and four year olds, of our church and the community. She undertook the development of Riviera Day School, and was its first Director from 1972 to 1975.
There was further expansion of Riviera and the 2-story education wing was opened, in August 1975. June 6th 1976, the tenth anniversary of Riviera Church marked the final Sunday of Dr. Rabb's leadership of the church.
In June 1976, Dr. W. Goddard Sherman, a Bible scholar and teacher came to pastor Riviera. Dr. Sherman is remembered for his powerful sermons and fascinating Bible studies. Sunday school classes, "talk back" sessions and Bible studies flourished under Dr. Sherman's influence.
The Reverend Donald K. Kokomoor served Riviera from 1979 to 1983. His numerous talents, genuine interest in others, and compassion earmarked his ministry at Riviera. This was a time that Riviera reached out to the community.
In 1983, Reverend O. Herschel Hudgins was assigned to Riviera. Reverend Hudgins' kindness and concern for his fellow man exemplified his tenure at Riviera.
Dr. Glenn Quam, an energetic and talented preacher came to Riviera in 1986. Dr. Glenn arranged for Reverend Brian Brightly to be our part-time associate pastor and work part-time for the Florida Conference. During this time Riviera acquired a new bus and a new organ. A video was made about Riviera Church and numerous large musical productions were held. Dr. Quam is probably best remembered for his beautiful singing voice, especially singing the Lord's Prayer. Happily upon his retirement from full-time ministry, in 1997, he and wife Vivian retired in St. Petersburg and continue to bless our congregation.
Dr. Marvin McClain came to Riviera in June of 1992 after a career as a military chaplain. He was a strong administrator. He worked to get the church ready for the 21st century, by computerizing the church finances and records.
In June of 1996, Reverend Frank Reynolds, his wife Valerie, and their four daughters came to Riviera Church. It was good to see the parsonage filled with a young family. Pastor Frank's easy going manner and friendliness enabled him to develop relationships with people of all ages, bringing them closer to the Lord. During Pastor Frank's tenure, Riviera started a contemporary service and developed a Praise Band consisting of a piano, two guitars, a flute, a harmonica, and even drums. In 2000, Pastor Frank was instrumental in involving Riviera in the Share Jesus Mission. The mission was a huge success and the church brought a number of people closer to The Lord through its involvement. Having four youthful daughters, Pastor Frank related to the youth in our church and in the community. Consequently, our youth fellowship has prospered.
Pastor Rick Thompson moved to Riviera in June of 2002 with his lovely wife, Lara, a registered nurse, and their four small children. Pastor Rick was a youthful pastor who enjoyed preaching and had a heart for people-inside and outside the church. His emphasis was on training the leadership of the church to be outwardly focused in order to connect as many people with the grace of God as we could reach from our community. After 5 years at Riviera, Rick and his family heard God calling them to a new chapter in their life. Rick and Lara are now in ministry in Gainesville Florida, but they will always be a part of our church family.
In July of 2007, Pastor Mason Dorsey came to us from Azalea Park UMC in Orlando, an area that was home to him for 35 years. Pastor Mason was a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky and a Florida Gator. Mason attended The University of Florida for his undergraduate studies and went into Retail Sales for 2 ½ years before realizing his call to pastoral ministry. Soon after Pastor Mason arrived, he became engaged and married, and when he was called to a new appointment in 2015, he and Meagan had three children. Pastor Mason served Riviera for 8 years, and during that time the church combined its worship services into one contemporary worship service, and streamlined their leadership committees.
In July of 2015 Riviera received its first female pastor, Rev. Becky Rokitowski. Pastor Becky had served as an Assistant Pastor at Skycrest UMC in Clearwater for 3 years. She is married to Ted, and has two young boys, Kaden and Adam. Her warm presence and passion for ministry have us all looking toward the future with enthusiasm.