On September 27, 1987, Friendly Church in Fort Myers, Fla., held its first service. It was yet another Florida church planted by Rev. Virgil Hull. The service was held in a rented Seventh Day Adventist gymnasium with no air conditioning and terrible acoustics. Hull jokingly described it as “the dumbest thing I ever did.” By the time the church formally organized in May 1988, they were running over 60 people.
We didn’t have any churches in Florida until February 1964, when Virgil Hull moved from Ohio and started First UB in the Daytona Beach area. By June, First UB was averaging in the 60s. That fall, when attendance reached 89, the congregation relocated to a building with a seating capacity of about 150. Within two months, attendance reached 148. Property was purchased and dedicated in February 1966. That spring, attendance topped 180.
During Hull’s 23 years as pastor of First UB, they mothered a church in Port Orange, which was named Faith UB. Other UB churches arose–in Bradenton, Orlando, Lake Brantley.
On May 3, 1987, Virgil Hull preached his last sermon as senior pastor of First UB. He had decided to return to fulltime church planting, his first love. In the years ahead, he started several more churches in a flurry of activity.
Hull moved to Fort Myers, about 175 miles from Daytona Beach, where he already had a Bible study going with about ten people; he’d been driving there every Thursday afternoon, and returning to Daytona early the next morning.
While Friendly Church was taking root, Hull was also starting churches in several other areas. Family Community Church in the suburb of Lehigh Acres held its first service on Easter Sunday evening in 1988, using an American Legion Hall which reeked of cigarette smoke and liquor. Two years later, in April 1990, Fellowship UB began meeting in Clearwater. Hull had also developed contacts in Naples, Haines City, and LaBelle. He did a four-week Bible study in LaBelle with an average of 14 people.
Hull compared himself to a missionary. His plan was only to get the churches started. Other pastors would fill the pulpits once a work was established, freeing him to start other churches.
Virgil Hull soon retired, and those churches eventually died out. But for a few years, we saw someone with the evangelical passion and church planting spirit of our church’s early founders.