This story was produced through a collaboration involving Southerly, Climate Central, and Newsy. It is republished here under a Creative Commons License.
Grounds cloaked in greenery weave around a towering ivory chapel in the heart of downtown Key West, Fla. Founded in 1832, St. Paul’s Episcopal Key West is not only the oldest Christian congregation in the area, but one of the oldest congregations of any religious tradition south of St. Augustine.
The church is on its fourth building, the first three lost to fires and a hurricane. After nearly two hundred years of its congregation working to keep it standing, Reverend Donna Mote, the newest rector at St. Paul’s, is now worried about a more subtle risk: rising seas.
“It would be a shame to preserve all these buildings, and then have people scuba diving in them in 100 years,” Mote said.
St. Paul’s is located on one of the highest points of Key West; one of the 1,700 islands that make up the Florida Keys, where 90 percent of the land mass sits only five feet above the Atlantic Ocean. While scuba divers won’t be visiting the church in the coming century, with seas r... Read more