God has great plans for a specific hill in Millcreek Township – that hill is the land upon which St. Mark’s is situated. Many of you are aware of the exciting things happening at St. Mark’s. Over the past five years, St. Mark’s has grown from an average Sunday attendance of around 50 to 150! The faithful people of St. Mark’s have taken to heart the calling of the resurrected Christ in the Great Commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” They have developed a regular practice of inviting friends, family, and co-workers to church. And they are committed to continually fostering a deeper sense of community, connectivity, and formation through small groups, house groups, Bible studies, outreach ministries, alternative worship experiences, and much more.
Beyond being committed to programmatic and experiential opportunities, the people of St. Mark’s also realize that it’s time to make the physical building of St. Mark’s reflect the Spirit and needs of a growing community. The current parish hall and church have been basically untouched since their completion in 1961 and 1965. And let’s face it; brown asbestos tile, cinderblock walls, military green bathrooms, broken windows, no gathering area, and a lack of air conditioning don’t tell a newcomer that a church is alive and growing in Christ in the year 2016. Even more importantly, the congregation has exceeded the capacity of the current parish hall and is aware of the need to create space for the next 100+ worshippers yet to join to St. Mark’s.
This realization was the birth of our capital campaign and building project. The congregation fully met their campaign goal of $600,000 and with financial assistance from Diocesan Council, St. Mark’s is currently in the process of preparing the hill for a 1700 sq. ft. addition to our parish hall and kitchen to include proper storage, kitchen equipment, carpeting, lighting, drywall, and new windows.
A gathering area will also be added to the front of the church to create a space for people to mingle and live further into our practice of welcome and hospitality. Enlarged and fully renovated restrooms are also part of the plan. And all of the above mentioned areas will have commercial HVAC!
The church space itself is also being enhanced with new LED lighting (as most of the peak lighting has been burned out since the late 1980s). And the balcony will be renovated to serve as overflow seating for larger attended liturgies. As with any building project, there will be things done to the property that won’t been seen, but are necessary to the current and future development of the hill. We are upgrading the electrical service, installing new electrical panels, abating all asbestos, and creating a land development and stormwater management plan for the long-term growth and development of the hill.
Even though demolition has only been happening for a few weeks, there have been some fun discoveries along the way. There is a 12-foot stained glass window from the original St. Mark’s building (formerly located at 10th and French Streets) in the corner of the boiler room featuring some wonderful Trinitarian and Eucharistic themes waiting to be resurrected and put into ministry again. Also, the bell tower came down for restoration allowing us the chance to read the bell. The bell was made by the Aspinwall Bell Company in 1831 – it’s amazing to think that our bell has been calling Christians to worship for 185 years! So while St. Mark’s appears to be on the surface a simple 1960s A-frame church, we are discovering our roots and praying that from those roots grow a great movement in the name of Jesus Christ unlike anything ever seen before in our region. Stop up sometime; I’d love to show you around!
Craig Dressler – Associate for Parish Life at St. Mark’s, Erie