We are the St. Mark’s community of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement! A (very) few of us can remember our founding, nearly sixty years ago. We are: infants rocked in the rocking chair right in our sanctuary; small children who gather in the corner to (mostly) quietly entertain themselves. As one parishioner commented “I love to hear the buzz of their little voices, but I’ve learned not to sit in those back rows!” We are: children who participate in music and pageants; youth who acolyte; older youth who are learning how this thing called Christianity isn’t just about Sundays; and adults - single, coupled and widowed who strive to do the “work that Jesus is asking me to do.”
We are a healthy parish! We had a very high participation rate on the Congregation Assessment Tool that reported a few things that we inherently knew but found validating and enlightening to see confirmed. We are highly satisfied with how things are and feel that we have a great deal of energy and excitement in both worship and activities beyond worship.
We are highly theologically diverse. We lean toward being progressive, but we recognize that there are differing views on Scripture and how we live out our lives as Christians. We welcome differing views and find our small group programs a safe and supportive environment in which to explore them. A quote from a newer member says it best - “A friend invited me to be part of a Lenten group that met on Friday evenings. I laughed…’Do they have any idea what kind of person I am???’ I have the most inappropriate sense of humor, I swear, and I don't believe in "their God". ‘Are they aware that I am NOT Christian, and think that the Bible is a 'crock', and that they are NOT going to convert or save me?’ I was assured that this wasn't their intention. Well, let's just say, that after the first session, I had questions, I had SO MANY questions. I wanted to know what this Jesus thing was all about, and what if I didn't believe? The women there that night assured me that it was okay, that sometimes they had a difficult time believing. I was SHOCKED. These women were so loving and caring, and THEY DIDN'T EVEN KNOW ME! I was hooked. That's all it took, unconditional love. That's what I received that night, unconditional love.”
We, like much of humanity, were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our 2020 Lenten series (with about 40 participants meeting in several locations) ended abruptly and as a church we pivoted to totally online worship. We were forward thinking and a digitally ready church having livestreaming capabilities in operation since 2018. We added more online services (Compline, Morning & Noonday Prayer) that brought comfort in a time of uncertainty. opportunities for community interaction were sponsored on virtual platforms and in safe outdoor spaces as appropriate. Multiple initiatives – birthday lawn signs, cards and gift/activity bags- were distributed regularly. Regular calls by clergy and parishioners were made to the parish and small group Zoom gatherings were employed to maintain our vital connections to each other. But now, as we gain momentum in reopening, we wonder what our community will look like when we can say “we are at our new normal”. We know that the new normal will look different than what we took for granted as “normal”. This creates a level of discomfort. But we trust that if we continue to be the St. Mark’s that is welcoming, loving, and accepting, we are doing our part to “change the world from the nightmare that it is for so many, into the dream that God has for it.” (Bishop Curry)