Part 3: The 1960’s to the Present
The Reverend Walter Mueller was called at the 4th Rector, beginning his ministry on December 29, 1959. His first service was December 31st. Under his leadership St. Mark’s Nursery School was launched in 1960/1. Approximately 56 years later, our parish Nursery School has nurtured and educated many hundreds of students and each year we have the delight of welcoming parents who, years before, were themselves students here. The first director of the school was Marilyn Olsen.
During the summer of 1969, a new wing was constructed – adding to the space available for classrooms and other ministries. The new wing was given by Bruce & Marge Beck and was dedicated to God and in loving memory of their son Richard Scott Beck on November 30, 1969 (there are more details about the dedication on a large plague near the back side door. Mrs. Beck’s maiden name was Datz, whose family also gave the stained glass behind the altar.)
Shortly thereafter (on August 11, 1970 – after about 10 years of ministry at St. Mark’s), Rev’d Mueller resigned owing to the fact that he could not resolve the conflict that had erupted when some outspoken members of the congregation vigorously protested his participation in a community Thanksgiving Day service at nearby St. Hilary of Pointiers RCC. Mueller ended up becoming a Presbyterian pastor at a church in Maple Glen (this was close enough to St. Marks that a number of parishioners sympathetic to his situation left the parish for that church).
Mueller was succeeded by the Reverend Paul C. Randolph Jr., (Randolph was installed as the 5th Rector of the parish on April 25, 1971). During Rev’d Randolph’s 4 years as Rector, there continued to be significant turmoil in the parish. Things began to stabilize when Bishop Leonard Riches became the 6th Rector. The parish was in need of healing and sensitive pastoral care and it was upon these things that Bishop Riches focused his ministry. During his tenure much emphasis was placed upon ministry to children and youth. The Nursery School was directed by Elinor Criswell and vibrant programs were carried out through Sunday School classes and Vacation Bible School. When Bishop Riches was elected as the President of the Reformed Episcopal Seminary, he needed to step away from full time parish ministry and so he resigned as Rector, effective December 31, 1981.
On July 25, 1982 the Reverend Richard Workowski began his ministry as the 7th Rector of the parish, a position that he would hold for the next 28 years. During his long tenure there were many improvements made to the physical plant such as: the creation of the play yard for the children; the restoration of the church tower and lantern; a new outdoor sign (with carved lion and gold lettering); a new commercial sized kitchen stove and stainless steel industrial dishwasher; and new windows installed throughout the church (except in the nave). During this time the Nursery School also experienced significant growth. Under the direction of Mrs. Workowski it expanded from 2 teachers and about 11 students to 11 teachers and about 70 students.
One particularly significant decision during Rev’d Workowski’s ministry was the determination to replace the electric Allen organ previously in use with a pipe organ. A gift from a friend of the parish gave some initial momentum to the project, which was then carried out by volunteers under the direction of the then organist/choirmaster Bernard McGorrey. The addition of a pipe organ is a wonderful improvement to the parish. This significant project spanned numerous years (and in fact work continues even today). In honor of the first financial donor, the instrument was dedicated on October 5, 2014 as the “Joyce Harkins Harvey Memorial Organ.”
After a long and faithful service, Rev’d Workowski announced his retirement, effective August 8, 2010. The (then) Canon R. Charles Gillin served as interim for 1 year after which the Reverend Jason S. S. Patterson, was called as Rector on July 27, 2011. Fr. Patterson and his family (Sara and David) came to St. Mark’s from North Carolina, where they had lived for 3.5 years while engaged in planting a small and traditional church in the town of Asheboro (St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, which later affiliated with the Reformed Episcopal Church). His first Sunday at St. Mark’s was September 1 and his installation (by the Right Reverend David L. Hicks, with Canon Gillin assisting) was on the evening of October 15, 2011. Family and many long time friends were present, as were numerous clergy friends such as the Reverend Edward Rix (All Saints Church, Wynnewood), Fr. David Ousley (St. Michael the Archangel), and the Reverend Kenneth Cook (St. John the Evangelist). Bishop Hicks was Preacher and Celebrant.
The life of a parish can be a mysterious thing. Many times it can be observed that even the most faithful of ministries can be met with little outward success. In such times, it is important to remember that God does not measure a parish’s success in terms of the size of one’s budget or the number of people in the pews. Fidelity to the Faith as we have received it, the bold and faithful preaching of God’s Word, the right administration of his holy sacraments and a humble charity towards others (for the sake of Christ) are amongst the central concerns of orthodox Christianity and are to be embraced without equivocation even when met with little tangible outward success. In God’s providence, in the year 2011, St. Mark’s Church was poised for significant revitalization and it was to this work that Fr. & Mrs. Patterson believed themselves to be called.
Though the congregation was not great in number, they were a cheerful and optimistic group who were ready to take the risks necessary to step out in faith for the sake of the gospel. In large part their Christian maturity was the fruit of the long, stable and faithful ministry of their former Rector. In addition, a small group of men met regularly on Saturday mornings to pray for the needs of the parish and for the Rector. At this time we also began to give a double tithe of all parish income (10% to the diocese and another 10% for the work of missions/outreach both domestic and abroad). This sacrificial giving provided funds for many outreach opportunities as well as the support of Christian ministries both domestic and abroad.
Thinking strategically about what was needed to help the parish revive – we adopted the philosophy that we must not focus upon growth itself. A more biblically informed position is to focus upon health (healthy things grow). What would make for a healthy (and thus growing) parish? The new Rector believed that in addition to clear and faithful preaching, one thing that was needed was for the parish to begin to worship in a more traditionally Anglican fashion. In the first few weeks of their new Rector’s ministry, the parish experienced several changes, such as: the placement of a large cross, 2 candlesticks and a missal stand on the altar. A set of burses and veils (one for each liturgical color) were borrowed from All Saints Church in Wynnewood (gradually over the next several years the parish bought her own). Other vessels useful in the celebration of Holy Communion were purchased, such as a ciborium, a lavabo and a flagon. The liturgy was changed to being that of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and the celebrant began standing facing the altar (looking east) to celebrate Holy Communion (rather than at the north end as previously). The black gowns that had previously been worn were replaced with cassock and surplice. Over time 4 sets of chasubles and stoles were given to the parish, each in memory of loved ones.
The parish soon started to grow and a Sunday School and Adult Forum were added to our Sunday activities. A number of major physical plant projects were accomplished at this time, including: reroofing the church, significant alterations to the landscaping, repainting the entire exterior and large portions of the interior, new floors in the offices and some classrooms and the resurfacing of certain portions of the parking lot. The reason that these projects were pursued, in addition to the practical necessity of good stewardship, was to help the parish reach out to her neighbors by presenting a well-ordered and beautiful facility.
In the year 2013, the Rector began meeting with parishioners who helped him formulate a 5-year strategic plan. We focused on 5 key areas: Worship, Outreach, Education, Physical Plant and Finances. The process of writing the report helped the parish clearly articulate her values and goals in each of these key areas. Slowly but surely we are accomplishing many of the goals outlined in the plan.
This was a season in which many new ministries were begun. Some lasted and others did not. Amongst the more successful new ministries were a revitalized Children’s Sunday School, a bi-monthly Women’s Bible Study, a Flower Guild, an Altar Guild, the Fellows Program and our Classical Academy.
In 2013 the parish launched the St. Mark’s Fellows program, the purpose of which was twofold: to attract more young families to the parish and to help raise up and train the next generation of Anglican clergymen. The Program began with just 2 “fellows” – Brian Oldfield and Bart Gingerich, both of whom have now been ordained and are serving parishes elsewhere. Our largest class thus far has been 8 men who, along with their families and children, have helped us to attract and retain many other young families whose children are a great delight to us!
At about the same time that the Fellows program began, the Rector determined to build upon the good foundation of the parish’s Nursery School by means of establishing a classical elementary school. St. Mark’s Classical Academy began with 7 students in Kindergarten and Grade 1. This Fall (2019) our enrollment is 39 students (K-8th grade) and we employ 8 full-time faculty as well as numerous teachers for specials such as Latin, Art, Fencing, and Music. We see this as a vital part of our ministry and are eager to see how the Academy might continue to grow and impact the lives of many children and families.
In celebrating the 75th year of the ministry of St. Mark’s Church (in 2017), we have much for which we must be grateful to God. He has provided for us and protected us in the past and we should have every confidence that he will continue to do so into the future. We must remain steadfast in the Faith as we have received it and we must be determined to press on in every area of ministry to which we are called. As one body, as a family in accord with one another – united together through Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit – we must keep our eyes fixed upon the Lord. May God, in his grace, grant that 10 or 15 or 25 years from now, when (God willing) the people of this parish again gather to reflect upon their past and to prepare for the future, that they would see in us a good and godly witness of humble, sacrificial Christian charity – to the glory of God and to the good of his people.