Our History in Detail
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
St. Mark Lutheran Church is the result of the merger of St. Mark Lutheran Church, located in Clifton Heights, and Temple Lutheran Church, located in Philadelphia. Here’s how it all began:
TEMPLE LUTHERAN CHURCH
Temple Lutheran Church began as Mission Temple Lutheran on July 31, 1901. The first service was held at 5129 Market Street, the home of Mr. George Grammar. It was the result of a little prayer meeting conducted by Rev. S. D. Daugherty, Missionary Superintendent. A lot was purchased on February 4, 1902 at 52nd and Race Streets. The congregation was organized on February 16, 1902 and the first congregational meeting was held in Mr. Grammer’s home. The first supply pastor was Rev. H. H. Weber. Fund raising was immediately begun. Temple Lutheran Chapel was built in the spring of 1902, opened for services on June 15, 1902 and dedicated one week later.
At the end of 1902, Temple had 100 members. By May of 1903, that number had doubled. In August of 1903, groundbreaking ceremonies for a permanent church building were held and in November of that year the cornerstone was laid. The new church was at the same location as the chapel - 52nd and Race Streets in West Philadelphia.
In 1920, Mr. Ben T. Welch contributed 32 acres of farmland, located along Baltimore Pike in Delaware County, to the church.
Rev. August Pohlman was the first pastor of Temple. He retired in September 1934, after 32 years. Rev. William Boomhower then served from February 1935 until May 1941. Rev. Hugh Yost then served from September 1941 through the end of 1956. On January 1, 1957, Pastor Juhan Suurkivi became Temple’s pastor.
ST. MARK LUTHERAN CHURCH
St. Mark started as a Sunday School which first met in the home of Robert and Ruth Wilson and then the home of Harry and Emily Johnson in 1950. At that time, both lived on Whitehall Drive in Westbrook Park. The group moved to the old Clifton Heights Fire House. By June 1950, the Sunday School had been organized under the direction of Rev. Oswald, a seminarian; there were nine members.
By November 1950, St. Mark was a mission congregation with its first supply pastor, Rev. Ammon. The congregation was formally organized in April 1951 under Rev. Gruver and Mr. Leroy Moussly. It had grown to 60 members. A house was purchased at 436 N. Oak Avenue in April 1953 and services were held there. Rev. Robert Gearhart served as supply pastor from September to November 1953. A parsonage was purchased in December of 1951 at 413 Aldan Avenue, Aldan.
Rev. Roy Meck was the next pastor; he served from December 1953 until September 1958. An additional property was purchased on December 7, 1955. By January of 1956, the membership had grown to 213. The groundbreaking ceremony for the new building was in the Fall of 1956 and the church was dedicated on April 7, 1957. The building was a brick chapel with seating for 185. The membership had grown to 227.
In 1958, the Synod suggested to Temple that they consider merging with a suburban congregation; they had been experiencing a loss in membership for a number of years. At the same time, St. Mark needed a new pastor. The respective councils discussed the merger and the two congregations merged on January 1, 1959.
The new church, St. Mark Temple Evangelical Lutheran Church was born with a baptized membership of almost 700.
THE FIRST 25 YEARS OF LIFE TOGETHER - 1959-1984
Another building fund drive was begun and the cornerstone for the new building was laid on April 23, 1961. Dedication Sunday was on September 10, 1961.
The farm, which had been a gift to Temple, became the property of the merged church. The farm was used for picnics, baseball games, strawberry festivals, meetings and Easter Sunrise services. The property was taken/purchased by the water company in 1968 under eminent domain.
Pastor Suurkivi left in 1970 and was followed by Rev. William Wegener who served from September 1970 until 1978. Pastor Dan Biles came to St. Mark in 1978.
In 1978, under the leadership of member Chris (Rankin) Harms, a nursery school was begun. Chris had determined that there was a need by knocking on many doors in the community. Morning classes opened in September 1979.
During this time, a women’s group was formed, St. Mark began connecting with the community and the new LBW hymnal was purchased.
THE NEXT 5 YEARS - 1985 TO 1989
Pastor Dan Biles served until December 31, 1985. The Rev. Patricia Johnson was installed in 1986 and served until 1988. The Rev. James Shelton served as Vice Pastor during this time. From October 1989 to May 1991, Rev. Fred Watson served both First Lutheran, Collingdale and St. Mark Temple. In 1988, the Lutheran Church in America merged with the American Lutheran Church and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
THE NEXT FIVE YEARS - 1990 TO 1995
Rev. Paul Townsend was called in August 1992 and served until 1995.
In March 1995, a Call Committee was formed to develop a call for St. Mark’s next pastor. As a result of this group’s work, St. Mark called Christopher J. Franz as a contract pastor. In December 1995, Pastor Franz was ordained at St. Mark and began a call which has lasted until December 2011.
THE NEXT SIXTEEN YEARS - 1996 TO 2011
In 1996, there was a great deal of renewed activity at St. Mark as Pastor Chris began to lead us. The Outreach Group was formed. This ministry focused on feeding the homeless, holding blood drives and tutoring at Westbrook Park School. While this group no longer exists, we now have two ministries (weekly and monthly) which feed the homeless. During this year, plans were being made to begin a children’s clothing ministry. This ministry evolved to our present Thrift Shop which houses KidsCloset, Annie’s Attic and Ladies’ Boutique.
During the period May 1998 to December 1999, the office was moved from the back of the Narthex to its present location; this permitted the expansion of the Narthex. In December 1999, our first stained glass windows, behind our altar, were installed.
In 2000, our handicapped ramp and railings were installed and many of our doors were replaced with metal and stained glass doors made by Baut Studios. New office furniture was purchased and a variety of improvements were made. Our Nursery School began its Mom’s Morning Out program.
In 2001, Miss Margie’s Pee Wee Gym began using St. Mark’s space, contributing to our income and ministry for children as well as providing a gym program for our nursery school. Compassionate Friends’ Delaware County chapter became associated with St. Mark. Our Coffee Stop, in the Narthex, was created. Three new stained glass windows were added to our sanctuary.
In 2001, St. Mark was blessed to have Cheryl Hensil join us as our intern. We also hosted our first Alpha program. Our Christian Education wing was completely renovated to reveal the original cathedral ceiling and to generally add more light and better framing for the original St. Mark altar cross. Our butterfly garden was planned by Compassionate Friends. During this year, plans were made for our Kindergarten program.
In 2003, Cheryl Hensil became St. Mark’s Vicar as she continued her progress toward becoming an ordained Pastor. Our evening contemporary Worship and Praise service was begun. Our newly created scattering garden received national press and our Tree of Life provided a way to remember loved ones. Our Kindergarten class, with Sandi George as its teacher, became a reality. At the end of the year, our Social Hall floor was replaced with 11,000 new tiles. At the end of 2003, Resurrection Lutheran Church in Havertown closed; some of its members joined St. Mark. As a result of the closing, we received Resurrection’s baptismal font; many of the children of families newly joining St. Mark were baptized at that font.
In 2004, there were many changes to our nursery school which became St. Mark’s Christian School with Kathy Cosentino as Director. Despite losing many students when our former staff left, we quickly had an enrollment of 71 by September and began full academic day programs for 3's and 4's. Our outreach programs were organized under the Faith in Action (later named Sharing God’s Love) umbrella. We converted our rarely used stage to new space for our Thrift Shop. We also began our campaign to raise funds for a new roof for the church.
In August 2005, Cheryl Hensil was ordained, at St. Mark, and was called to serve as Pastor at Holy Spirit Lutheran Church in Secane. Since then, the two churches have enjoyed many times of worship and fun together. We acquired our new pipe organ which we received as a gift from the Nativity Lutheran Church Congregation in Chester, PA following their closing in June 2005. During the year, major renovations were made to our chancel to accommodate the pipe organ and provide better viewing of our PowerPoint presentations. We acquired the property (and old house) next door; the house was promptly torn down. We also introduced our newly-created web site which helps us Make Christ Known to all who view it. Many of our visitors “find” us through our web site. At the end of the year, we celebrated our tenth year of partnership with Pastor Chris and the tenth anniversary of his ordination. Bishop Almquist led our anniversary service and presented Pastor Chris with a plaque for his office.
In 2006, we acquired the house adjacent to our property, 406 N. Oak Avenue, and renovated it for members Kathy and Fran Cosentino who rent it from us. We installed new glass sanctuary doors which help beautify both our Sanctuary and narthex. Our roof was replaced; during the process significant damage was discovered and the work was not done a minute too soon.
In 2007, we installed a new, brightly lit message sign on the Crestwood Avenue side of our church, contributions in memory of Nicky Lentz helped to fund this new addition. For the first time, we hired a non-member as our Nursery Attendant for both Sunday services.
In 2008, our office, Thrift Shop and School doors were replaced with doors to match our other doors. We began raising funds so that our downstairs and upstairs rest rooms could be renovated and handicapped facilities could be added upstairs. At Christmastime, we had our first live Nativity which attracted many visitors. A Karate program, headed by Sensei Cindylou Shaffer, was begun at St. Mark.
In the spring of 2009, the YMCA told us that they would no longer be renting our space for their summer camp. We immediately put a plan into action to develop our own Summer Camp which has become increasingly successful. After many years of devoted service to St. Mark, Elaine and Bob Kerns retired as our Sextons; we hired an outside cleaning service to provide cleaning services. During this year, our downstairs restrooms were renovated. We produced our first St. Mark cookbook which became a primary fund raiser for our rest room renovations project.
In 2010, a fountain was installed in the Scattering Garden in memory of Jack Ippoliti. Anne Smith’s family purchased a beautiful angel to be placed in our Scattering Garden as a memorial to her. While we had held several carnivals in the past few years, we held our first Kiddie Karnival during this year; it was a smashing success. In June, First Lutheran of Collingdale, which had closed after Easter, gave us their beautiful white marble font. Since we could not place it in the sanctuary to be used for baptisms, we promised to place it in the Narthex where it would stand, alone, in a very visible place. At the end of the year, we celebrated the 15th anniversary of Pastor Chris's ordination.
In 2011, the renovations to our restrooms were completed. As a result, we have beautiful new facilities and a handicapped stall in both the women’s and men’s rooms. Our Christian School was voted “Best in Delco” in the Daily Times contest. As we are preparing this brief history, full enrollment for the 2011-2012 year is anticipated. We are very blessed to have wonderful teachers and leaders at St. Mark’s Christian School/Summer Camp. In late summer, we began a program to “take prayer to the streets”. Pastor Chris and one other person set up a table at Cocco’s on Oak Avenue and pray for individuals who stop and request prayers that are prayed on Sunday.
A FEW STATISTICS
Baptized membership - 1995. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 200
Baptized membership - 2010. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 395
Average weekly attendance - 1995. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70
Average weekly attendance - 2010. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154
Everyone was invited to share their “St. Mark Memories”. Here are those we received:
Of course I have many memories of my 16+ years at St. Mark, first as a person you contracted with to provide temporary pastoral care and then called to be your pastor. It has been wonderful to share the joys and challenges of life with you, the people of St. Mark, for you are the church! I have appreciated that great diversity of people that come together to both gather around Word and Sacrament and to help us fulfill our mission to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ through Word and action. Over the years, many new members have joined, adding to the Body of Christ at St. Mark. And, of course, we have lost some members, primarily as a result of deaths or moves. I often worried when long-time, dedicated members moved too far away to continue to be an active part of our church, knowing they and their gifts for ministry would be greatly missed. Thanks be to God, we have always received new members willing to use their God given gifts in support of our mission. Clearly, we have accomplished much in our partnership in ministry. I thank you for your continued support and prayers. Wherever our futures may lead us, we all know that God will be there too!
Christopher J. Franz
After an intensive review of the drawings for the new church was completed, Pastor Suurkivi, who did not want a large building committee, appointed Gene Osborne and me to direct the project. During the early construction phase, an older member approached Pastor Suurkivi, commenting that Gene and I were possibly not old enough for the job. As she said, we “were only 33 years old.” Pastor replied “Jesus was only 33 years old.” Gene and I worked together through the many issues that arose and, with the Lord’s help, the church was built.
Former Temple and St. Mark Temple Council Member
St. Mark had purchased the corner property at Oak and Crestwood Avenues. The church council was having their meeting in the house on that property. The meeting evolved into “How do we use this house for a chapel (a place to worship until we could build our church). Pastor Meck (a good man with hammer and saw) and Mr. Mosley (a private contractor) showed us what could be done. Tools appeared and we were there until wee hours in the morning removing walls, doors, etc. The start of our very first “place of worship”. I believe one of the very early confirmation pictures was taken in this chapel. That was a special time in St. Mark’s history.
Former church council member, Treasurer and
Adult Sunday School teacher
I have many fond memories of St Mark over the years. The most interesting memory goes back to when the new building was dedicated in 1961. Reverend Juhan Suurkivi conducted the service. Many were in attendance for this most important milestone for St. Mark. Part of the service included placing the corner stone in place on the corner of the new building. This was accomplished and the service went on as scheduled. After the service, it was noticed that the cornerstone was placed UPSIDE DOWN in the building. How was this possible? The year 1961 can be read RIGHT SIDE UP OR UPSIDE DOWN. Both number "1"'s were upside down. The Pastor was made aware of the error and it was placed in the corner of the new building correctly. How many of the older members at St Mark remember this????
J. Kenneth Stanz, Jr.
Original member of Temple Lutheran Church,
Former church council member; sang in the church choir
Despite having been a member of St. Mark for less than ten years, I do have a number of memories that have accumulated since I first walked in the door in April 2003. One of my strongest memories involves the second proposal in approximately a year’s time for the congregation to buy the property at 406 Oak Avenue. We had previously approved the purchase of the old house that sat between the church building and 406 and, of course, incurred substantial debt at that time. Now, we were being asked to incur yet more debt. As I listened to various people talking about the second proposal, I was hearing many, many more negatives than positives and most people were saying “this will never happen”. Since I am a strong believer that positive presentations most often win over the nay-sayers, it was very interesting to me to see that the final vote was a positive one and I believe that it was because Pastor Chris made such an effective presentation. As we look back on that vote, I hope that we all realize how much sense it made. Another very strong memory for me is the joy of having met, worked with and been blessed by the presence of Cheryl Hensil in the several years she was at St. Mark. I’ve always felt that God guided me to St. Mark, when I knew that my beloved Resurrection was dying, because my Lord knew that I would be greatly blessed in this place. The opportunity to know and share worship with both Pastor Chris and Pastor Cheryl and all of St. Mark’s members has, indeed, brought many blessings to my life. I am counting on many more in the years ahead.
Marjorie A. Miller
I remember that we watched the new building being constructed, right from our house. Our son, Billy, who was only three years old, was quite intrigued with the process. Every day that the weather was good, I brought him over to “supervise”. The workmen were so nice to him and made him feel that he was important to the process.
I have so many memories that it is hard to talk about one or two. I’ve been at St. Mark since 1952 and so I’ve been here almost from the beginning. I taught Sunday School and brought my grandchildren here. One of my fondest memories is of Nicky Lentz who would pick me up and bring me to events. She was so very special!!
I am one of the remaining charter members of St. Mark. Through the years, I have collected many memories. One is of the farm where Joan and Dick Schell lived as caretakers. We always had so much fun there - we had picnics, played baseball games and had great support from our entire group. Another memory is of our annual Christmas Bazaar, which my first wife, Nicky, was very involved in. The women worked all year to make crafts and there was always a great deal of baking going on right before the event. I was always Santa. This was during the time that we had a stage in the Social Hall where we often put on shows.
In addition to the crafts made and sold by the women of St. Mark, we had outside vendors. I was a member of Council and served on the Property Committee and New Church Committee. I remember helping to pick out the bricks to be used when the church was built. I have been a Lutheran all my life; I was baptized at Old Zion Lutheran Church on Broad Street in the Spring Garden area of Philadelphia (that church is still in existence today). The “funny” memory that I was asked for involves my having always been a “saver”. I had accumulated quite a stock pile of “stuff” at St. Mark. One day, Pastor Chris went through and said that we had “too much stuff” and all of my “treasures” were tossed. I could still cry. Lastly, I remember when St. Mark honored its Charter Members. A picture of the group is shown below.
Charter Member and Current Member
LAST, AND SURELY NOT LEAST,
A FEW WORDS ABOUT ST. MARK’S PEOPLE
As one reads through annual reports, other reports and past newsletters, one is struck by the many accomplishments of the past and current years and by the great variety of names of people who have, and do, contribute to the success of St. Mark and its many ways of Making Christ Known Through Word and Action.
Many of our accomplishments listed in this History involve what appear to be “things” - property acquisitions, building construction, major renovations, etc. However, many of them also involve significant ministries - feeding the homeless, teaching children about God and Jesus, providing food for members who are ill or otherwise in need, prayer ministry, Bible Study, etc. Behind every one of these “accomplishments” are the people who dreamed, inspired others, invited friends to worship, welcomed visitors to worship, raised funds, attended meetings and walked the talk.
Who are they? What are their names? (You may wonder why this History does not include a list of the “key people” at St. Mark.) “They” are all of us - all of us who did, do and will work together to make the St. Mark “dream” a ”reality”. Look in the mirror and you will see the face of “one of them”. Look at your Social Security card and you will see the name of “one of them”. Turn to the person sitting next to you in church on Sunday and you can greet “one of them”. Together, we are all the “key people” at St. Mark.
Together, we made St. Mark what it was yesterday and what it is today. Together, we will make St. Mark what it will be tomorrow. Together, we do and will feed the homeless and teach the children and lead the youth. Together, we do and will gather to participate in and lead worship, raise funds for special ministries and work in our beautiful garden. Together, we do and will gather for prayer at St. Mark and on the street, meet for Bible study and discussion that opens our hearts and minds and come to meetings to make plans for more ministries that will help make Christ known. Together, we do and will continue to make prayer shawls to comfort the ill and grieving, make meals for individuals who need them and serve as tellers on Sunday morning.
Together, we do and will continue to accomplish what no one of us could ever do alone but what we CAN and WILL do as the community of ST. MARK. Praise God for lasting love, eternal presence and guidance!