Celebrating St. Mark’s 75th Anniversary
A Reading from the Book of Genesis (28:10-17)
Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh
cry out for the living God.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young— a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
8 Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob.
9 Look on our shield, O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.
10 Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.
12 Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.
A Reading from the First Letter of Peter (2:1-5, 9-10)
Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark (11:15-18)
(Jesus) entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
In the early and mid-1930s, Dayton, along with the rest of the country, struggled through the Great Depression. Tragically, some people took advantage of those whose lives had already been beaten down by hunger, poverty and a lack of jobs. But other people, who found themselves blessed with all the resources that they needed, searched for ways that they could better serve those who were not as fortunate as they were, along with all the other members of their community. One of them was a prominent Dayton businessman by the name of Joseph Harries.
Joseph Harries lived in a large, beautiful home just east of the Dayton city limits, in what was then Mad River Township. The Harries’ house was the most prominent structure in the community of mostly smaller, most modest homes. It stood near one of the train stations on the Dayton-to-Springfield interurban railway: a station that became known simply as the Harries Station. Soon the entire community came to be identified by that name.
Joseph Harries took seriously his role as a community leader. Among his various contributions to his neighbors, he decided that his part of town needed a community chapel. It would be a place where all the people of the area could gather for a variety of purposes, including of course worship services. It would not be limited just to a single denomination but would serve as a house of prayer for all the people.
When Mr. Harries died, his sisters, Elizabeth and Imogene, donated the Harries Chapel, as it was known, to Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Dayton. Their rector agreed to provide one of the church’s curates to conduct services there, using The Book of Common Prayer. But the chapel would remain a place for the entire community to gather and would continue to serve as a place of prayer where all were welcome.
On September 25, 1938, Bishop Henry Wise Hobson rededicated the Harries Chapel and gave it the name of St. Mark’s Mission. For 75 years, the community that has gathered there – first at 4905 Springfield Street and then at 456 Woodman Drive – has continued living in the vision with which the chapel began: using it as a gathering place for the surrounding community and as a house of prayer that welcomes all people.
By 1954, the Mission has grown sufficiently that it was ready to take on a life of its own and was admitted as a separate parish in the Diocese of Southern Ohio. With its continued growth and with the continued growth of the area between Dayton and what is now Wright Patterson Air Force Base, the church members decided that the time had come for them to move out into what was then a growing suburban area and to construct a much larger building to serve their present and future needs. And so, in 1961, St. Mark’s Church moved to this location.
The address had changed, but the vision of the church’s mission remained the same. In keeping with that vision, the first building constructed at this new site was not one that was designed for the use of the parishioners alone, but the Community Building that you see over there. St. Mark’s would continue to be both a place from which its members would go out to serve the wider community in God’s name and a place where the surrounding community would be welcome to gather. Among those making the move to the new location was the AA Saturday Night group which had met at St. Mark’s since the spring of 1948 and which, this past spring, celebrated 65 years of enabling thousands of people to change their lives with the help of one another and the strength of a Higher Power.
Over the decades, other community groups have made our Community Building theirs as well. When the use of addictive drugs burgeoned in the 1970s, another 12-Step group, “Narcotics Anonymous” or “New Alive” began gathering here; it currently brings together as many as 75 people for its weekly meeting in our Parish Hall Long before our nation recognized the health dangers of the obesity epidemic, Overeaters Anonymous established its area headquarters here. And many other groups, each seeking to better the human condition, found at St. Mark’s a welcoming home.
During the week, as groups from the surrounding community were gathering in St. Mark’s Community Building, the members of the church were headed in the opposite direction. They continued their tradition of going out into and serving the needs of the surrounding community. The ministries have varied over the decades, but the purpose for which our parishioners have worked has remained the same: to transform the world around us, little by little, so that it might reflect more closely Jesus’ description of the kingdom of God.
Over the past two months, we have been highlighting the many ways that the people of St. Mark’s are currently serving the community around us. The current issue of our diocesan newspaper, Interchange, includes an article about that work in its Convention issue: one focusing on the church’s role in “Service to Others” in God’s name. That article not only celebrates the wonderful and vibrant life of this parish, but also offers other churches a vision of ways that they, too, can help fulfill our common mission.
Recently, a member of another Episcopal church in our area spoke with me about St. Mark’s. She has been a visitor here several times over the years. She began by noting that she loves her own church where she has been a member for several decades. “But,” she added, “there is something special about St. Mark’s. I can feel it every time I am there. I always feel welcomed, and there is a real bond among the people. So many of them work in so many ways in and around the church. And the amount of service to the wider community is simply amazing.” Then she added, “I mean this from the bottom of my heart: St. Mark’s serves as a positive example to the rest of us of what a church should be.” Knowing the woman who made this observation and the many ways that she herself has served the church and the community, I take her comment as the highest of compliments to the people of St. Mark’s.
Today as we mark our 75th anniversary, we celebrate in our liturgy and in our fellowship together “The Community in St. Mark’s Church and St. Mark’s Church in the Community.” In keeping with the clear direction of our Vestry, we are looking, on this occasion, not just to the past but especially to the present and to the future. We give thanks to God for all that God has accomplished and continues to accomplish through this church – wherever it may be found on any given day of the week. And we ask that our proclamation of the Good News of God in Christ, both by our words and especially by our acts of service to the community around us, might lead others to exclaim, along with our spiritual ancestor Jacob (Genesis 28:16), “Surely the Lord is in this place!”