A Brief History of Saint Mark
Saint Mark Church stands on historic land. Our high ground was a lookout point for generations of hunters and warriors, adventurers and travelers. Old Georgetown Road evolved from one of the oldest Indian trails in Eastern America. A tumbledown building on the site in 1960 was a “station” on the Underground Railroad through which slaves from southern states escaped to freedom in the north.
Our church’s history is considerably more recent. Our founding pastor, The Rev. Dr. James G. Macdonell, began organizing efforts in July 1960. “Jim,” as he has always been known to Saint Markers, along with 3 Princeton University interns, began door to door canvassing to ascertain interest in starting a new church in the neighborhood. Some members of National Presbyterian Church already lived in the area and Elders of four other Presbyterian churches in the county formed an advisory committee.
The first worship service was held on September 11, 1960 in the Walter Johnson High School cafeteria. A year later, on September 24, 1961, Saint Mark Church was officially organized with 90 charter members at Ashburton School. After only four years of financial support from the Board of National Missions of the Presbyterian Church, Saint Mark was financially independent and looking forward to its mission of helping others.
Jim Macdonell was installed as pastor on December 2, 1962. The present property was purchased on April 15, 1964 and a ground breaking for the present sanctuary and a small education building took place on October 11, 1964. The current Christian Education and Fellowship Hall was dedicated in 2001.
The 1960’s were a period of considerable social and political upheaval. Jim Macdonell and other Saint Markers were outspoken opponents of the racism that marked that decade. Jim and 4 other area ministers were invited to Canton, Mississippi to provide spiritual leadership in a black voter registration drive. Later, Jim was one of 25 Washington area religious leaders who chartered a plane to answer the call of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to American clergy to participate in the Civil Rights March in Selma, Alabama.
From the beginning, Saint Mark became involved in community issues. One of the first was to join with several other churches to work to upgrade the homes and facilities of the black community of Scotland on Seven Locks Road, which, in 1962, was facing condemnation by the County for a variety of code violations. Many years later, when Jim retired in December 1997, the congregation of Saint Mark established a scholarship fund to provide a $500 tuition grant to a deserving Scotland community youth.
During the turbulent decades of 60’s and 70’s a Friday night Coffee House was established for neighborhood youth. Saint Mark was instrumental in starting and funding Karma House for young people who are recovering drug addicts. We also established Saint Mark House, a group home for the frail elderly. Saint Markers have been enthusiastic supporters of the Montgomery County Community Ministry and individual members have long served a wide variety of community organizations such as Meals on Wheels, Bethesda Help and the Interfaith Clothing Center. Our current budget supports 17 community organizations, including Action in Montgomery County (AIM).
Although local social concerns have always been important to Saint Mark, we have also been involved in global mission, sending work teams around the world and currently providing financial support to projects in Haiti, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mexico, Togo and Mozambique.
This is an exciting time in the life of our church. The Reverend Dr. Roy W. Howard was installed as the second permanent pastor of Saint Mark Presbyterian Church on April 1, 2001. We have adopted a set of core values and are seeking to become a community of faith that balances the quest for a deeper spiritual life with the desire to help others in need.
We seek to be an open and inclusive community of Christian faith pursuing the love of God and neighbor, while honoring the gifts of all people. We welcome persons of every race and class, ability or sexual orientation, who seek to grow more deeply in their relationship with God and serve others in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Saint Mark belongs to the Presbyterian Church USA, yet we are ecumenical in spirit and share a common hope for mission and worship with all Christians. Our desire is to be a grace-filled community of Christ where spiritual growth and service come together in creative balance. We believe that you will find a home for your heart, friends for the journey, food for your mind and a place to serve others.
On World Wide Communion Sunday (the first Sunday in October) we display the flags of the countries of origin of members born outside of the United States. In recent years, the flags of Argentina, Australia, Austria, Cameroon, Canada, El Salvador, France, Ghana, Ireland. India, Madagascar, Togo, and The United Kingdom have been displayed. This is only a small sign that we seek to welcome persons from all over the world.
No matter who you are, you will receive a warm welcome at Saint Mark Presbyterian Church. We invite you to join us in the adventure of faithful living.