St. Marks Episcopal Church
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History Of St. Marks

Remembering the Past
St. Mark’s was organized as a parish on February 29, 1848, and in 1857 the cornerstone of the first church building was laid. In 1871 the Diocese of Michigan divided and St. Mark’s became part of the new Diocese of Western Michigan. The original building was expanded twice to accommodate the growth of the congregation, but it was destroyed by fire in 1881.

The cornerstone of the current church building was laid in 1880. The bell in the tower was made by the Meneely Bell Foundry and is inscribed, “Given by the children of the Sunday School. 1888.” The pipe organ which is still used was installed in 1895.
In 1961, St. Mark’s opened the Nearly New Shop managed by St. Agatha’s and St. Mary’s Guilds. That same year, the children of St. Mark’s led the campaign to have the unstable platform in the bell tower rebuilt. Two years later the “education wing” was added to accommodate the growing number of children. In 1963 the first woman was elected to the vestry and women began serving as lay readers.

On June 8, 1973 a fire began in the sacristy and rapidly spread into the Chancel and Nave, burning through the roof at several points. Thankfully, most of the beautiful memorial stained glass windows survived the fire as did nearly all of the original butternut pews, altar and woodwork. The historic organ survived because it was being rebuilt and expanded in Toledo, Ohio at the time of the fire.

 

 

 

The $300,000 restoration after the fire included some major changes including making the altar freely movable in a large and flexible chancel. The historic organ was reinstalled with 29 ranks of pipes, and 1,534 individual pipes. On Easter Eve, 1974, the first service was held in the newly rebuilt nave and sanctuary, and the church was rededicated by Bishop Bennison on July 17, 1974.

The 1980’s saw extensive painting projects both inside and out, and the paving of the parking lot. In the 1990’s the exterior brick was restored with replacement and tuck-pointing, and the kitchen was renovated with new appliances and cupboards.

Embracing the Present
Since 2000 many interior projects have been completed. In the education/office wing, the rector’s office was moved and remodeled, as were the nursery and the Choir room. A room adjacent to the Parish Hall was developed to provide a space for adult formation and meetings, as well as a temporary chapel for Advent and Lent. The boiler was replaced and the heating system updated. In the Nave updates made the worship area more accessible and inviting for wheelchair users, and the historic stained glass windows were cleaned and repaired and fitted with new protective coverings. Portions of the Nave carpeting were replaced with resilient tile and a beautifully restored grand piano was added.
The most recent exterior project is St. Mark’s Memorial Garden. In the 1980s three stone and brick columbaria were constructed for interment of ashes directly into the soil and a number of trees were planted; however, the garden was not fully developed. In 2006 the “new” Memorial Garden was designed with brick and stone columns, attractive metal fencing, new plantings and paving in the form of a Celtic cross unifying the three existing columbaria. This conversion complements the historic look of the building, increases accessibility for services held in the garden area, and provides a beautiful and welcoming downtown garden and green space that has become another outreach to the entire community.

Envisioning the Future
St. Mark’s is blessed by its beautiful historic building; however, the stewardship of antiquity is always a challenge. There will always be new projects that need attention. St. Mark’s was aided in this endeavor by former parishioner, Adeline Wing Kershaw. Her family had farmed south of Coldwater since the late 1800s, and Adeline left the church the family farm property when she died. The church maintained this property for a number of years, but made the difficult decision in 2005 to sell the property. The proceeds of this sale were designated the Adeline Wing Kershaw Fund, which each year disperses grants for outreach and special projects, helping us to look optimistically toward future growth and improvement.

 

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