A Message From
The Very Rev. Dr. Michael Shaffer
In the Episcopal Church, we dream and work to foster God’s vision of Beloved Community where all people may experience dignity and abundant life and see themselves and others as beloved children of God. Beloved Community stands on the foundation of recognizing that my fundamental identity is God’s beloved child. And your fundamental identity is God’s beloved child. And each person we encounter in our lives is God’s beloved child. Such innate belovedness compels us to treat every single person on this planet with respect and dignity and to work for justice and peace and end our participation, knowingly or unknowingly, in assumptions or systems which trample on the beloved identity of our neighbors.
Our historic church was first organized as an independent parish in 1865 by a group of devout free black Episcopalians who found themselves without a place to worship at the end of the Civil War. The temple form architectural design of our church may have been one of the last of that style built in United States and is the only church in the city of Charleston built of wood. Following completion of construction, the church was opened, dedicated and consecrated on November 7, 1878. St. Mark’s Episcopal Church is included in the Charleston Historic District which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
As the church has evolved over the years, so has the neighborhood in which it stands. Radcliffeborough is a small but vibrant neighborhood in Charleston’s historic district, with a diverse mix of residents. Due to its proximity to the Medical University of South Carolina and College of Charleston, many of the residents of Radcliffboro are professionals and students. We at St. Mark’s embrace this diversity, as we strive for unity, not uniformity.
All this is to say that we are a community of believers who come to worship, to pray, to love and to be loved, as work to ease the burdens we share, living in the twenty-first century.
We at St. Mark’s have a very unique history and in this way, are likely different than any church you have ever visited. We continue to honor our historic African American roots while at the same time turning our attention to the movement of the Holy Spirit in the Radcliﬀeboro neighborhood of Charleston. We, like everyone who follows in the Way of Jesus, are always in the process of formation and transformation, seeking to be Beloved Community that actually looks like the Beloved Community envisioned by our creator. We are striving to become a house of worship for all people, Black, White, Asian, people of all color, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual. We not only welcome but embrace a diverse community of people with different ethnic, racial, sexual orientation and social backgrounds and different ways of being in ourselves and in the world. Yet, our focus is to live into right relationship with each other and all creation as followers of Jesus.
Would you join us?
Ubuntu is an ancient African concept meaning “I am because you are.” It embraces the idea that humans cannot exist in isolation. We depend on connection, community, and caring. Simply put, we cannot be without each other. This philosophy requires a conscious shift in how we think about ourselves and others, especially at a time when our nation is more divided than ever. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu explained, “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” Tutu understood that the potential of human beings working collectively to achieve goals is infinitely greater than the potential of any individual.
If reading this or your experience with us this morning has sparked an interest in your heart to join us in this journey, I hope you will contact me personally or speak with others at St. Mark’s about becoming more involved in our community. I hope that you will bring your gifts and passions, along with your doubts and your curiosity, but most of all, your hearts and minds. There is a place for everyone in God’s church, and we may be the place where you can flourish, just as you are.
Michael Shaffer +
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
Whether you are visiting Charleston for the first time, have recently moved here, have visited our church before or are visiting for the first time, welcome to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.
Whoever you are and wherever you are in your life journey, we’d love to get to know you better and invite you to join our community’s efforts in making the world a better place to live.
There are no litmus tests. We don’t want to change you. We want to support you as you grow into the person you were born to be. We don’t have all the answers, but as a community, perhaps we can ask the questions together.