We officially began our journey in ministry together almost one year-ago. In fact, it was at last year’s Annual Meeting that our Senior Warden, Aaron Harvey, announced my call on behalf of the Vestry. I want to express my deepest gratitude for the call to Saint Mark’s as your Priest in Charge, and with you give thanks for the work and ministry that we have begun this first year.
Saint Mark’s, along with its proud history as a Black Episcopal Church founded in 1865, is also one of the most warm, inviting, and genuine of congregations that I have ever served. There is as well a depth of faithfulness and dedication here experienced from our Vestry to the member in the pew. One of the first challenges that we have sought to address is that of growing our church’s Sunday attendance and membership.
Church growth in the 21st century is indeed a unique challenge, yet one that we have given top priority. This year we launched a new and professionally managed website www.saintmarkschurch.com We have also established a Facebook Page and a very active presence on Facebook. Many of our visitors and newest members’ first encounter with us was through social media. However, the growth of this community of faith happens mostly through every member who invites someone to worship with us, welcomes them during the peace, and openly shares with others the Good News and good things that are happening here at Saint Mark’s.
Certainly, the physical beauty of Saint Mark’s is an influence upon folks choosing to worship with us. I am so thankful to our Junior Warden, Hillery Douglas, and the Vestry for seeing through the restoration of the ceiling in the nave of our church—it is beautiful! I am grateful to the Men’s Club for agreeing to financially support a professional landscape service that will begin this winter/spring. I am hopeful that our church as well, will become one that is sought out in the community and beyond for those seeking (meeting Episcopal requirements) to be married. This too, is an opportunity for evangelism as well as growth in revenue.
The celebration of the Holy Eucharist at 10 am on Sundays is at the very core of who we are as the Body of Christ at Saint Mark’s—all emanates from our worship and reception of the sacraments. I am grateful to all the ministries that make this weekly celebration possible, especially the Parish Administrator, Anita Jefferson, our Altar Guild, Acolytes, Lay Readers, and Music Ministry. Our Organist and Choir Director, Loretta Haskell, has in her first year at Saint Mark’s worked diligently to establish a program that incorporates hymns from both the 1982 Hymnal and Lift Every Voice and Sing. She has also put together a collection of standard music to be used with the Mass. At the end of 2017, we were blessed with the gift of Saint Stephen’s organ, which is a vast improvement over the one we had and has greatly enhanced our worship.
Central to my ministry within this parish is the pastoral care of our members; and, to be especially present in times of crisis. If you are in the hospital, a rehabilitation center, those members who are shut-ins, or in long-term care facilities, it is my practice to visit and bring communion on a regular basis. The regular pastoral care of our members is carried out too by many in our church who serve one another in this way, and for them I am so grateful. We strive here to practice a ministry of presence.
The great 20th century German theologian, seminary professor, and minister, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wrote of the Church: So, the first task given to those who belong to the church of God is not to be something for themselves, for example, by creating a religious organization or leading a pious life, but to be witnesses of Jesus Christ to the world. (Ethics 63-64) As a community of faith we must continue to seek out ways in which we bring Jesus Christ to the world. Presently, we are actively engaged in the Charleston Area Justice Ministry; we have begun a new ministry of serving meals at the Ronald McDonald House; we provide disposable baby diapers to families in need; and, support through donations of toiletries the ministry to victims of domestic violence at My Sister’s House. We must continually be asking ourselves, “How can we be the hands and heart of Jesus to the local Charleston community and the world?”
Beloved author and poet Maya Angelou once wrote, Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need for this bright morning dawning for you. History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage, need not be lived again. Lift up your eyes upon the day breaking for you. Give birth again to the dream… (On the Pulse of Morning) This is just the morning of a new day for the community of faith at Saint Mark’s! If you are a part of us we are so thankful, and if you are considering us as your spiritual home, know that we need and welcome you to this new day…
Philip C. Linder+
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