Saint Mark's Lutheran Church was organized in October of 1952, by 72 charter members. At the time of organization the congregation was meeting in the Cold Springs White Chapel. White Chapel had a history of its own. Begun in 1861 on land donated by George White, it was built at a cost of $1400 on the corner of Doyle and Cold Springs Roads. Mr. White had come from Vermont to settle in the area in 1811. In those early days the building was heated by two wood burning stoves in the rear with pipes running the length of the church. There were sheds and hitching posts located outside for horses. In the 1920's a kitchen was added to the building. The original pews were used all of the time Saint Mark's used the White Chapel. The chapel was nondenominational and hosted weekly Sunday afternoon services usually supplied by Methodist ministers from Liverpool and Baldwinsville or students from Syracuse University. It served as the center of activity for the community around the chapel, and was even used by the school when a larger building was needed for such things as Christmas exercises.
On September 3, 1961, the 100th Anniversary of White Chapel was celebrated with a special program. A feature of the event was horse and buggy rides furnished by Mr. Stanley Abbott. In 1951, the Board of American Missions of the United Lutheran Church in America asked to lease the church building from the last elected trustees, Stanley Abbott, Mrs. Clarence See, Sr. and Mrs. Richard Michels. The Board of American Missions with much work done by the Reverend John Dudde, Pastor of Saint Paul's Lutheran Church in Liverpool, was given a 10 year lease. Later Saint Mark's received a 99 year lease with no rental payment for use of the chapel.
The first service of Saint Mark's was held at White Chapel on September 9, 1951, with an attendance of about 75. The Reverend John Roberts came as the mission developer with his wife, Leith and family. Robert Melvin was the first Sunday School Superintendent. (At one time Sunday School was held in the Turner home.) Other early leaders in the Sunday School were Eleanor Orth and Eleanor Eklund.
There was much work done on the Chapel. The men of the church and neighborhood worked evenings and Saturdays making needed repairs to the roof, refurbished the interior, installed a new ceiling and lights, asphalt tiled the floor and painted the seats. (To avoid the new paint the members were required sit on one side of the church one Sunday and on the other side the next.) The property was landscaped by 4H Clubs. The members took turns cleaning the church on Saturdays.
Saint Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church was formally organized in October 1952 with 72 charter members. John Roberts was Pastor. Ruth Coon was Organist and Choir Director. (At that time there were as many as 20 choir members.)
In 1952, the new congregation was given a bell by Mrs. Harry Street and her children in memory of her husband and their father. A life size portrait of Christ was painted by Bernice Scherfling, Loren Michels and Robert Melvin and framed by Walter Dean. It hung behind the altar. (When the move was made to the new location, there was no wall space for the picture so it was given to the Methodist Church in Conquest to use. Later it was moved to Spring Lake.)
After Pastor Roberts left in 1953, The Reverend Wallace Kemp served for 2 years. He was followed by Reverend Robert Doxey who came from seminary to Saint Mark's in 1957. During that year he married Lucille. During the time both Pastors Kemp and Doxey served Saint Mark's, they shared their time with the mission church in Galeville.
More changes to White Chapel:
An educational wing was added in 1959. The women of the church made curtains.
A new heating system and new windows were installed.
Norma Hook painted stained glass scenes on the windows, each telling a separate story in the life of Christ. (This was done in memory of her father, Otto Kinning.)
Celebration of the 100th Anniversary of White Chapel.
Arrival of the Reverend James Blair with wife Barbara and family as the first full time pastor. Purchase of a parsonage on Gettman Drive.
Pastor Blair secured a handsome oak altar which became available due to the consolidation of 2 Syracuse churches.
This and other memorials and gifts greatly improved the appearance of the church. 1962, Ann Kohler followed Ruth Coon's as organist.
In January 1965, the congregation of Saint Mark's made the commitment to build a new church at its present site. The groundbreaking ceremony for the first of the 3 planned units was held on October 31, 1965. A violent storm tore down the awning which had been put up for the service. This interrupted the service and everyone headed back to White Chapel.
The members cooperated in all of the projects and work involved in making the undertaking of the building a success. Norman Wicks built the furniture with Norman Berg and Norma Hook assisting. The results were an attractive pulpit, altar and baptismal font.
The new building was to be ready for Easter of 1966, but delays in obtaining the laminated beams for the roof and other problems pushed the date later and later. Finally on the evening of June 11, all able bodied members were waxing floors, pushing dust cloths, etc., etc, working to be ready for the morning service. The church was filled to capacity for the first service, June 12, 1966.
During this time, Lutheran Church Women was a very active organization. The women did a lot of work for the church, especially in equipping the kitchen table service, cabinets and cleaning items. Later storage cabinets were built in the kitchen with the help of Ken and Gloria Gable who also exchanged the refrigerator in the kitchen for a larger one. The Gables also installed cabinets in the hall between the then 2 buildings.
On November 11, 1967, Saint Mark's saw the departure of Pastor Blair. Reverend George Mayer and wife Sandy arrived in 1968. Pastor George Mayer was installed on August 1, 1968, by the Reverend Dr. Walter Kopp, Dean of the Central District of the Upper New York Synod, Lutheran Church in America. Pastor Mayer served until December 1970, when he became the director of the Ecumenical Camp Association and moved to Vanderkamp.
The Reverend Nelson Gaetz was called as pastor, March 28, 1971, and was installed September 12, 1971, by Dr. Walter Kopp, with the Reverend Dr. Ralph W. Loew preaching. He moved to Baldwinsville with his wife, Peggy.
In 1971, Thursday evening services were begun for the summer season. (Saint Mark's was the first congregation in the area to try this. It was very successful. The fall brought the beginning of two Sunday services.)
The constitution of the congregation was amended in January 1972 to give the vote to all confirmed members age 16 and up. At this same time the annual meeting date was changed from January to November.
During this time, the congregation reached out to the community, offering the use of the building to such groups as: The Welcome Wagon, Counseling Service, Square Dance Group, Camping Group, 4H and the sponsorship of a Girl Scout Troop and continued sponsorship of a Boy Scout Troop.
A Nursery School was organized in 1972 with Nancy Mykel as Director.
Due to continued growth several events of note took place in 1973:
Support staff to the pastor:
James Karens, a summer intern from Gettysburg Seminary. (Nancy Anderson Milleville was an intern at later date. She's now a pastor in Snyder, New York.) Jim Anslow, attended the first class of dean training.
Construction of the parish hall wing – dedicated October 28, 1973 by the Reverend James Davis, Administrative Assistant to the Bishop of Upper New York Synod, Lutheran Church in America.
Installation of red wall-to-wall carpet in the sanctuary.
Pastor Gaetz was elected Dean of the Central District of the Upper New York Synod of the Lutheran Church in America.
The decision was made to replace the chairs in the sanctuary with pews. The dedication of the pews took place November 2, 1975.
Nancy Shuler became Director of the Nursery School and Director of Christian Education.
A need for more space in 1977, resulted in further addition to the parish hall. This addition was under construction at the time of the 25th Anniversary celebration which was chaired by Norma Hook.
In 1979, Pastor Gaetz accepted a call to Atonement Lutheran Church in Syracuse. James Anslow, Deacon, and Pastor Sylvester Bader provided interim leadership during the search for a new pastor. The Reverend David Roppel, wife, Carol and children, Jon and Beka arrived in 1980. On October 27, 1980, the Reverend David Roppel was installed as pastor of Saint Mark's.
In early 1981, Saint Mark's moved from mission status to a self-supporting congregation. In 1982, the congregation:
Celebrated its 30th Anniversary with a special service and buffet luncheon.
Sold the Gettman Drive Parsonage.
Began the Word and Witness Program featuring Bible study and opportunities to share faith with others.
As the congregation moved toward the mid to late 1980's, Saint Mark's:
Completed a pictorial directory
Moved to a new worship schedule with Sunday School between the worship services;
Developed a partnership with Grace Episcopal Church including joint Easter Vigil and Thanksgiving services;
Increased giving to the World Hunger Program and involvement in Crop Walks; (Pastor Roppel served on the Synod World Hunger Committee and had the opportunity to be part of a Lutheran World Relief study trip to West Africa.)
Continued the use of deacons with Judy Earle and Dale Aske becoming deacons;
Began the annual recognition of distinguished servants with Ed Scherfling being the first recipient (Walter Wolfe and James Anslow were honored posthumously.)
Put on a new roof
Had new draperies sewn by Bernice Scherfling;
Obtained new altar kneeling cushions which were make by Kathryn Haffner and donated by Norma Hook in memory of her mother, Anna S. Kinning;
Received a new piano given by Louis Baker, Nancy Kellar's father, as a memorial gift for his wife, Dorothy Baker.
The 1990's were years of growth in both numbers and enthusiasm at Saint Mark's. At the time of the 40th Anniversary, Saint Mark's had 365 baptized members.
Some strengths of Saint Mark's enumerated at the time of the 40th Anniversary were:
Use of some new worship styles under the leadership of Worship Committee Chair, Sue Dreisbach;
Increased participation in the choir under the direction of Linda Roaks;
Well attended Adult Forum led by Jurgan Almlie with assistance from Ruth Yamaguchi;
Continued participation in the Lenten breakfasts, due to efforts of Bernice and Ed Scherfling;
Wednesday Evening Lenten suppers sponsored by a different group in the church each week; Strong stewardship efforts chaired by Rich Jarosz, with assistance from Ann Kohler. In 1991, a catered dinner was held at the Methodist Church Hall with Casselia Steward, Liberian and former head of their Justice Department and member of board of Lutheran Federation speaking to those attending. In 1992, a large number of people helped to organize a Pony Express program.
In program areas:
Youth group had become more active;
Marriage Encounter opportunities had been encouraged through the work of Harold and Sandy Wheeler;
Mission Partner Program of the Upstate New York Synod was entered into with a partnership with Community of Hope in Canadaigua;
Jack Loos became a deacon.
Noticeable changes in and around the building:
Painting, renovation, landscaping under the leadership of Bob Sterner; New church sign which was an Eagle Project of Brian Sterner;
New refrigerator given in memorial of Leona McIntyre by Monty McIntyre; New banners constructed by Carol Roppel;
New carpeting and tiles installed from the 40th Birthday Gifts given by members of the congregation and matching funds from Aid Association for Lutherans.
(Lutheran Brotherhood also provided funds to needs of the congregation during the 40th Anniversary year.)
The thrust of the 40th Anniversary Celebration, "Come Share the Vision!" was to look at the history of the past, but to stress a Vision of Saint Mark's doing Christ's ministry into the 21st Century. The final celebration was a Worship Service followed by a catered luncheon. Bishop Lee M. Miller, Bishop of the Upstate New York Synod of the ELCA was the guest preacher. A program followed the luncheon. At that time the Charter Members were honored and at the end a sketch of a possible addition of a sanctuary was shown as a part of the celebration.
Saint Mark's was asked to do an analysis of the congregation's potential. This report headed by Tom Henry was used by Jack Reisch, then ELCA Building Consultant, when he met with members of the congregation in 1993. Jack Reisch stressed that Saint Mark's should develop an overall plan for what the congregation wanted to offer in ministry and what facility was needed to offer possibilities for ministry and growth.
After Jack Reisch's recommendation the Council authorized Architect F. Leslie Bennetts to draw concept sketches of Saint Mark's future facility.
A Long Range Planning Committee was appointed in 1994. It was chaired by Ann Kohler with members: Andy Olson, Bud Randall, Pastor David Roppel, Ed Scherfling, Sandy Wheeler and Mike Yamaguchi. Their final report was distributed August 11, 1994. It was an exciting time as the congregation began visioning about what Christ's ministry might be as the congregation moved forward through the 1990's.
In October of 1994, the Council created a Building Committee to explore the possibility of expanding the building to include a new sanctuary and new classrooms.
The committee met for the first time on December 15, 1994. The members of the committee were: Irv Candee, Tom Kohler, Greg Lamb, Jack and Wilda Loos, Bud Randall and Bob Sterner. Jack Loos became chair of the committee.
May 7, 1995, after a series of informational meetings lead by Jack Loos and Ann Kohler, the congregation approved hiring a consultant to conduct a fundraising campaign. J. Dennis Thomson of Associates in Giving, San Antonio, Texas, was hired as the consultant. The fundraising campaign began in September 1995, with the theme, "Building Faith Together". The details of the building project were presented to the Congregation on October 22, 1995. Approval was given to prepare contracts with architect F. Leslie Bennetts and builder James Sears.
November 19, 1995, the Congregation approved signing contracts with Les Bennetts and James Sears.
March 10, 1996, the Congregation voted to enter into a mortgage with Aid Association for Lutherans in the amount of $262,000. The budget for the project was $386,343.
April 21, 1996, the Congregation approved the borrowing of $262,000 from The ELCA Mission Investment Fund. The Mission Investment Fund would serve as interim financier during construction. The groundbreaking ceremony for the new sanctuary, classrooms, sacristy and bathroom had been held on April 14.
During this period of time there were many committees formed to make decisions about various parts of the space to be added. This involved many members. Following a final wave of much activity by many members of the congregation, the new addition was dedicated at a special service held on October 27, 1998. The service included Bishop Lee Miller of the Upstate New York Synod and clergy from the Central Conference. The new space was filled and lent itself to a successful service.
November 24, 1996, after much discussion, the congregation voted to purchase an Allen Organ for the sanctuary. The organ was dedicated on October 25, 1998.
The building project was completed on February 14, 1997, and the Building Committee dissolved on May 22, 1997.