About St Mark's Episcopal Church
Marco Island has been considered sacred ground for over 3000 years. The shell mounds covering this, the largest of the Ten Thousand Islands, were burial sites for the Calusa Indians. Spanish explorers, accompanied by Jesuit missionaries, brought Christianity to Florida. William C. Gray appointed the first Bishop of the Eastern Missionary Jurisdiction of South Florida opened the Glades Cross Mission in the Everglades in 1898. The objective of this mission was to evangelize the Indians. While a failure in this regard, the Mission did enable dialogue between Native Americans and the U.S. Government.
Deaconess Harriet Bedell is credited with bringing the Episcopal Church to Marco Island. She held services both in Caxambas and in Goodland, where she established a mission called, The Church of Our Saviour. Her work among the Seminole is still fondly remembered among local people. She maintained missions in Everglades City, Goodland and Marco Island. Her retirement in 1960 in the aftermath of Hurricane Donna is seen as a transitional period for the Episcopal Church. Marco Island, once a fishing village, was developing into a major resort community. Our chapel is dedicated to her memory.
The Deltona Corporation developed modern Marco Island starting in 1964. As part of the development, the company set aside specific parcels of land for the establishment of churches on the Island. Land was offered free to any congregation that would build a church. Trinity-by-the-Cove, an Episcopal Church in neighboring Naples, made a generous donation which allowed St. Mark’s to become the first modern church to be built on Marco Island. Services were first held in January of 1967. They included residents of Marco Island and members of the mission in Goodland. The Church struggled during the early years with the “feast or famine” of operating in a very seasonal community. The members, however, were able to furnish the Church and began working on making the Churchyard the lovely place it is today.
The Rev. Howard Harper, a nationally known author, became the first full time Vicar in 1967. In 1968 the vestry applied for and was granted a charter for a Nursery School and Kindergarten, which opened in February, 1968 with 10 students enrolled. Rev. Harper was followed in June, 1969 by the Rev. Harold E. Towne, who led the Church to parish status in 1973. The Rev. Joseph C. Weaver served from 1974 to 1983. He was followed by the Rev. C. Alex Barron, Jr. in 1984.
The original Church building contained a lounge and kitchen which served our needs until 1979. In that year Harper Hall was built to serve both the parish and the growing community of Marco Island. In 1984 the Learning Center was added to the rear of Harper Hall. In 1987, the Church itself was extensively remodeled. Side walls were knocked out to increase seating. The old kitchen became a new sacristy. The Choir was moved to the rear of the Church and a free standing Altar was built.
The Rev. Michael P. Durning began his ministry at St. Mark's on the Feast of the Presentation in February, 1992. An active youth ministry, a growing Sunday School and increasingly higher attendance and levels of stewardship characterize his ministry. Under his leadership, the parish implemented and completed a program of renovation and expansion of St. Mark's facilities which was financed by a successful capital campaign and an anonymous gift to the parish. The people of St. Mark’s thank God for the blessings He has given us that made possible this wonderful facility and its furnishings.
It was the Episcopal Church Women of St. Mark’s that initiated the annual Flea Market, just two (2) years after the birth of the mission. This very popular event has grown in the intervening years, drawing hundreds and hundreds of bargain hunters. Fund raising was expanded with the addition of a silent auction. Today, items are collected throughout the year for sale at the Flea Market each February.
Many wonderful lay people of all ages have served and worshipped in St. Mark's. The Altar Guild, Choir, Greeters, Lay Readers, Ushers, God's Gardeners, Episcopal Church Women, Sunday School Teachers and the Vestry are just some of the many areas in which people have served their Church and their Lord. Life at St. Mark's continues to grow and expand during our winter season. Many wonderful people from around the country and even from abroad come to live, work, and worship with us. We are all fortunate to serve God by living in this unique and wonderful island.
Follow is a summary of St. Mark's Leadership History:
|The Reverend Howard Harper
The Reverend Harold Towne
The Reverend Joseph Weaver
The Reverend C. Alex Barron
The Reverend Michael P. Durning
The Reverend John R. McCard
The Reverend Kyle Vernon Bennett