St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in York: big church, little congregation

I was struck by a couple things as I read our story today about Richard Martin, who has manned the organ for 60 years at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in York.

Well, three things really. Of course, it’s a marvelous achievement for Mr. Martin, 88, and the special reception honoring him was well deserved.

Richard Martin is overcome with emotion while playing the organ at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church Sunday. (YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS — Paul Kuehnel)

But as a practical matter, I noticed the photos that staffer Paul Kuehnel took showed very few people at services inside the cavernous church at 700 E. Market St.

Paul told me about 25 people attended the services and special reception. I also noticed that most of the members were elderly.

St. Mark’s is a beautiful church, one that was rebuilt on the same site in 1966. The church website entry under “history” is blank, but I am certain this was once a thriving church of several hundred members.

I have inquiries out and will update once I receive some historical information. Officially, the church says membership has dwindled to about 100.

St. Mark’s is currently served by an interim pastor, the Rev. Richard Geib. Apparently, the church rents out space, which must help offset some of the costs of maintaining such a large facility.

But one would think the present situation cannot continue indefinitely. I have seen several historic downtown churches in similar situations. Shifting demographics and evolving religious beliefs has left many churches at a crossroads.

Is there an answer for St. Mark’s to evolve and continue to thrive at East Market Street? Or should the congregation merge with a nearby Lutheran church?

Those would seem to be relevant questions for this church. Let me know what you think.

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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One Response to St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in York: big church, little congregation

  1. Stephanie Myers says:

    St. Mark’s does not “rent out space”, we provide a home for Head Start early childhood education program, and they reimburse us for utility costs, etc.
    We have also recently made a “Whole-House” donation to Habitat for Humanity, which later this month will provide a home on Albemarle Street for a deserving family. The leadership of this church is striving to find a relevant identity with which to serve our community, and with God’s help, we will succeed.
    As far as I know, Mr. Hilton, after making this rather uninformed and misleading entry, you have never reported on the results of your “inquiries” and printed a follow-up. Perhaps a better strategy would be to inform yourself fully, prior to your printed musings.

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