God is being served and people are receiving the blessings of the Holy Spirit at St. Mark’s. With your support and with God’s help, we strive to sustain and create ministries that will enable more stories like the ones you will read about below. Please prayerfully consider your commitment of time and treasure for 2019.
Click the photo to read each person's story.
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As a lifelong member of the St. Mark’s community, I’ve always thought my faith was strong. However, my faith was challenged almost four years ago when we lost our second son at 26 weeks pregnant. He died for no known reason, and we were beyond devastated to hear that he had no heartbeat. I was so angry with God and needed to work through my grief. We were consumed with sadness, felt lost and alone and didn’t know what the coming weeks and months would be like for our family. A St. Mark’s clergy member called us and asked if he could come visit with us when we were ready. He came by and sat with us, prayed with us and comforted us in our time of grief. We were so grateful for his visit that day. We felt less alone and very comforted by our church community. We had known from the day that our Jack died that we wanted his ashes buried in the memorial garden so we could visit him often. The church walked us through this step by step and guided us with the service we wanted to honor our son. This process was beyond difficult, as I never had imagined having to bury my child. The church was wonderful throughout this emotional process, and we will be forever grateful to the St. Mark’s Church community for helping us through such an unbearable time.
(pictured with husband, William and son, Sam)
Though my beloved bride developed a heart for the St. Mark’s Cuba mission many years ago, I resisted joining her on our annual parish mission trips to Iglesia Episcopal Santa Maria Virgen (St. Mary’s the Virgin Episcopal Church) in Itabo until 2015. That year, I succumbed to Saundra’s plea that no adult males were signed up to go and joined the team that would present a Vacation Bible School (VBS) for our companion church.
My role, besides schlepping suitcases, was that of trip photographer... to snap pictures of every participant so each would have a portrait (to be placed in a frame decorated during a craft project), enabling St. Mary’s children and adults alike to recall their week at VBS. Those photos were later used to encourage St. Mark’s parishioners to “adopt” a St. Mary’s child or adult member for the next year’s VBS.
Once dispossessed of my preconceptions about Cuba and despite an obvious language barrier, I quickly went all-in on my assignment and developed a fast rapport with my subjects. By our standards, the people of Itabo don’t have much -- in one home we visited before returning to Jacksonville, the VBS photo I had taken was the only item on the wall in the entire house! -- yet they generally appeared quite happy and contented. Members of St. Mary’s obviously love the Lord and their church. I was amazed at how many kids attended our four-day VBS and how many adults turned out for the evening sessions. Our mission also included bringing materials for sewing and other self-help projects not readily available in Cuba but lovingly donated by the people of St. Mark’s.
Our parish has been in ministry with St. Mary’s in Itabo for more than 30 years. I feel honored to have had the opportunity to finally be a part of it.
Beyond that, monetary support enables St. Mark’s mission partners to continue to operate and make a difference.
St. Mark’s offers so many opportunities to serve the church of Christ and it is gratifying when one jumps out at you as particularly interesting. Such was the case for me several years ago with the Order of St. Luke the Physician (OSL) lay healing ministry. As a member of OSL, I work with the other members of the prayer team to offer healing prayers based on the personal encounters of Jesus’ healing ministry recorded in the gospels. Following each Wednesday evening service, we have the opportunity to offer personal healing prayers for all seekers. I really appreciate the chance to serve my brothers and sisters in Christ by continuing the ministry of laying on of hands and praying for healing through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Over many years the clergy and parishioners at St. Mark’s have been my extended family. They have cared for me through happy times and hard times. The church and the day school even helped me raise my children. At St. Mark’s I have known the love of God given and received among a community of believers who encourage, love and sustain one another. Experiencing this awakened in me the desire to demonstrate that same kind of love outwardly following the teachings of Jesus Christ and his healing ministry. Being a part of St. Mark’s healing ministry, intercessory prayer group and St. Catherine chapter of OSL has been as much of a blessing to me as it is for the people I pray for. Believing in his power to heal today and extending his healing power through prayer to the body of Christ at St. Mark’s and beyond has become my life work, all to the glory of God.
We have been attending St. Mark’s Episcopal Church since the 1970s. St. Mark’s created a solid Christian foundation for our three children who are adults and now raising our eight grandchildren in the church! What a blessing it is to have a familiar, nurturing and steadfast place for our family to gather together each week to focus on the love of Jesus Christ. We’ve enjoyed weddings and shared many meals within these walls, deepened our faith through Sunday school and worship, and grown as Christian servants through volunteering throughout the years. We cherish the years of memories we’ve made at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and happily anticipate what’s to come.
Sally and Frank Surface
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and Day School have been a welcoming home for me since my parents moved to Ortega when I was a newly baptized Episcopalian. My education has been the greatest gift I ever received from my parents, and the foundation of it all started at SMEDS. As a young adult, I returned to Jacksonville and St. Mark’s embraced me again. Although I was unsure of myself spiritually, the church gave me the space I needed to learn who I was and wanted to be within the community. Harry and I smile when we remember preparing for our wedding with the priest, and adding a couple of lines to our vows that gave them extra personal meaning and significance. That welcoming permission to be ourselves was something we sensed again as young parents. We were unsure about parenting but positive that we wanted our kids to attend St. Mark’s, and now we have a 3rd grader and a 6th grader. I love that I can stop, sputter and start over again at St. Mark’s. My family and I appreciate all the ways we can explore new opportunities, grow in unexpected ways, and always feel welcome at St. Mark’s.
The St. Mark’s community is, and has been since I was six, my extended family and my second home. I grew up helping in the nursery, singing in the choir and participating in EYC. St. Mark’s has been the site of some of my life’s most important milestones - our wedding, the baptisms of our daughters, funeral services for my parents and, last year, the marriage of our older daughter. Throughout my time here, I have learned about the importance of Lay Ministry and that all baptized Christians are called to be lay ministers. My life has been shaped by so many parishioners at St. Mark’s who have ministered to me and others. They have challenged me to try to live into my own lay ministry and to be well prepared through regular worship, prayer and Bible study.