Bishop Akiyama will visit with the community at St. Mark Episcopal Church in Medford, OR for a visitation on the feast day of their patron saint, St. Mark.
By the Rev. Tom Sramek, Jr., rector of St. Mark’s, Medford
As we move toward our 130th Anniversary on June 18, 2019, St. Mark’s is poised to move confidently into the future with new energy as a growing, thriving church in Southern Oregon. Our $2 million “Building For the Future” (BFF) Capital Project will be completed this summer, adding over 7,000 square feet of office, classroom, kitchen, library, social hall, food pantry storage, and restroom space to our church building. We look forward to engaging with the surrounding community in new and expanded ways with our new facilities.
At the same time as the excitement over our anniversary grows and our building also grows, we recognize the need to grow into new ways of being church in the twenty-first century. Within our congregation, this means experimenting with more gender-inclusive Eucharistic liturgy, establishing and sustaining small “dinner groups” to help people know one another better, building a robust year-round stewardship plan, and strengthening and refining our process of inviting new people, welcoming them, and connecting them to our common life.
In our neighborhood, new ways of being church involves expanding our food pantry capacity, strengthening our relationship with other nonprofit partners to serve the community more effectively together, and increasingly becoming advocates for social justice in our city. We are also looking towards creating a strategic plan for 2020 and beyond that will likely include both intentional welcome of our LGBTQ+ faith siblings and providing a sanctuary for those who have been traumatized by their experiences of other Christian faith traditions.
Our relatively new mission statement asserts that we are people devoted to “Sharing Christ’s love by feeding people in body, mind, and spirit.” We look forward to living out that mission and continuing to gather the physically, intellectually, and spiritually hungry from Medford and across the Rogue Valley.
“There is room for us all and no gift is too small, there is room at the table for everyone.” — Carrie Newcomer
As they move closer to their 130th anniversary in 2019, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church is discovering what it means to live more deeply into their calling to “share Christ’s love by feeding people in body, mind, and spirit” in Southern Oregon. As their tag line says: “We feed folks!” They are conscious of the fact that the world around them is hungry – sometimes for basic needs, sometimes for wrestling with challenging questions, and often for “soul food” that can fill the God-shaped hole inside each of us. St. Mark’s has found the image of the table to be a rich one for them. They see people longing for a place at the table, whether it is a dining table, a discussion table, or even the Holy Table (altar) around which they gather each Sunday. They strive to provide such a place so that there is room at the table for everyone.
St. Mark’s identity centers around three activities: Sunday morning worship, their book and Bible studies, and their Thursday afternoon food pantry. A combined average of about 100 people gather on Sunday mornings for worship at 8 and 10 am, with a full organ and choir at 10 am. Since Rob Griswell-Lowry became their Music Minister a year ago they have resurrected the choir, explored a wide variety of musical styles in worship, and simply had a lot of fun! The Monday morning Bible study is a rich engagement of a dozen people, currently with the Gospel of Mark, and their book study involves two dozen people reading and discussing the book “iGen” and talking about how the church can address the needs of younger generations. The Thursday food pantry is eight years old and thriving as one of the few that provides fresh produce to clients. The pantry involves dozens of volunteers and serves over 1,000 people a month, providing both food and human interaction.
All of this activity has clearly demonstrated the need for more space, so St. Mark’s is in the midst of a $1.74 million “Building For the Future (BFF)” capital campaign to add a new parish hall, classrooms, food pantry, and offices to their church building. They have already raised over $1.4 million of that amount and look forward to breaking ground in July with a completion date of March 2019. They are tremendously excited about the possibilities for expanded ministry in this new space and are also actively pursuing deepening partnerships with their neighbors the Family Nurturing Center, Northwest Seasonal Workers, and an ecumenical partnership providing temporary housing to 50 people through Rogue Retreat’s Kelly Shelter program.
St. Mark’s has been a downtown church since their founding shortly after the establishment of the City of Medford. They hope and anticipate continuing and deepening our commitment to ministry with and to their neighbors. They look forward to many more gatherings around the table.