Grounded in a history that spans more than 120 years, St. Mark has grown into a vibrant church with a devoted congregation. Today’s church, while contemporary in its approach, owes much to those who have led and supported St. Mark over the decades.
The Early Methodist Church
The Methodist Church – organized in America on December 24, 1784 – included blacks. Slaves, who worshipped with their owners, sat in the rear of the church or in balconies. Men and women of color who were “free” were welcome to worship but sat with those who were enslaved. In 1800, the church passed a resolution allowing black clergy to be ordained. Still, many blacks remained dissatisfied with the treatment they received from the church. It was the Negro members of St. George Methodist Church in Philadelphia who formed the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816.
The remaining colored or black preachers, seeing their numbers dwindle, called for an annual conference to develop their work among blacks. The next year, in 1869, at the Kentucky Annual Conference, a new conference for blacks called the Lexington Conference was formed.
The Founding of St. Mark
In the spring of 1893, Reverend S. C. Gooseley was sent to Chicago to organize a Methodist Church among blacks. The organizational procedures, which gave rise to St. Mark, took place in the home of John and Flora Washington. Henry and Nellie Bomar, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Moore, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Jones and George Jackson were instrumental in the church’s founding.
St. Mark’s first home was a fire-ravaged building owned by a white Methodist congregation. Upon its meticulous restoration by St. Mark congregants, the church was reclaimed by the white congregation. There was no recourse for St. Mark, as “Negroes” did not have equal rights. In 1907, St. Mark settled in at 50th and Wabash, where the congregation worshipped until 1960, when the church moved to its present location. Today St. Mark offers two Sunday worship services and 50+ ministries in order to meet the needs of its members and the community that surrounds it.
Rev. J. W. Robinson, D.D.
St. Mark dissolved debts, as a result of Rev. Robinson’s leadership, and raised funds for expanding and upgrading its building.
Rev. John B. Redmond
St. Mark’s membership grew from 2,200 to 4,412, due to Rev. Redmond’s guidance.
Rev. Samuel Sweeney
A business and professional group of the church was organized during Rev. Sweeney’s tenure.
Rev. Matthew W. Clair, Jr.
Sunday School grew to over 1,000 members, with Rev. Clair at the helm, and the church became active in all facets of discipleship and stewardship. Rev. Clair went on to serve as District Superintendent of the Columbus District of the Lexington Conference and within a few months as a Bishop of the Methodist Church.
Rev. Dr. Damon P. Young
St. Mark moved from 50th and Wabash to a new church at 8441 S. Saint Lawrence Ave. during the end of Dr. Young’s tenure. The St. Mark Credit Union also was organized.
Rev. Dr. Maceo D. Pembroke
Having come to St. Mark in 1947 as a student assistant, Dr. Pembroke served as the first National President of “Black Methodists for Church Renewal.” Dr. Pembroke also laid the groundwork for the formation of a St. Mark Manor, a 501(c)3 senior citizen housing facility, presently located in the Chatham community.
Rev. Harry B. Gibson
The former Ombudsman of the United Methodist Church, Rev. Gibson helped the music department, young adult and youth ministries flourish.
Rev. Charles Wesley Jordan
“Renewal 88” was a campaign led by Rev. Jordan to refurbish the church and parsonage and to purchase a church bus. The St. Mark Manor, housing for Senior Citizens, was completed during his tenure.
Rev. Dr. Myron McCoy
The Phase II building and renovation project was initiated under Rev. McCoy’s leadership. Prior to joining St. Mark, Rev. McCoy was District Superintendent of the Southern District of the Northern Illinois Conference. He went on to become President of St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri.
Rev. Dr. Jon E. McCoy
New, innovative ministries, including the St. Mark Martial Arts Ministry, were created to serve the evolving needs of congregants while preserving the many meaningful traditions at St. Mark during. Dr. McCoy’s tenure, Phase II renovations were completed, including balcony restorations, anew Fellowship Hall and multimedia systems were added to sanctuary to enhance worship. Choir groups were expanded, with the addition of The Praise Team and Commissioned for Christ.