The History of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church

The Last 40 Years (1960 – 2000)

Dr. Brokhoff, having served a very active and fruitful ministry at St. Mark’s, left the pastorate in 1962; and St. Mark’s called the Rev. Carveth P. Mitchell, D.D. to serve as pastor in 1963.

St. Mark’s continued to grow and expand under Dr. Mitchell’s ministry; and many new programs were started or expanded including the family night suppers which were changed to once a month with a program, the Mother Daughter Banquet, the Lenten Cross in the sanctuary for Self Denial Offerings, and the dressing of the altar. The Carol and Chapel Choirs were organized for our very young children and teens.

Because of the growth in membership, there were two Sunday Worship services at 8:30am and 11:00am. The Chapel or Youth Choir sang at the 8:30 service, and the Senior Adult Choir sang at the 11:00 service. The Carol Choir of younger children sang on special feast days and other occasions. A nursery for infants and toddlers during regular church services was also established.

The Lutheran Church has always been a singing church and Luther stressed the importance of hymn singing in his reformation of the medieval liturgy. St. Mark’s had been long known for the beauty of its services; and with the new church organ, the expansion of the music program, the richness and beauty of the Lutheran liturgy and the rich hymnody, both old and new, of the Christian Church, the worship services of the congregation attracted many new members.

In 1968 a hand bell choir was organized. In the early 1970’s, a touring choir was formed by Assistant Pastor Carl Warren.

The new sanctuary and church buildings designed by Architect Harold Waggoner were recognized as among the finest in the country in new church architecture. When the North Carolina and South Carolina Synods decided to have a joint Bi-Annual Evangelism Conference in the early 1960’s, they chose St. Mark’s as the site for the conferences. St. Mark’s has hosted the Annual Carolinas Evangelism Conferences each year since they began in the new church.

The growth of Charlotte’s population and increased urbanization brought an increased awareness of the tremendous social needs for the needy and helpless in our community, and St. Mark’s developed and supported many community programs to alleviate human suffering and need. One great unmet community need in the early 1970’s was for daycare for the most severely mentally retarded people in our community. St. Mark’s in cooperation with the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services and the Mecklenburg Association for Retarded Children started a daycare center at St. Mark’s using two Sunday School rooms with a $25,000 grant from Mecklenburg County to provide daycare for severely retarded persons in 1973. This program grew so rapidly, that within a few years the need had vastly outstretched the available space at St. Mark’s; and St. Mark’s Center (as the program was named) moved into much larger new facilities on North Graham Street in the 1980’s. Since that time St. Mark’s Center has grown to serve the developmentally disabled populations of both Mecklenburg and Union Counties in a multi-campus operation.

Other social ministry outreach programs of St. Mark’s include active participation in the Habitat for Humanity Program with St. Mark’s members working for a week teamed with another church in building a habitat house providing an affordable home for a needy family; the Room at the Inn Program, where homeless people spend the night during the winter at St. Mark’s, the Jeremiah Seven coalition of Myers Park area churches to meet community social needs, and volunteer and financial support for The Salvation Army, Crisis Assistance Ministry and many other local social support organizations.

The congregation has inaugurated a Stephen’s Ministry Program to provide personal assistance from members to the grieving, aging, and infirm and those with special crisis needs. Members have served in government and are active with boards, agencies and programs throughout the region serving as the church in the world in all the contours and levels of life.

Pastor William Ebener served as Assistant Pastor after Carl Warren accepted another call in the 1970’s; and Pastor Herman R. Yoos, III, a son of St. Mark’s became Assistant Pastor for St. Mark’s in 1979.

Pastor Mitchell retired as Pastor of St. Mark’s in 1979 and was succeeded as Senior Pastor by the Rev. Richard E. Boye, D.D. in 1980, who accepted his call from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Southampton, Pennsylvania. Dr. Boye served as Pastor until 1983 when he left to accept a call to Minnesota, and Pastor Yoos served as interim pastor until a new senior pastor was called in 1982. Paster William Robertson, Jr. served as assistant Pastor from 1982 to 1984. Dr. Lawrence Wick served as Senior Pastor from 1984 until 1986 when he accepted a call to Omaha, Nebraska. Pastor Paul Johannson served as Assistant Pastor from 1985 to 1987.

Following the great commandment our Lord left us to make disciples of all nations, Matthew 28:19-20, the congregation has ever sought to bring the healing message of God’s salvation in Christ to a broken world, not only in our community but to the world at large. The congregation has supported missionaries in Japan for many years as well as contributed through the ELCA to assist struggling Christian communities in China, the former Eastern Bloc countries and in the Middle East. Currently the congregation is supporting the missionary activities of Heather Roth Johnson, a daughter of the congregation, and her husband Scott Johnson in Madagascar.

St. Mark’s initiated a Shepherding Program during this period by clustering twelve to fifteen neighboring families into groups under a trained shepherd appointed by the church. The program was designed to foster a sense of belonging and to nurture relationships among members as well as to provide a point of interest for new members and to encourage and facilitate communication and to offer care and support to members.

Rev. Peter C. Setzer, D.D. accepted a call as Pastor of St. Mark’s in 1987 and has served the congregation faithfully for the past thirteen years. Pastor Craig Bollinger was called as Associate Pastor in 1988 and served for four years. Pastor Bollinger was called to be Mission Developer and Pastor of a new Lutheran Church, Christ the King, near Lake Wylie in southern Mecklenburg County; and many St. Mark’s members helped form a nucleus for Christ the King.

Pastor Joseph Kovitch accepted a call as Associate Pastor to St. Mark’s from Trinity Seminary in 1993. Pastor Kovitch was the first Pastor from Trinity Seminary in Ohio to be called to North Carolina. Pastor Kovitch answered a call to be mission developer and first pastor of a new congregation in Kannapolis, New Hope Lutheran Church, formed through the merger of three smaller struggling Lutheran congregations in 1996. Pastor Michael C. Ward accepted a call as Associate Pastor to St. Mark’s in 1997. While in seminary, Pastor Ward had served as intern to a small Lutheran Church in Wise, Virginia; and as Associate Pastor of St. Mark’s, Pastor Ward has led St. Mark’s youth in an annual week long mission trip to Wise County, Virginia to assist the church and needy families in this struggling Appalachian area.

St. Mark’s is the oldest church of the Augsburg Confession in Charlotte and has maintained a strong commitment to the Lutheran Confessions and historic liturgy of the church as a means of communicating God’s unchanging grace in each generation. In the past quarter century several devout senior Lutheran ministers, having served the church faithfully, have retired, and have made St. Mark’s their church home.

Rev. Paul B. Cobb after a long and fruitful career as Pastor of St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Charlotte retired in 1985 and became assistant to the Pastors for visitation. Rev. Robert W. Stackel, D.D., after a distinguished career serving both as a pastor and as the first director for the LCA World Hunger Appeal, retired to Charlotte and in 1991 became assistant to the Pastors for Evangelism. Rev. Norman Vogen, a retired Lutheran pastor, living at Lake Norman served briefly as assistant to the Pastors in 1996. Pastor Edwin Schmidt after long and faithful service as a pastor in the mid west retired to Charlotte in 1996 and became assistant to the Pastors for Evangelism. Rev. J.A. Harbinson after serving as Pastor of Incarnation Lutheran Church in Charlotte and with the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Columbia retired in Charlotte and became assistant to the Pastors for visitation in 1998. St. Mark’s has been blessed the last twenty years through the rich experiences, knowledge and faith of retired Pastors Cobb, Harbinson, Schmidt, Stackel, and Vogen.

In 1987 the lay movement, Via de Christo, was inangurated at St. Mark’s by Pastor Setzer. The movement is a movement within the laity of the Lutheran Church to train lay leadership in the church and to deepen the spiritual life of the laity. Starting in Spain in the Roman Catholic Church in the 1940’s as “Cursillo,” the movement spread to the Americas and was adopted by both the Episcopal Church and the Lutheran Church. Several hundred men and women from St. Mark’s have attended a Via de Christo weekend since 1987, and their deepened faith and commitment to serve the church have been a blessing to both St. Mark’s and the community. Pastor Setzer served as Spiritual Director of the National Via de Christo movement of the ELCA for two years.

With the burgeoning population and expanding Charlotte economy, many people have been attracted to Charlotte. The congregation has sought to expand the Christian gospel in our community by providing assistance to new Charlotte Lutheran congregations including: Cross and Crown (1987), Spirit of Joy (1991), Christ the King (1992), Grace (1997), and Hosanna (1998). St. Mark’s has also assisted in the formation of a Japanese speaking Lutheran congregation for the growing number of Japanese Americans in our area; and, with Living Savior Lutheran Church, has offered worship services in the German language for the growing number of German Americans who have moved to Charlotte. St. Mark’s remains a mother congregation to mission development in the area.

The congregation has sought closer ties with other Christians in our community, recognizing that all Christians are one in the body of Christ engaging in ministry to build the body of Christ in the world. The congregation has developed warm ties of service and friendship with the congregation of St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, and the choirs of both congregations unite in joint services during the year. Members of St. Patrick’s and St. Mark’s also pair with each other in serving together as service providers for the homeless in the communitywide response to housing the homeless in the “Room at the Inn” program.

The congregation is in close communication with the Little Church on the Lane, Moravian Church, and has welcomed the official recognition of Full Communion between the ELCA and the Moravian Church in 2000.

In 1993 Wayne Nelson became St. Mark’s Educational Minister, and C. Richard Morris was called as Organist and Choir Director. In 1995 St. Mark’s completely overhauled the organ that had been installed in 1959 and added a second organ in the balcony with a trumpet-enchamade. These improvements to the organ at a cost of $250,000 greatly enhanced the music offered to God by the congregation in its worship services.

The Lutheran Church has ever been a reforming movement within the Holy Catholic Church, and the congregation of St. Mark’s has sought to bring the gospel to each new generation. The congregation has felt this great need for our time and has sought to add the best of the new hymns to its worship and to accommodate a newer liturgy that retains the historic balance and harmony of Luther’s people’s mass in its worship while reflecting the mystery and reality of Christ. A more contemporary setting of the liturgy has been used in services on the fourth Sunday of each month, while the liturgical settings from the 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship are used at services on the first, second and third Sundays of each month.

The congregation is ever seeking ways of making Christ known in the midst of our secular world, and what better way to do this than in enhanced liturgical expression and festival services during the church year. A special Epiphany Service of Light is held on the night the church celebrates our Lord’s Epiphany with flags of many nations being presented at the altar, and the Great Commission is given in several foreign languages.

The church has a long established tradition of Wednesday night Lenten services, and during Holy Week additional services are held on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. A special service of Tenebrae is conducted on Good Friday; and at the noon hour through 3 o’clock, special tours of the sanctuary emphasizing the Stations of  the Cross are open to the community. A large bare wooden cross stands on the church lawn during Lent and a living depiction of the crucifixion takes place at the cross on Good Friday. The cross is decorated with flowers on Easter Sunday.

A living nativity scene on the lawn in front of the church, with cow, donkey, and sheep is also held on Christmas Eve. The church celebrates the coming of God in human form in history and witnesses to this great mystery to the world.

In the early 1990’s Pastor Setzer inaugurated a thirty minute mid-week service of Holy Communion in the chapel on Wednesdays at 12:15pm. This Holy Communion service consists of confession, hymn, scripture, homily, creed, thanksgiving, Lord’s Prayer, Holy Communion and closing hymn. The service was designed to offer to everyone in the community a time and place for worship, prayer, and quiet reflection on the eternal grace of God in the midst of the busy world.

In 1990 an area on the Edgehill Road side of the church was dedicated for use as a prayer garden and columbarium for the ashes of deceased members of the congregation.

Ascension Lutheran Church/Missouri Synod had long operated a parochial school in Charlotte, which was the second oldest private school in the county. In 1993 St. Mark’s joined in partnership with Ascension Lutheran Church/Missouri Synod in supporting the school and the school became know as Charlotte Lutheran School under a partnership agreement between the two congregations. With the cooperative effort of the two congregations, the school was able to expand its offerings in the number of students served; and several classrooms were located at St. Mark’s. In the late 1990’s, Ascension Lutheran Church conducted a major physical expansion of its educational facilities on East Morehead Street and built new classrooms and related facilities; and with the completion of the new and expanded educational and administrative facilities at St. Mark’s, it is hoped that the school will continue to grow and prosper in providing a Christian based school for the youth of Charlotte. Lutheran Pastor Fred Guy became headmaster of the Charlotte Lutheran School in 2000.

Recognizing the need for renovation and expansion of its physical plant in the 1990’s, the congregation developed a long range plan for both renovation and expansion of its 1959 physical plant. Repairs, replacements, and enhancements were needed in heating and air conditioning, roof, and plumbing as well as the addition of new space for the nursery, classrooms, and offices and a larger gathering place in front of the church and in the narthex. The congregation, church Council and church committees worked diligently for several years in developing a plan; and after refinements in the plan and provision for dividing the construction plans into two phases depending upon congregational needs for the future, the congregation approved the plan in 1997.

Construction of the improvements began in 1999, and the new facilities will be dedicated on September 10, 2000. The population of the city of Charlotte at the close of the 20th century was 512,628 people.

In the summer of 2000 St. Mark’s called the Rev. Monta A. Maki-Curry, a daughter of the congregation and recent seminary graduate, as Assistant Pastor for Evangelism. She was ordained at St. Mark’s on August 12, 2000, and she is the first woman pastor to be called to St. Mark’s.

After one hundred and forty one years St. Mark’s now enters a new century and a new millennium in expanded quarters dedicated to the Glory of God and the spread of His kingdom. The people of St. Mark’s realize how indebted they are to the faithful men and women who have served God from this place in the past, the thousands of people of God at St. Mark’s who have planted and watered the Gospel through the years. They have brought St. Mark’s to where it is. They have sacrificed and served. They have been faithful unto death. We the people of St. Mark’s will continue to serve Christ’s kingdom along with all the Saints who have come before and will come after us, seeking to make Christ’s presence known through word, sacrament, and faithful service in the city.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so a great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1,2