St. Marks Chapel, Storrs
|Date Posted||December 13, 2022|
Connecticut (Amber Page Gehr)
|Compensation||We adhere to the ECCT guidelines. Found in the Commons Companion on the ECCT website.|
|Diocesan Compensation Info||https://www.episcopalct.org/administration|
|Is there a rectory?||No|
|Communicants in Good Standing||105|
|Average Sunday Attendance||37|
|Adult Population in Church School||10|
Liturgical style and practice
At St. Mark’s, we worship God using various liturgical styles and practices that combine traditional and contemporary forms: the Sunday 8am service follows the traditional Rite One liturgy, while the 10am service follows Rite Two.
Those who attend the early service prefer Rite One for its quiet spirituality, beautiful language, and spirit of close fellowship. The Organist plays music beginning at the Offertory during the early service. The later Rite Two service features choral music and organ. We use the 1982 hymnal, LEVAS, and selected music from other hymnals.
In 2020, we began livestreaminglive-streaming our services on Facebook to make worship available while we stayed physically distanced. We have continued that practice and believe it is important to offer that alternative to people who need to stay home for whatever reason.
In 2021, our Rector transitioned to ¾ time, and we began offering lay-led Morning Prayer once a month. We have several parishioners that are comfortable leading Morning Prayer services, and share the responsibility of doing so.
We have offered Sunday school in the past, and have had a strong program. As our most recent generation of youth has aged, we are trying a new practice of welcoming children and youth in the service and providing a Sunday Bulletin for youth.
Three additional services have been offered in the past. There was Campus Communion, a Sunday evening Eucharist service followed by dinner. This was geared toward the University of Connecticut student population. We also offered One Bread, One Body, a service Sunday at noon that was designed for people with special needs and their families. A Wednesday Noon Eucharist service was also popular in the past.
Our commitment to having beautiful worship services is one of our strengths. St. Mark’s shares a high regard for intellectual preaching, and a love for our traditional Episcopal liturgies. We have done our best to bring our services to others in a virtual setting by streaming on Facebook live, and we have an individual that records the readings and sermons to add to our web site each week. As evidence of our commitment to our services, we have approximately 25 people that volunteer as Sunday ministers, and serve on a rotating schedule.
Our music ministry is a strength of the church. The Choral Scholar Program is one example, and is our biggest success with campus ministry in recent years. St. Mark’s offers 6 scholarships to University of Connecticut students to participate in our choir each Sunday during the academic year, sing in two Evensong services, our Annual Lessons & Carols event, and a fundraiser concert in the Spring. The Choral Scholars add so much to our 10am service with their beautiful singing, and the students gain experience singing in a church setting. Parishioners have supported the program by attending concerts, donating to the program, joining the choir, and incorporating the Scholars into our community. Charles Houmard, Director of Music, manages the Choral Scholars Program. He has been a consistent and expert musician that has kept our music program and offerings at the highest quality for over 10 years. In addition to the people associated with our music ministry, our renowned Brombaugh organ is an asset to our chapel. It is a unique and well-known instrument in the area.
St. Mark’s enjoys Christian Formation and has a few different offerings. There is a “Crazy Christians” book group. They choose a book and work through it during weekly meetings. They named themselves after reading the book of the same name by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Since transitioning to Zoom meetings, the Crazy Christians book group has expanded to include St. Mark’s parishioners that have moved out of town. There is also a Wednesday evening “Show & Tell” bible study that meets on Zoom. They choose a book from the Bible and take turns presenting a chapter at a time to the rest of the group. That way, all participants take turns being the group leader. We have also had small home/Zoom groups that engage in Lectio Divina on a bi-weekly basis.
Our location on a college campus is special. Our church doors are open to the public at all times. Individuals use our building to play piano, study, and pray. We have other worship communities that use our space, Alcoholics Anonymous meets at St. Mark’s six days a week, students and faculty use our parking lot, a cappella groups use the chapel for rehearsal, and individual teachers use the classroom spaces for lessons. We believe that opening our doors to the community is one tangible way we can be Jesus’ ambassadors on the UConn campus.
We are proud of St. Mark’s outreach efforts. They include an on-site Food Pantry, the St. Mark’s Diaper Bank, volunteering and fundraising for the Windham Area Interfaith Ministry, sandwich making at the local Soup Kitchen once a month, and a prayer shawl ministry.
Perhaps most of all, the people of St. Mark’s is one of our greatest strengths. We are followers of Jesus who are flexible, creative, dedicated to our community, and supportive of the Vestry and Clergy leadership. This strength was particularly notable during Covid. Vestry met on a weekly schedule to stay on top of changing circumstances, and made necessary adjustments. We were willing to try new ways of worship, like live-streaming, and Drive In Church in our back parking lot. We delivered seasonal gift bags to our parishioners in order to feel connected, and hosted Zoom coffee hours. The parish was supportive and appreciative of all the efforts.
We are blessed in so many ways.
One challenge St. Mark’s is facing is capacity. Our parish membership has gotten smaller, and having fewer people leads to many challenges. It is challenging to find enough people to do outreach on campus and in our community, raise funds, and grow into lay leadership positions.
Some challenges for the future may be finding a new balance of clergy- and lay-led ministry and sharing the responsibility of being the church today. Our parish will need to adjust to a mindset of a half-time priest, and perhaps grieve what our old “normal” was and embrace a “new normal.”
Sometimes it is a challenge to trust that God is with us even in our challenges.
Our community is still feeling the effects of losing a large number of members that were very involved in the life of St. Mark’s. We are looking for a spiritual leader that will inspire us in the midst of a changing world, and help us know the things we pray about on Sunday morning can be actively pursued in the ministries that we offer every day.
Our next priest in charge will need to find joy in collaboration. St. Mark’s is uniquely positioned to engage with University of Connecticut students, faculty and staff. Serving this population, and bringing the hope of Christ to campus is one of St. Mark’s missions. We envision more ecumenical partnerships, and can accomplish much for God by partnering with the other faith communities at UConn.
Amber Page Gehr
Diocesan Transition Minister
Phone: 203-639-3501 ext 131