St. Mark’s History
Over a hundred years ago a group of stalwart Christians of the Methodist Persuasion met to start a church. They were united with a shared need for a Methodist congregation in the Brooklyn area beyond Prospect Park, between Coney Island and Flatbush Avenue.
The early founders of this Church had moved from the congregation of downtown Brooklyn seeking new homes on Ocean, Church and Flatbush Avenues. They met an area steeped in Dutch history with the Dutch Reformed Church serving as the main place of worship. Not willing to part with their Methodist beliefs, these newcomers began to meet regularly at 940 Ocean Avenue, home of Mr. Edmund H. Briggs, to organize their own church during the first three months of 1903. They called their new church St. Mark’s Methodist Church. The first pastor, Rev. John H. Willey, was appointed on April 8, 1903.
The Jahn Mansion on Ocean Avenue between Beverly and Regent Place was rented as a place of worship for the young church on April 13 1903. This is where St. Mark’s held its first service on April 19, 1903. Their fervent desire for their own church was not satisfied by worshiping in a rented building so, the church founders located and purchase the northeast corner of Ocean Avenue and Beverly Road for $13,750. Later the cornerstone of the church was laid on October 20, 1903. The dedication of a new church edifice was made on March 18, 1906. The church was henceforth referred to as St. Mark’s Methodist Episcopal Church.
As the young church grew in membership, there arose a need for expansion to accommodate the various activities of the church community. The annex to the church was to be known as the Parish House or the Church House. In 1909 a member of the church Mr. Paul Ihrig bought a lot on Beverly Road and 21st Street and kept it as his own expense until the Church could pay for it.
Later, another church member Dr. Joseph offered to donate $25,000 towards the building the Parish House, if the church could match the amount. Members of St. Mark’s raised the amount of $28,586. An auditorium was also to form part of the Parish House. Dr. Adams donated another $25,000 at the dedication of the Parish House on December 26, 1926. In recognition of his generosity the auditorium was named Adams Memorial Hall after his son John H. Adams Jr. who had lost his life tragically by drowning in 1911.
On April 23, 1968 in Dallas Texas the Methodist Episcopal Church joined the Evangelical United Brethren with whom it shared theology, doctrine and a similar Book of Discipline. The union resulted in what we now know as the United Methodist Church.
All Methodist Episcopal Churches, including St. Mark’s changed their names to reflect the new order of things. From that time the church has become known as St. Mark’s United Methodist Church.
The church began to actively serve her community and nation at large. The church played a major role in the formation of at least three congregations namely Kings Highway Methodist Church, Premiere Eglise (Haitian Church) and the Ghana Wesley United Methodist Church.
- St. Mark’s also joined the efforts of other Methodist Churches in New York to establish the Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn.
The congregation at that time contributed $23,000 towards construction costs and assumed full cost of a room in the Rev. Stanley Miner Pavilion at the same hospital.
This tablet in 1919 a Memorial Tablet was erected in memory of 121 members of St. Mark’s who served in World War I. This tablet can be seen on the left side of the Altar. In 1947 a Memorial Chapel was erected to honor those 13 church members who died in World War II. Even today St. Mark’s members continue to heed the call of their country.
St. Mark’s has also helped the local community by providing instruction and care for children through its early childhood program.
Again a member, Ms. Emily Spickler was instrumental in setting up this program. St. Mark’s has also set up a Feeding Program and a Senior’s Program. Besides serving the Community the church has always encouraged and supported those who felt called to work in ordained ministry. Many members and student pastors passed through our halls to become pastors of their own church.
The Flatbush Seventh-day Adventist Church which organized in the fall of 1972, after meeting as a mission since 1969 was a fledgling group that sought more space. At first they relocated to a street level unit of a commercial building and then to the Zion Lutheran Church. In 1973, they negotiated an agreement to meet at our church- St. Mark’s Methodist Church and worshiped here. In 1982, the congregation purchased the former Third Church of Christ, Scientist, located on East 21st Street near Albermarle Road, and held their first service there on July 31, 1982.
St. Mark’s made the news in THE BROOKLYN EAGLE also called The Brooklyn Daily Eagle; it was the most popular afternoon paper in the United States at one point. Walt Whitman was its editor for two years.
When the church house and community center opened, it was a newsworthy event because of its size and its staggering cost by 1900 standards of $300,000. According to the Brooklyn Eagle an entire week was dedicated to its opening so that the Flatbush and other Brooklyn communities could celebrate its completion.
As mentioned earlier, St. Mark’s United Methodist Church has a long history in the community, click on the links below to view newspaper articles about St. Mark’s that appeared in world renowned “The New York Times”.
Our History In Pictures