Rector – Episcopal News Service

Introduction to the parish of St. Mark

St. Mark’s Parish has served the spiritual needs of Islip residents for 175 years. In addition it was a pillar of the hamlet of Islip and the surrounding area and was involved in a wide range of public relations. No one can discuss Islip’s history, attractions or community spirit without mentioning St Mark’s. We’re looking for a new principal.

The parish was founded in 1847. Tradition has it that a Church of England parish existed at Islip as early as 1660 and that its building burned down in the early 19th centuryth Century, but there is little or no documentation about it. St Mark’s was a mission of St John’s Church in Oakdale, established in 1765 as the first Anglican congregation in what is now the town of Islip.

The first sanctuary for St. Mark, which stood on the same site as the present church buildings, was a plain white building, excellent for its intended purpose but not an architectural feature. But early on in its corporate life, St. Mark’s attracted some of the giants of the 19th century to attend meetingsth Century American companies, some of which built huge estates on the south shore of Long Island. Two families deserve special mention: William K. Vanderbilt Sr., whose “Idle Hour” estate occupied approximately 600 acres of present-day Oakdale, and Bradish Johnson, whose “Woodlands” estate encompassed much of what is now East Islip.

Mr. Vanderbilt was the donor of the existing sanctuary and vicarage. It is reported that during a tour of Scandinavia he saw a church with the distinctive Norwegian staff design. On his return to New York, he called his architect, Richard Morris Hunt, and said, “I want one of these. Put it in Islip” and gave $64,000 to build it. The existing sanctuary was sold to St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in East Islip; it was loaded onto a truck and rolled the half-mile down the Montauk Highway, where it is still used today as a meetinghouse for St. Mary’s.

Mr. Vanderbilt had his friends decorate his new building. One of those friends was Louis Comfort Tiffany, which is why St. Mark’s services are illuminated by light filtered through the first windows that Tiffany installed somewhere in every church. Another of those friends was Bradish Johnson, who owned vast properties in New York City, Long Island, and Louisiana. Although some of his dealings were, shall we say, questionable (examine the “Swill Milk” scandal in New York City) and although he employed slave labor on his properties in Louisiana (during the Civil War he appealed to President Lincoln for permission To give). to keep his slaves), he was a generous donor to St. Mark’s. Four generations of the Johnson family gave money for stained glass windows and helped build the meetinghouse. (The mansion on the Woodlands estate in East Islip, last used as a private school, has recently been demolished.)

A devastating fire in 1987 caused extensive damage to the Shrine of St. Mark. Although all of the church’s priceless treasures were saved, the building was closed for several years as restorers rebuilt the building to its original specifications. Masses were held in the parish hall, where the two largest rooms were consecrated as chapels of St. Nicholas and St. Andrew. The community in general enthusiastically embraced the slogan “Rebuild We Will”. When the main church reopened, it had been blessed with air conditioning and a new pipe organ for the summer.

In recent years, St. Mark’s has become a valuable community resource. His Thrift Shop, which offers clothing and other household items at heavily discounted prices, actually gives away more goods to those in need than it sells, and it sells a lot. Recent food campaigns to help replenish God’s storehouse of provisions have been widely publicized. St. Mark’s offers community meals for the wider community on major holidays; After the devastating “Superstorm Sandy,” parishioners cooked and served hot meals each day at the chapel for those in need. The community sponsors Boy and Girl Scout troop groups and makes its facilities available for a wide range of community service activities, including regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

The people of St Mark’s

St. Mark’s attracts Episcopalians from the hamlet of Islip, East Islip and several other communities, some quite distant. Virtually all members of St. Mark’s are “middle class”; There are a few wealthy families. In recent years, the average age of the community has risen significantly. Because Long Island is an expensive part of the country, young people raised in the Church tend to move elsewhere to start their own families. (It should be noted that these young people often retain their loyalty to St Mark’s where the clergy perform a significant number of weddings for non-resident couples returning to Islip to marry.)

As the congregation has aged, the number of children attending services has declined sharply, despite efforts to include them in worship. St. Mark’s Church School, which has enrolled as many as three hundred in recent decades, now educates fewer than 20 young people. A Bible school during the summer holidays often attracts children from other traditions.

Overall, declining membership is as serious a problem as the congregation is facing now.

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