San Marcos Record, San Marcos, TX – A Place of Beauty
Published: January 23, 2010 11:50 am
A Place of Beauty
New St. Mark’s Church already a sacred place for its members
By Jeff Walker
San Marcos — St. Mark’s Church Rector Rev. Bruce Wilson says that beauty is a very important entity to the Episcopal Church. Beauty is one thing that transform souls. Beauty is how the congregation comes closer to God.
The church’s new sanctuary on Ranch Road 12, with its stucco exterior and large windows that look out toward rolling hills to the south, was certainly built with the church’s value system in mind.
“The combination of the architecture and openness to the Hill Country vista (on which the church sits) really makes this a beautiful and sacred place for us,” Wilson said.
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Marcos recently moved from its location on the Texas State University campus to its new facility on Ranch Road 12 next to San Marcos Academy.
St. Mark’s will host a dedication of the new sanctuary on Feb. 14. The actual first service in the new building was the Christmas Eve service, but the transition is ongoing: Organ pipes were being installed this week and the Parish Hall, the church’s eventual place for fellowship, is still under construction, due for completion in late May or early June.
But the change is already prevalent.
“I come here every morning at 7:30 a.m. and I’m just awed by the new church,” St. Mark’s Music Director JennyAhlin Henderson said. “I’m awed by the accomplishment of the congregation and awed by the new possibilities.”
When construction is completed, the entire campus will also include an administration building, a unit for a preschool and classrooms and, eventually, a Christian Education Building. But the new, larger sanctuary has already shown to be beneficial.
“We could cram 225 people into our old church. We’ve had two events here: One where we had 350 people and we had 420 people at the other,” Wilson said.
In 1996, a fire at the former St. Mark’s Church on Guadalupe St. forced the congregation to worship at Texas State’s Performing Arts Center for more than a year. When they returned, Wilson says members first began to realize that they reached their limit. A lack of parking spaces and meeting places showed that the congregation was outgrowing the church.
“In 1999, a slight majority of the congregation understood that we were limited, and that we would never be more than a Chapel on the University campus in our present location,” Wilson said. “By 2001, we had reached an average Sunday attendance of 2010; that was the top average Sunday attendance weever had. We couldn’t get over that.”
Wilson uses the metaphor of trying to get everybody aboard a plane. There was a vision coming into place that the church could become one that’s large enough to provide ministry to the community, assuming they were willing to relocate.
In 2003, they purchased the land on Ranch Road 12 from the San Marcos Academy. In 2007, they sold the building on Guadalupe.
“We spent seven years on the runway,” Wilson said. “There were times when we were stuck and frustrated and didn’t have enough money for the Parish hall and the sanctuary, so we struggled for a long time with which one to build… there we concerns that the new building was a couple miles outside of town.”
But the congregation persevered, and Wilson credits many heroes: Celeste Healy and Larry Hanson, co-chairs of the building community, along with Dean Lalich, who helped chair the committee for several years.
And then there was Lila and Hunter Henry, who donated the bulk of the remaining funds needed for the Parish Hall. The two donated the money late last year, just before Lila died earlier this month.
“I understand they had several conversations about helping with the Parish Hall,” Wilson said. “She asked him, ‘am I going to have to die before we do it? And he said ‘no dear, this will be your Taj Mahal.’”
When Wilson arrives at the new church daily, he thinks of people like Healy and Lalich and Hanson who helped steer the plane — or as he says, got out and helped pull the plane forward — and complete one congregation’s vision. He thinks of Lila and Hunter, their loving contribution and her untimely passing. And he also thinks about the future.
“I still have a strong and immediate sense of the long road we’ve been on to get to this point,” Wilson said, seated in one of the back pews of the sanctuary. “This is one of those really sacred spots for me. And hopefully, it will be for others who come through this place over the years.”