St. Mark Lutheran Church is the result of the merger of St. Mark Lutheran Church, located in Clifton Heights, and Temple Lutheran Church, located in Philadelphia. Here’s how it all began:

Temple Lutheran Church

Temple Lutheran Church began as Mission Temple Lutheran on July 31, 1901. The first service was held at 5129 Market Street, the home of Mr. George Grammar. It was the result of a little prayer meeting conducted by Rev. S. D. Daugherty, Missionary Superintendent. A lot was purchased on February 4, 1902 at 52nd and Race Streets. The congregation was organized on February 16, 1902 and the first congregational meeting was held in Mr. Grammer’s home. The first supply pastor was Rev. H. H. Weber. Fund raising was immediately begun. Temple Lutheran Chapel was built in the spring of 1902, opened for services on June 15, 1902 and dedicated one week later.

At the end of 1902, Temple had 100 members. By May of 1903, that number had doubled. In August of 1903, groundbreaking ceremonies for a permanent church building were held and in November of that year the cornerstone was laid. The new church was at the same location as the chapel - 52nd and Race Streets in West Philadelphia.

In 1920, Mr. Ben T. Welch contributed 32 acres of farmland, located along Baltimore Pike in Delaware County, to the church.

Rev. August Pohlman was the first pastor of Temple. He retired in September 1934, after 32 years. Rev. William Boomhower then served from February 1935 until May 1941. Rev. Hugh Yost then served from September 1941 through the end of 1956. On January 1, 1957, Pastor Juhan Suurkivi became Temple’s pastor.

St. Mark Lutheran Church

St. Mark started as a Sunday School which first met in the home of Robert and Ruth Wilson and then the home of Harry and Emily Johnson in 1950. At that time, both lived on Whitehall Drive in Westbrook Park. The group moved to the old Clifton Heights Fire House. By June 1950, the Sunday School had been organized under the direction of Rev. Oswald, a seminarian; there were nine members.

By November 1950, St. Mark was a mission congregation with its first supply pastor, Rev. Ammon. The congregation was formally organized in April 1951 under Rev. Gruver and Mr. Leroy Moussly. It had grown to 60 members. A house was purchased at 436 N. Oak Avenue in April 1953 and services were held there. Rev. Robert Gearhart served as supply pastor from September to November 1953. A parsonage was purchased in December of 1951 at 413 Aldan Avenue, Aldan.

Rev. Roy Meck was the next pastor; he served from December 1953 until September 1958. An additional property was purchased on December 7, 1955. By January of 1956, the membership had grown to 213. The groundbreaking ceremony for the new building was in the Fall of 1956 and the church was dedicated on April 7, 1957. The building was a brick chapel with seating for 185. The membership had grown to 227.

The Merger

In 1958, the Synod suggested to Temple that they consider merging with a suburban congregation; they had been experiencing a loss in membership for a number of years. At the same time, St. Mark needed a new pastor. The respective councils discussed the merger and the two congregations merged on January 1, 1959.

The new church, St. Mark Temple Evangelical Lutheran Church was born with a baptized membership of almost 700.

The First 25 Years of Life Together

 Another building fund drive was begun and the cornerstone for the new building was laid on April 23, 1961. Dedication Sunday was on September 10, 1961.

The farm, which had been a gift to Temple, became the property of the merged church. The farm was used for picnics, baseball games, strawberry festivals, meetings and Easter Sunrise services. The property was taken/purchased by the water company in 1968 under eminent domain.

Pastor Suurkivi left in 1970 and was followed by Rev. William Wegener who served from September 1970 until 1978. Pastor Dan Biles came to St. Mark in 1978.

In 1978, under the leadership of member Chris (Rankin) Harms, a nursery school was begun. Chris had determined that there was a need by knocking on many doors in the community. Morning classes opened in September 1979.

During this time, a women’s group was formed, St. Mark began connecting with the community and the new LBW hymnal was purchased.

The Next 10 Years
1985 - 1989

Pastor Dan Biles served until December 31, 1985. The Rev. Patricia Johnson was installed in 1986 and served until 1988. The Rev. James Shelton served as Vice Pastor during this time. From October 1989 to May 1991, Rev. Fred Watson served both First Lutheran, Collingdale and St. Mark Temple. In 1988, the Lutheran Church in America merged with the American Lutheran Church and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.


1990 - 1995

Rev. Paul Townsend was called in August 1992 and served until 1995.

In March 1995, a Call Committee was formed to develop a call for St. Mark’s next pastor. As a result of this group’s work, St. Mark called Christopher J. Franz as a contract pastor. In December 1995, Pastor Franz was ordained at St. Mark and began a call which has lasted until December 2011.

1996 - 2011

In 1996, there was a great deal of renewed activity at St. Mark as Pastor Chris began to lead us. The Outreach Group was formed. This ministry focused on feeding the homeless, holding blood drives and tutoring at Westbrook Park School. While this group no longer exists, we now have two ministries (weekly and monthly) which feed the homeless. During this year, plans were being made to begin a children’s clothing ministry. This ministry evolved to our present Thrift Shop which houses KidsCloset, Annie’s Attic and Ladies’ Boutique.

From 1998 to 2001 our building underwent several renovations, including expanding the Nathex, installing stained glass, creating the "Coffee Stop" in the Narthex, and renovating the Christian Education wing. 

In 2001, St. Mark was blessed to have Cheryl Hensil join us as our intern and in 2003 she became St. Mark’s Vicar as she continued her progress toward becoming an ordained Pastor. Our evening contemporary Worship and Praise service was begun. Our newly created scattering garden received national press and our Tree of Life provided a way to remember loved ones.

At the end of 2003, Resurrection Lutheran Church in Havertown closed; some of its members joined St. Mark. As a result of the closing, we received Resurrection’s baptismal font; many of the children of families newly joining St. Mark were baptized at that font.

In 2004, there were many changes to our nursery school which became St. Mark’s Christian School with Kathy Cosentino as Director. Despite losing many students when our former staff left, we quickly had an enrollment of 71 by September and began full academic day programs for 3's and 4's. Our outreach programs were organized under the Faith in Action (later named Sharing God’s Love) umbrella. We converted our rarely used stage to new space for our Thrift Shop. We also began our campaign to raise funds for a new roof for the church.

In 2005 we acquired our new pipe organ which we received as a gift from the Nativity Lutheran Church Congregation in Chester, PA following their closing in June. During the year, major renovations were made to our chancel to accommodate the pipe organ and provide better viewing of our PowerPoint presentations. We acquired the property next door and we also introduced our newly-created web site which helps us Make Christ Known to all who view it. Many of our visitors “find” us through our web site. At the end of the year, we celebrated our tenth year of partnership with Pastor Chris and the tenth anniversary of his ordination. Bishop Almquist led our anniversary service and presented Pastor Chris with a plaque for his office.

In 2007, we installed a new, brightly lit message sign on the Crestwood Avenue side of our church, contributions in memory of Nicky Lentz helped to fund this new addition.

In the spring of 2009 we put a plan into action to develop our own Summer Camp which has become increasingly successful. 

In 2010, a fountain was installed in the Scattering Garden in memory of Jack Ippoliti. Anne Smith’s family purchased a beautiful angel to be placed in our Scattering Garden as a memorial to her. While we had held several carnivals in the past few years, we held our first Kiddie Karnival during this year; it was a smashing success. 

In 2011, the renovations to our restrooms were completed. As a result, we have beautiful new facilities and a handicapped stall in both the women’s and men’s rooms. Our Christian School was voted “Best in Delco” in the Daily Times contest.

2013 - today

Pastor Timothy Ness was called to serve St. Mark in 2013. Under his leadership, St. Mark saw an increase in community programs, like God on Tap and Ashes To Go. 

Pastor Kevin Tracey was called to serve St. Mark in June 2022. He is hopeful and excited for the future of St. Mark. 

St. Mark Today

As one reads through annual reports, other reports and past newsletters, one is struck by the many accomplishments of the past and current years and by the great variety of names of people who have, and do, contribute to the success of St. Mark and its many ways of Making Christ Known Through Word and Action.

Many of our accomplishments listed in this History involve what appear to be “things” - property acquisitions, building construction, major renovations, etc. However, many of them also involve significant ministries - feeding the homeless, teaching children about God and Jesus, providing food for members who are ill or otherwise in need, prayer ministry, Bible Study, etc. Behind every one of these “accomplishments” are the people who dreamed, inspired others, invited friends to worship, welcomed visitors to worship, raised funds, attended meetings and walked the talk.

Who are they? What are their names? (You may wonder why this History does not include a list of the “key people” at St. Mark.) “They” are all of us - all of us who did, do and will work together to make the St. Mark “dream” a ”reality”. Look in the mirror and you will see the face of “one of them”. Look at your Social Security card and you will see the name of “one of them”. Turn to the person sitting next to you in church on Sunday and you can greet “one of them”. Together, we are all the “key people” at St. Mark.

Together, we made St. Mark what it was yesterday and what it is today. Together, we will make St. Mark what it will be tomorrow. Together, we do and will feed the homeless and teach the children and lead the youth. Together, we do and will gather to participate in and lead worship, raise funds for special ministries and work in our beautiful garden. Together, we do and will gather for prayer at St. Mark and on the street, meet for Bible study and discussion that opens our hearts and minds and come to meetings to make plans for more ministries that will help make Christ known. Together, we do and will continue to make prayer shawls to comfort the ill and grieving, make meals for individuals who need them and serve as tellers on Sunday morning.

Together, we do and will continue to accomplish what no one of us could ever do alone but what we can and will do as the community of St. Mark. Praise God for lasting love, eternal presence and guidance!