I wanted to tell you that it has been absolutely wonderful to be a part of your church. I was raised Pentecostal so you can imagine that I was not accepted for who i am. When I was 17 my youth pastor called me out of the service for a talk and explained to me that allowing me to continue to attend his church as an open homosexual was equivalent to allowing a person to sell drugs in his church. So, he asked me to either deny my sexuality or be asked to leave the church. Naturally, I said that I didn’t need his church anyway and left. Since then I have wandered around and never really felt safe and comfortable in a church. Even one’s that accepted homosexuals. So here we are, 20 years later and I finally feel safe and comfortable in a church. Thank you for being a part of that.
My introduction to St. Mark’s came in late 1981, mostly as an accommodation to my mother after I moved back to Jonesboro. I became actively involved due to the open arms of The Rev. Patrick Murray and leaders of the parish community at that time. They all showed me the rewards from the many avenues of all-inclusive service St. Mark’s offers to my personal family, our church family, the diocesan family and to the community at large. I always have been surprised (maybe “frustrated” is a better word) that more people don’t know the Episcopal story.
My wife and I were looking for a place where we could teach our children that loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself were the same love, and no place has done better than that than St. Mark’s.
Never before have I been with a group of people so ready to “do”. During hardships in my life I’ve heard many times “I’ll pray for you”, but here not only will someone pray for you, but then they will join in to help.
I came to St. Mark’s for the donuts and stayed for the fact that this is a church that can make even my atheist friends feel welcome enough to visit and volunteer. This is not a hypothetical situation. My atheist friend has volunteered at the soup kitchen, and enjoyed it. When they preach that Jesus said to love thy neighbor, they preach it from a place of experience. Also, the clergy has a way of putting things into a perspective that both reaches and interests me. For instance, there have been sermons that have tied in Firefly, Avatar, and Night Rider, just this year. It’s as if they’re reminding us that even in a time like this the bible can be as relevant as ever.
I have been at St. Mark’s for 50+years. I grew up in a small Southern Baptist Church where Hell, Fire, and Brimstone was the order of service, I stayed afraid that the devil would reach through the cracks in the ground and pull me into hell. I didn’t want my children to be subjected to that. I had friends with children at St. Marks and they invited me. I love my church. I love the fact that all are welcome.