More than one hundred years ago, on November 5, 1892, Episcopalians in the tiny community of Orchard Park, New York (then known as East Hamburg) laid the cornerstone for a small mission church.
The first actual house of worship was at the southwest end of Potter Lane, now known as Potter Avenue. It was a frame building and the pews and knelling bences were brought from the old St. John's Church in Buffalo, according to local historians.
The first service was held on Easter Day 1893 with Bishop Walker presiding. By 1899 the original church rectory had been presented to the church by 1895, a guild hall had been built in the back of the church.
The year 1924 brought about the moving of the actual church to its present location. In 1926 Bishop Brent was on hand to lay the cornerstone at the present location. A brick tower was built and the frame building was covered with brick veneer.
Until the end of World War II, St. Mark's was served as a mission church by ministers from nearby Hamburg and East Aurora. In 1946, a rector who had been a professor at the Univeristy of Buffalo, Dr. Arnold Verduin, took charge. Within two years, he had enlarged the congreagation to the point that it became a self-supporting parish. In 1954, the Diocese of Western New York deeded this church property to St. Mark's.
Following World War II, Orchard Park, like so many American rural communities, felt a surge of growth as new homes were built by young families seeking a suburban lifestyle. Unlike many similar areas, however, Orchard Park was able to absord the growth without losing its distinctive character. The village of Orchard Park and St. Mark's continue to this days, as a many communities that have retained much of their orignial charm. The Rev. Harry W. Heermans, Rector for twenty nine years from 1949-1977, presided during this period of major growth.
In 1949, there were 132 families belonging to St. Mark's. In 1959 St. Mark's built a new four bedroom rectory on Potter Avenue, raised the old rectory, and paved a parking lot on that site. In 1966 another enlargement was made, adding a substantial meeting room downstairs, a rector's study, a parish office, three classrooms, and a vestry meeting room. In 1973 a personally designed pipe organ was constructed and installed by Leonard Carlson.
The Rev. Roy D. Green Jr. was called to serve St. Mark's in 1978 following the retirement of Harry Heermans. Although during this period the ecocomy of Western New York and Orchard Park had undergone severe economic pressure with the transformation of a heavily industrial economy to one targeting service and technology, St. Mark's grew to 206 families. After Roy Green left in 1987, the church extended a call to Rev. Charles W. Whitemore whose pastorate began in September 1988 until he retired in June 2007.
A historial account such as this can depict only the material and physical growth of a parish. The spiritual health which of course is of deeper significance, is not something subject to measure by buildings or by dollars.
St. Mark's is a loving and caring congregation. It illustrates this in its outreach to the poor, the needy, the sick, and the bereaved. Sg. Mark's is a parish family with deep commitment to God, with equally loving concerns for our neighbors, and as Jesus said, "On these two commandments hand all the law and the prophets" (Matt. 22:40)