A Brief History of St. Mark Presbyterian Church

Submitted by The Rev. Dr. Barbara J. Campbell

The house shown above, now has the address 626 SW Comus Ct, and now has other houses around it. It stood alone when built on Boones Ferry Road in 1931.

The Early Years

St Mark Presbyterian Church has its roots in Lewis & Clark College, and as the “Palatine Hill Presbyterian Church”, first met in the Copeland Memorial Chapel on the campus of Lewis & Clark College. On April 28th, 1946, the church was organized officially as a Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. with 23 charter members (many of whom were students or staff at L&C) and on November 17, 1946, The Rev. John E. Ransom was installed as the first pastor of Palatine Hill Presbyterian Church, 0615 SW Palatine Hill Road. (New address is 615 S Palatine Hill Road). Faculty from L&C who also served as pastor of St. Mark include Dr. Richard (Dick) Rohrbaugh and Dr. John Anderson.

In 1945, a new site was selected for the congregation. Five acres and a house were purchased at 10722 SW Boones Ferry Road at a cost of $31,100. (This is the one shown above as Church House 1958-1961. The address of the house is now 626 SW Comus Ct. — Ed.)

By 1948, the church listed a membership of 50.

Blog Editor's Note: It seems like the timeline for the location of the congregation is as follows.

  1. On the L&C Campus 1945 or 1946 through 1958 (perhaps multiple locations?)
  2. At the above Church House: 1958-1961
  3. At the current location in ~1961, once the new church was built in 1960.
  4. Congregation dispersed in 2017.

We are hoping a reader, such as a past member of the congregation, can confirm or correct this timeline. We would love to see it clearly spelled out.

A New Church Location and Building

On Sept 24, 1960, a new church building and grounds were dedicated at 9750 SW Terwilliger Blvd., the church’s present location. At that time the property that became Tryon Creek State Natural Area was slated to be sold as a new housing development. St. Mark hoped that their nearby location would draw the new families moving into the area. The owner of the property, however, decided to give the property to the state instead to preserve the natural area. Though we applauded the decision, it left the congregation with fewer new members to draw on.

A New Beginning

Building and moving to the new property was also an opportunity to change the congregation’s name to “St. Mark Presbyterian Church” with the pastor explaining that there could be no possessive apostrophe on “Mark” since “Presbyterians do not dedicate buildings to saints”. Church membership reached an all time high of 218 in 1977 under Pastor Rohrbaugh. In 1996 the sanctuary, foyer, and office of the church were remodeled and in 2003 the Jarrett Wing Fellowship Hall was added to the building.

Starting out as a chapel on a liberal arts college, St Mark has a long tradition of being academically, politically, and theologically progressive. From 1972 to 1978 a Youth Hostel was sponsored by St. Mark and administered by a special committee of the Southwest Community Action Council. Each season, the hostel served over 1,100 people. In 1996 the congregation voted and affirmed its status as a More Light Congregation of the PCUSA, becoming one of three PCUSA churches in our state that were open and affirming toward all persons regardless of sexual orientation or gender identification.

Spiritual Life

In 2003 Rev. Dr. Barbara Campbell became pastor at St. Mark. A few years later St. Mark agreed to share its facility with P’nai Or, which translates as faces of light, Jewish Renewal Congregation under the leadership of Rabbi Aryeh Hirshfied, who died in a tragic scuba diving accident in Mexico a few years later. The two congregations bonded deeply and shared interfaith worship, education and Day Camps for many years with nearby Rizwan Mosque.

In 2006, St. Mark was 53 members strong with over 50 in worship. Local mission service work included Clark Center Meals, Habitat for Humanity, Neighborhood House Food Box, Christmas Giving Tree, making hats and scarves for the homeless, holiday parties for immigrant communities and trips to support a non-profit in Central India serving the Dahlit poor, the ancient Untouchable Caste.

St. Mark worked within the PCUSA on several overtures to their General Assembly to allow the ordination of GLBTQ members and blessings of same sex marriages. Youth and adults groups from the church provided service work locally and internationally.

St Mark Marriage Equality

Sharing the Facility and Property

St. Mark was happy to share their parking during with week with students from the Lewis & Clark Law School and for the overflow parking needs of Riverdale High School across the street. St. Mark agreed to serve as the Collins View Neighborhood Emergency Team’s staging area in the case of natural disasters. The facilities also welcomed five AA groups, and the Village Preschool Coop which filled the lower level of the building for decades. Annual summer rummage sales became a neighborhood favorite.

St Mark Sing-Along Messiah

The Mural

A stunning mural was painted on the east side of the building facing Terwilliger Blvd in 2008. The Regional Arts Council sent $2,700 in matching funds to artist Esteban Camacho Steffensen. The mural was first drawn and painted on twelve full sheets of plywood. The central images include landscapes and wildlife of the Pacific NW representing the congregation’s dedication to stewardship of the earth. Other images reflect dedication to interfaith understanding. The Evangelist Mark is represented by a winged mountain lion standing firmly on scripture. The twelve sheets were attached to the siding of the building and coated with a weather proof finish. The mural is drawn three dimensionally and is often mistaken as a real stained glass window. The mural was dedicated publically on September 21, 2008.

The Dissolution of the Congregation

After years of studying church vitality, the congregation came to understand that their ability to give to missions of the church was being eaten up by continual building repair and salaries. On May 7, 2017, the congregation of St. Mark voted in favor of requesting “that the Presbytery of the Cascades celebrate the life and ministry of St Mark Presbyterian Church and approve dissolution of the congregation, effective June 30th, 2017”.

Congregational members have moved out in small clusters into other Presbyterian congregations around Portland, offering their energy and support to new communities of faith while maintaining some of their St. Mark relationships and continuing to follow their calling to work toward peace and justice.

Fun Quotes from St Mark Bulletins and Minutes (over the years)

“Youth Hostel is willing to trade pears, apples and plums for canning jars.”

Parking has become a problem, “it would be appreciated if some of the younger people would park their cars over at Collins View School and walk across to the Church.”

“Help!!! We have lost St. Mark — it can’t be found in the tall grass and weeds.”

“Let’s delay panic over the budget until September.”

“Bill’s (Tacey – the pastor!) phone number in the front of the church directory is wrong ….the person receiving calls is getting a little irate.”

“The neighbors were requested not to use the parking lot as a showroom for cars for sale.”

“Who is responsible for the kitchen? Also, would the church’s work be better distributed if we reduced the number of elders?”

“Our El Salvador refugee has disappeared.”

“It was initially MSC by a vote of 7 yes, 2 no, 1 abstain to eliminate the gables; however, after more information was received, the session unanimously agreed to reverse itself and keep the gables.”

A Parsonage on 2nd!

Reading the Long History of the Church (below), we see that in September 1952 the congregation voted to purchase a three-bedroom home and garage at 9535 SW 2nd Avenue for a parsonage. The cost was $12,000. Yet another house on 2nd has a history!


Long History: Part I & Part II, 47 pages. Part One covers 1946-1968, compiled from church bulletins and other church records by Rita A. Leonard. Part Two covers 1969-2006, complied from Session minutes and weekly bulletins by Capi Reed and edited by Barbara Campbell. [1.5 MB PDF]

Our article - St Mark Church property up FOR SALE: [LINK]

Our article - The Vigil of St Mark Mural: [LINK]

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