St. Mark congregation grew out of a controversy that took place within the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) in the 1970s.
Having been told they could no longer support moderate seminary professors and missionaries through their offerings at a local LC-MS congregation, a group of approximately 40 individuals began meeting in the living room of one family to
discuss their alternatives.
In December, 1976, this small group began to celebrate the Lord’s Supper on Sunday mornings at the Belleville Philharmonic Hall (116 North Jackson Street). Their offerings were given to the support of moderate seminary professors and missionaries who had been excluded by the LCMS. Pr. James Clark, of St. Martin of Tours Lutheran Church in Mascoutah, conducted the services.
In February, 1977, the Rev. Herman Neunaber, a moderate bishop, appointed the Rev. Ronald Neustadt to serve this community that called themselves “Zion Moderates,” and who re-named themselves St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1978.
St. Mark grew in numbers. They continued to worship at the Philharmonic Hall and hold Sunday School classes in a rented house on East “F” Street. In 1982, St. George’s Episcopal Church offered to rent space in their education building to St. Mark Church for office and Sunday School use.
In the summer of that year, St. George’s allowed St. Mark the use of their church building for the Sunday morning liturgy, in addition to the weekday office space.
St. Mark congregation continued to grow in numbers, committing themselves to spending at least 15% of their income to the support of Christian mission and ministry outside St. Mark congregation. A commitment the congregation remains faithful to in 2012.
By the late 1980s it was apparent that both St. Mark and St. George’s needed a larger worship space. St. George’s asked St. Mark if the congregation would commit for at least another five years to the partnership that had developed. If so, St. George’s wanted to build a larger building. St. Mark agreed.
Then followed a discussion over where to build. Several other churches had left the downtown Belleville area to relocate in suburban areas. Bucking this trend, St. Mark and St. George’s agreed to remain in downtown Belleville.
In order to obtain a building permit from the city of Belleville, off-street parking would be required. St. Mark purchased four city lots at the opposite corner of “D” & “High” streets and made considerable improvements to them, resulting in the parking lot they now own and share with St. George’s.
The “new” church, shared by both congregations, was dedicated in December 1991.
In 2010, after 33 years of dedicated and loving service, Pastor Neustadt retired from his position. The congregation enjoyed the interim ministry of Pastor Joe Bleakley from September 2010 through June 2011.
That same month, St. Mark called the Reverend Brian Robison as pastor.
A “blended”-style (elements of both traditional liturgy and contemporary worship) service began in August 2012. Known as SHINE, this service takes place on the first Saturday of each month and features musical talents of both St. Mark and St. George’s.
In March of 2015, we were honored to welcome the Reverend Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, to give the annual Lynn Schaaf Memorial Lecture (which began in 2007) and to preach for our Sunday liturgy.
In December, 2016, we celebrated 40 years as a congregation. We affirmed that God is still at work in this place. St. Mark continues to be a church of Word and Sacrament. St. Mark places emphasis on Christian mission and ministry, both among and beyond its members. As we face the future that God is bringing to us, we like to say that we exist, not for our own sake, but for the sake of those who are not yet part of the household of faith.