Church Activities

Episcopal Thrift Shop — The Episcopal Thrift Shop was established in 1991 by Ascension Episcopal Church and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in the Town of Amherst. Donations from the community stock the shop, and one paid employee along with a host of volunteers make this operation a success. The mission of the thrift shop is to provide emergency outreach assistance to those in need in our community. Proceeds from its operation are distributed on a referral basis according to the needs of individuals. The shop’s proceeds also support organizations that benefit Amherst County such as the Free Clinic, Amherst Cares, Nelson Kid Cares, Blue Ledge Meals on Wheels, the two food pantries in the county, Hunters for the Hungry, Habitat for Humanity, Miriam’s House, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, and many others. As of December 2019, over $860,000.00 has been given back to the community since the inception of the shop.

Amherst Cares — Amherst Cares is a collaborative effort of church, school, community, and individuals to provide supplemental food to students in Amherst County Public Schools who have been identified by school personnel as “food insecure”. In addition to financial support, members of our church family work in a variety of ways to assist with this program including the packing and distribution of food. Our church also purchases school supplies that are packaged and delivered to the approximately four hundred and fifty students in the program at the beginning of the second semester of the school year. It is our wish to support these students so that they can succeed.

Habitat for Humanity — Under the leadership of Father James Hubbard several years ago, St. Mark’s began both financial and actual labor support for the nonprofit organization Habitat for Humanity. Habitat provides homes for underserved populations in the Greater Lynchburg area, including Amherst County. Through our monetary contributions and the aid of other clubs and churches, families in need now have a home to call their own.

Episcopal Relief and Development — St. Mark’s Church supports the Episcopal Relief and Development projects through vestry initiatives and one-time fund drives. When a hurricane destroyed much of Houston, Texas in the late summer of 2017, we sent an additional, individually raised donation to ERD for use in their relief efforts. We continue to support their work both within the United States and abroad to this day.

Free Dinners — The Free Dinner Ministry was begun more than 20 years ago when it was apparent that hunger needs were not being met in Amherst County.  St. Mark’s provides the meal on the last Saturday evening in the month assigned. The last Saturday was chosen as an appropriate date, since most government related subsidies have been depleted by then.  We provide meals two to three times a year. All are welcome to eat with us or take advantage of takeout service, no questions asked.

Getting Involved

Altar Guild — Altar Guilds in the Episcopal Church today are groups of women and men who feel called to serve God and his church by caring reverently for the church’s nave and altar. Its linens, hangings, vestments, communion vessels, candles, flowers, and elements of bread and wine are all their responsibility.  Housekeeping chores and preparing the sacred space itself is also required. At St. Mark’s, we carry out these responsibilities gladly throughout the seasons of the Church.

Music — St. Mark’s has a very active music program. We have a beautiful 1872 Opus 662 Hook and Hastings tracker organ which was installed in August 2009. Along with visiting instrumentalists who play at various services throughout the church year, our choir provides leadership in hymn singing and special anthems each Sunday. At certain times, the Amherst Glebe Arts Response provides Sunday afternoon musical programs of various musical genres. Please see Organ History and The Choir sections.

The Choir — We would always like to have more members (we have 10 at this time) in the choir at St. Mark’s. We love to sing! We have a big repertoire and a great appreciation for both good church music and for each other.

Together with our organist and the occasional guest instrumentalist, we sing God’s praises every Sunday with a loving congregation. 

We even got a new choir rehearsal room this year! How can we ask for more? Oh, yes – that you come and join us – either in the choir or in the congregation. We’d love to have you!

Lay Readers – Lay Readers serve our Parish when a priest is unavailable. They conduct Morning and Evening Prayer Services. They are licensed by the Bishop, after undergoing training from the rector.

Lectors – Lectors read the lessons during services, whether at the Eucharist or on other Feast Days. They also participate in Morning and Evening Prayer. They must be trained by other lectors prior to their service, but do not require licensure. 

Eucharistic Servers – Eucharistic Servers assist the celebrant during the preparation and serving of the elements at the Eucharist. They also function as the crucifer during the processional, recessional and the Gospel Procession. They may assist during the service in other ways at the rector’s discretion. They are licensed by the Bishop, after training from the rector.

Eucharistic Visitors – Eucharistic Visitors bring communion to sick and shut in parishioners. They use elements that have been previously consecrated by the priest. They are also licensed by the Bishop after receiving training from the rector.

Organ History

The beautiful old tracker organ at St. Mark’s was built in 1872 by E. and G.G. Hook and Hastings.  It had several homes previously in churches and at schools in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. 

Fr. James Hubbard of St. Mark’s became aware of the organ’s availability in the early Summer of 2009. He and the church’s organist made a trip to New Hampshire in mid-July to check out the instrument and realized the potential that it offered for the church. After consultation with the Vestry, an offer was made, and the organ was purchased in the Summer of 2009.

In the last few years restoration work has been done by Thomas Rohlfs of Rohlfs Pipe Organ Services. Mr. Rohlfs apprenticed, then worked to restore organs in Germany, Australia, Canada, and the United States. He has stated “The organ is certainly of very good quality, and I was very happy to see an instrument of that age still largely unchanged.” The organ has seven ranks:  three each on each of the two manuals and the Pedal rank. One rank on each manual is divided into Bass and Treble. 

The organ has delightful inspiring sounds and is perfect for our small Nave.  We invite you to join us for services and to sing along! 

-With thanks to Melissa Sutherland for providing background information on the organ

Episcopal Church Women

Annual Holiday Cookie Walk and Bazaar — On the first Saturday of each December, the ECW of St. Mark’s hosts its Annual Holiday Cookie Walk and Bazaar. What started as a small bake sale and craft festival has grown into an annual event well supported by the local community. Monies raised from the all-day event are used to support the Episcopal Church Women’s ministries throughout the next year. 

Available for purchase are multiple dozens of holiday cookies that are sold by the pound, mix and match if the buyer chooses. Also, for sale are ham biscuits, breads, dinner rolls, cakes, sweet rolls, snacks, gingerbread houses, soups, jams and jellies. We offer preorders on frozen quiches and casseroles which make excellent meals for couples or individuals. We have available many Christmas crafts for decorating your home, outfitting your kitchen, or for your family and friends to wear. These handmade items make great Christmas presents, hostess or teacher gifts, and special treats for pets and wildlife. We do a raffle with exciting prizes –quilts, blankets, Chrismon trees, and gift baskets brimming with Christmas goodies. 

A trip to the Holiday Cookie Walk and Bazaar is a fun adventure. You are sure to leave loaded down with treats for everyone on your list –there may even be something for you! Can’t wait to see you at St. Mark’s!

Lap Blanket and Prayer Shawl Ministry — The Lap Blanket and Prayer Shawl Ministry at St. Mark’s is fueled by the creative crafters among our parish.  Throughout the year, many hands are busy knitting and crocheting blankets and shawls that will be given to those in need of God’s love and comfort during a challenging time.  While our hands enjoy creating our projects, the true reward is knowing our faith in God will reach others through our creativity! 

Periodically, the ladies take inventory of their work, and will request clergy to bless their woven works.  Once blessed, these lap blankets and prayer shawls are stored in the Parish Hall and are available for anyone to access and pass on to a friend, family member, special loved one, or residents of long-term care facilities. We welcome all who are interested in contributing to and/or utilizing our outreach mission!

Teddy Bear Project — Our Teddy Bear Project at St. Mark’s is an annual project in which all church members can participate. Throughout the year, we collect new or gently used teddy bears for the residents at Fairmount Crossing Rehabilitation Center and, in past years, Johnson Senior Home, in Amherst. These teddy bears are each given a handmade scarf (knitted or crocheted) and presented with a “God loves you” name tag before all are delivered and distributed by members of the church. The distribution of the bears takes place at Christmastime.

The Louise Cash Scholarship — The Episcopal Church Women (ECW) at St. Mark’s provide a one-time, $1000.00 college scholarship to an Amherst County High School senior. The scholarship is named for a lifelong member who was a teacher in the Amherst County Public Schools. The award is based on 50% academic achievement and 50% financial need. The student must also be in good standing with the school and community. The scholarship may be used at a four-year college or vocational school.

Boys Home of Virginia — Boys Home of Virginia, located in Covington, VA, is a private, residential school that operates independently of the public-school system. Boys Home admits students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. St. Mark’s has for years been a partner in support of Boys Home. We support their Christmas sponsorship program, and we have donated to help restore the grounds after a flood. We try to meet their other needs as they arise and help to fulfill their summer wish list.

The United Thank OfferingThe United Thank Offering (UTO) of the Episcopal Church is a personal spiritual discipline of thanksgiving that supports God’s mission throughout the world. Each year, St. Mark’s participates in a spring and fall ingathering of tangible offerings to change lives in very real ways. The mission of the UTO is to “expand the circle of thankful people”. To achieve this mission, daily prayers, offerings, and awareness of the abundance of God’s blessings are encouraged.