“This is a very sweet house of prayer, everything in its place, and a place for everything. Its simplicity is charming and its churchly ordering as touching as it is beautiful.”
– The Rt. Rev. William Pinkney, Bishop of Maryland, 1883

Beauty. Simplicity. Adjectives that have described and defined St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Highland, MD, for more than 135 years. Since 1874, our simple “rural gothic” white wainscoted church has served families, communities, and the larger world in service to God and his people. We cherish, celebrate, and love our “pretty church on the corner” by sharing it with our wider community in Highland, Clarksville, Columbia, Fulton, and Laurel.

As early as 1857, the residents of the Clarksville and Highland areas of Howard County began to consider building an Episcopal Church. That year Mr. Washington Adams proposed that a church be erected on a lot that he would donate. However, the Civil War intervened, and he died before the bequest was made. The present church stands on a lot called “Hickory Ridge” donated by Ferdinand C. Pue, one of the founders of the church. God’s hand in building St. Mark’s is evident in a singular coincidence—the lot that he donated was the same land that Mr. Adams had promised to donate in 1857. The church was not completed until 1874; and even then, “complete” had an entirely different meaning than now. The altar was makeshift; no room existed for the preparation of services or the vesting of clergy; and the services were held in a building “not furnished with plaster or pews.” Consecration of a finished church would have to wait. In 1881, the chancel was added to the church; and in November 1882, Bishop Pinkney consecrated St. Mark’s.

For the first 90 years of its existence, St. Mark’s shared a rector with another Episcopal Church. It was first “yoked” to Mt. Calvary in Glenwood, which no longer exists. It was then linked with Christ Church in Guilford (now part of Columbia, MD), also called “Old Brick,” the oldest Episcopal Church in Howard County. The first rector was Reverend Dr. Orlando Hutton, D.D., also the rector at Mt. Calvary, who served from 1875 to 1890. The early years were characterized by tension over the shared rector and where he was to live, financial crisis, and the burden that growth imposed.

St. Mark’s relationship with Mt. Calvary ended in 1898, and its relationship with Christ Church began in 1929. The history of the church between these years is unclear because the vestry minutes from those years are missing. From the baptism, marriage, and death records, however, it is clear the parish was active and alive. Some reliable observations can be made about St. Mark’s in the early 20th century as it was blessed with a very active Women’s Guild that began recording detailed minutes of major events that transpired between 1914 and 1930, when the vestry minutes resumed.

The minutes of the Guild reflect the good intentions of the women of the parish to raise money to help a struggling church. St. Mark’s was a mission church in those days and was consistently in need of money. By the mid-1920s, the Women’s Guild was functioning as a quasi-official body of the church because all the major financial and repair decisions were made by the Guild. Motions were made by the Guild and decisions were reached for the financial assistance of the rector, the repair of the roof, the sale of an old organ, and as late as 1944, the installation of a new furnace, all paid for by funds raised by the Guild. This same time saw the appearance and furnishings of the church enhanced. Several families donated memorial stained glass windows. The belfry, the cushioned kneelers, the Celtic cross over the altar, communion and offering services, pulpit, and baptismal font and other items of worship were all gifts made from time to time. There is little doubt that without the work and the dedication of the St. Mark’s Women’s Guild and the generosity of the congregation, the church would not exist today.

By 1955, St. Mark’s was taking steps to become an independent parish. A free-standing parish hall, formally called Myerly Memorial Hall, was built in that year from funds given as a memorial to Mr. William Myerly. In 1964, through a generous gift of Mrs. Walter Dorsey, a new rectory was built. That same year, St. Mark’s petitioned, and was granted permission to become its own parish, severing its ties with Christ Church. The vestry called the Reverend Stephen C. Walke as its first “independent” rector.

In 1986, during the rectorate of the Reverend Alvin F. Kimel, Jr., plans were initiated to enlarge the present church and join it with the parish hall. Great care was taken to preserve the architectural integrity of the original church, including the hand hewn, bark-covered logs that support the floor of the Nave. In anticipation of the building project, arrangements were made to worship at Clarksville Middle School during construction. Ground-breaking took place on December 30, 1990. Ten months later, on October 27, 1991, Bishop Charles Longest consecrated the enlarged church.