Address: 1400 Clay Ave., Tupelo
Pastor: Rev. Donny Riley
Worship style: Traditional
Services / activities:
Sunday school: 10 a.m.
Sunday morning worship: 11 a.m.
Sunday evening worship: 7 p.m.
Tuesday morning prayer: 7a.m.
Wednesday (NEW: No Excuse Wednesday) supper and prayer: 6:30 p.m.; bible study 7 pm; senior luncheon every second Wednesday at 11 a.m.
St. Mark’s celebrating 75 years
TUPELO – Since the days when it was its own municipality, East Tupelo has been anchored in the world-wide imagination as the birthplace of Elvis Presley. On a local level, a few institutions serve that function. St. Mark United Methodist Church is one.
On Sunday, St. Mark will celebrate its 75th anniversary. For the congregation this will be a time to gather with special guests and former pastors and to reminisce about the church’s history.
“We’ll have several generations here fellowshiping: old friends and new,” said Joyce Duncan, a parishioner who has invested much time in gathering the fragments of the past – photographs, stories, oral histories – into a coherent whole. “God has blessed us with steady growth.”
That growth began in 1932, the year that the congregation, then named East Tupelo Methodist Church, began gathering at the Lawhon School building under the leadership of the Rev. J.W. Holliday. Not long afterwards, a benefactor named Mrs. H. Long donated the tract of land, across Main Street and adjacent to the Elvis birthplace, upon which the church has been located ever since.
The first structure on this site was damaged in the tornado that destroyed much of Tupelo on April 5, 1936. The repaired structure eventually served as the basement for the present sanctuary which hosted its first Easter Sunday service in 1943.
Soon afterwards, one of the seminal characters in the church’s history, the Rev. Glyn Wiygul, began his tenure. A young man, right out of seminary, Wiygul identified well with the youth of the congregation. “He lent me his car – a beautiful Chevy Bel-Air, to go on dates,” recalled J.W. Buse, a parishioner since the late 1940s. Buse also recalled a kindly gentleman named Orville Bean who, in the old days, used to prepare the building for Sunday’s activities by lighting the coal heater.
In 1959 the congregation became St. Mark Methodist and the worshiping family has been growing ever since. Now, lead by the Rev. Donny Riley, St. Mark is home to some 147 members who participate in anywhere from 12 to 15 functions each week. “We’re large enough to meet your needs, yet small enough to love you,” Riley said, echoing the church’s mission statement.
The festivities on Sunday will begin at 10 a.m. with a special service followed by a lunch served in the Christian Life Center. St. Mark extends invitations to former pastors (five of whom are scheduled to attend, as well as Methodist District Superintendent Dr. Carl Grubbs) and members of their families as well as friends of the church.
In keeping with their mission of hospitality and evangelization, the folks at St. Mark also hope that, in the future, anyone who wants will stop by for a visit or to attend a service. “We’re a loving church,” Riley said. “Even though we love Elivs and his fans, here at St. Mark’s, there’s only one true king.”