Utah’s second oldest church, like those who worship there, remains a shining light of progressive Protestants in LDS Zion

By the mid-19th century, with the Mormon theocracy led by pioneer prophet Brigham Young, the plans of a few Episcopalians to carve out their own religious niche in the Utah Territory seemed daring.

But, in July 1867, two decades after Young led Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley, newly consecrated Episcopal Bishop Daniel Tuttle – having first paid a courtesy visit to the head of the Church of Jesus – Christ of Latter-day Saints – presided over the first services of his church at Independence Hall in Salt Lake City.

These pioneer Episcopalians then established one of the first organized and permanent Protestant presences in Utah.

“You could characterize it as both a gamble and a miracle, but that’s also what love does – it spreads and soaks every nook and cranny [of a community]Said Reverend Tyler Doherty, Dean and Rector of St. Mark’s Cathedral in the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary in September.

(Archives of Saint Mark’s Cathedral) The scaffolding embraces the stone shell of what will become Saint Mark’s Cathedral, circa 1870.

Episcopalians in Utah, he suggests, drew inspiration from first-century Christians for how they settled and grew up under the shadow of the region’s predominant faith. Outsiders have worked to be accepted as community insiders, building a solid reputation for civic improvement projects and interfaith cooperation.

“This is the story of the book of Acts, [where] the ever-expanding eye of love includes more and more people, ”says Doherty. “God shows no partiality and reaches out to everyone with love, [saying] ‘Yes! They too are my beloved daughter, my beloved son.

“Tuttle just went where Jesus would go – to the desert places to stand and walk by his side,” he adds. “Bet? Yes, but that’s what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. Even here? Yes, even here.

On July 30, 1870, supported by the growth of the congregation and donations from Eastern Episcopalians, Tuttle’s nascent flock laid the cornerstone of St. Mark’s Cathedral Church in downtown Salt Lake City. Even Brother Brigham donated $ 500 for its construction.

The bishop and his parish held the first service on September 3, 1871, in the nave of the place of worship then still under construction.

Completed and consecrated on May 14, 1874, the 500-seat native red sandstone and wood cathedral at 231 E. 100 South was designed by renowned 19th-century architect Richard Upjohn, founder of the American Institute of Architects who designed the famous New York Trinity. Church. In fact, Trinity was Upjohn’s first church design, and St. Mark’s was the last.

The Gothic Revival Cathedral is now Utah’s second oldest church – after the famous Temple Square Tabernacle – in continued use and has earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places.

“As the first Protestant church to be established in the valley, the Cathedral Church of St. Mark has a rich history in Utah,” LDS Church said in a statement. “The magnificent St. Mark’s Cathedral is an integral part of the cultural and spiritual growth of the community. We wish our Episcopal friends good luck on this important milestone and look forward to the next 150 years. “

A changing celebration

Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune Reverend Scott B. Hayashi, Episcopal Bishop of Utah, speaks before a march against gun violence by more than 60 Episcopal Bishops and approximately 2,000 in total in 2015.

Until COVID-19 struck – suspending in-person gatherings in the cathedral from March 20 to August 23, 2020, then restricting services to small groups of masked and socially distant worshipers – expectations were that Saint’s 150th birthday. -Marc would be inaugurated with pomp and fanfare.

The faithful envisioned a series of events and public services which could be crowned with a visit from Most Reverend Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church.

However, timing issues related to the pandemic pushed tentative plans until early or mid-2022 for Curry’s return to Salt Lake City, where he was elected as the first African-American presiding bishop at a convention. General Triennial in 2015, then returned in 2017 to mark the 150th anniversary of the denomination in Utah.

To be sure, Utah Episcopal Bishop Scott Hayashi considers Curry’s first-round election to St. Mark’s to hold “a special place” both in the cathedral’s history and in his 11-year term. years at the head of the 25 congregations of the diocese.

Another visit from Curry in 2022 would be somewhat of a career capper for Hayashi, who agreed earlier this year to postpone his planned retirement in September 2021 for a year to accompany the diocese’s relaunch from coronavirus-related disruptions.

(Rick Bowmer | The Associated Press) Bishop Michael Curry waves to the crowd after being elected the Episcopal Church’s first African-American presiding bishop at a 2015 convention in Salt Lake City. Curry could return to Utah next year to celebrate the 150th anniversary of St. Mark’s Cathedral.

In what will become his year of ecclesiastical leadership yet again, Hayashi says his main focus will be recovery, but he stresses that with the emergence of new variants of COVID-19, the diocese must realize that “we are not out of the woods again ”.

Hayashi says his eventual successor will need “skills and strengths based on the experience of the pandemic … an adaptability to think beyond the traditional ways of doing things and to bring the church and its people along. to follow that ”.

The foreshadowing of this attitude of adaptability has been the forced reexamination of how the 150th anniversary of St. Mark’s will be commemorated.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the pandemic has changed what would have been expected,” says Craig Wirth, director of diocesan communications. “There would have been concerts, celebrations and other events looking back on the cathedral’s past.”

While planning remains tentative, any specific celebratory events will be announced on the cathedral’s website, newsletter, and social media as they develop.

Officials expect to emphasize the spiritual and temporal reach of St. Mark’s to a community that has become increasingly religious, ethnically and socially diverse over the past century and a half.

This episcopal tradition of service included the opening in 1867 of St. Mark’s School, the first non-Mormon educational institution in Salt Lake City and which quickly enrolled Latter-day Saint students because of its reputation as a Excellency. Rowland Hall, a girls’ boarding school, followed in 1880.

In 1964 the two private schools merged into Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s and were reorganized into an independent and mixed entity. Today Rowland Hall (the short name by which it is more commonly known) teaches approximately 935 preschool through high school students on its two urban campuses.

(Archives of Saint Mark’s Cathedral) Bishop Daniel Tuttle, circa 1873.

The Episcopalians of Utah also opened Utah’s first hospital, St. Mark’s Hospital, on April 30, 1872. Started with six beds, a doctor, and all nurses, it occupied a building rented in adobe at $ 500. . 400 South. Overseen by Tuttle, the facility saw demand skyrocket from the start.

“Each successive month has brought us more than the last,” the bishop noted in his diary, according to a story from its current owner, requiring many moves over the years.

Sold by the Diocese in 1988, the nearly 320 bed hospital located at 1200 E. 3900 South is now part of the MountainStar Healthcare system.

Causes and community

(Paul Fraughton | Salt Lake Tribune) Trees surround St. Mark’s Cathedral in 2012. The historic church celebrates its 150th anniversary.

Episcopal outreach has spread to other religious, civic and cultural communities as well, says Josie Stone, current chair of the St. Mark’s 150th anniversary committee and former president and long-time member of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable.

Today, nearly 600 members of St. Mark’s (the Diocese of Utah has about 5,400 members) are often at the forefront of a variety of progressive social justice causes, actively advocating for reform of immigration, gun violence prevention, LGBTQ causes (including same-sex marriage and gay clergy), extending Medicaid coverage to the poor and uninsured, and a range of health services, d education and counseling for the growing homeless population in the region.

“Homelessness is one of the biggest issues in Salt Lake City, and we’re looking at that with others working in this area in different directions,” Stone said. “One idea is to help support [building] “Small houses”.

No decision has been made, but the St. Mark’s congregation could join Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall’s recent proposal for a village of tiny houses, a pilot project to donate not just 40 of the 400 400 square foot residences for chronically homeless people. but also access to mental health and other services in the community.

Since the early 1980s, the grounds of St. Mark’s Cathedral have also housed Hildegard’s Pantry, where those in need can purchase groceries and personal care items. In partnership with organizations such as the Utah Food Bank, the Grocery Rescue program and LDS Church’s Welfare Square, the pantry serves some 2,000 households per month.

Another example of Latter-day Saint support for bishop-led ministry is the donation of commercial-grade freezers and refrigerators when the pantry was expanded in 2006.

Even as Saint Mark’s past contributions are commemorated and celebrated, the cathedral and its parishioners have a vision resolutely turned towards future horizons.

“We are looking at what our role is today,” says Stone, “. . . and how we can absorb the fascinating history the cathedral brings to our community [with] where we are going.

(Archives of Saint-Marc cathedral) Saint-Marc, on the right, around 1940. To the left of the cathedral is the old Masonic lodge.

As the 21st century continues to unfold, Doherty adds, Saint Mark’s core mission – and others of faith and goodwill – remains unchanged.

For Doherty, a good part of “building the Kingdom of God” on earth is an interfaith and collaborative community that comes together to “find ways for us to live and share the abundance that we have so that no one is missing. food, shelter and health. care.”

“Following Jesus takes you to uncomfortable places,” he said. “The practice is to always stand in solidarity where Jesus stands…. It is above all about witnessing to what is right under our noses, but which too often we do not see.

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