FAIRBORN — On June 28, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church voted to cease worshiping after 172 years.
Founded in 1848, the St. Mark’s congregation has a long history of serving the Fairborn community. However, with a recent decline in congregation numbers, and with troubles compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, the congregation has decided to close for services. A second vote must take place at the end of September to officially dissolve the congregation. St. Mark’s is the last church located in central downtown Fairborn.
Though Lutheran leaders are sad to see it go, the mission and ministry of St. Mark’s are far from over. The future is promising for the historical church building on Main Street.
Currently, St. Mark’s plans to gift Lutheran Saints in Ministry (LSIM) its building for the purpose of continuing ministry in the center of Fairborn. LSIM is a non-profit organization that serves St. Mark’s and three of its sister congregations: Abiding Christ Lutheran Church, Arise in Christ Evangelical Church in Donnelsville, and Good Shepherd Church in West Milton.
“We are looking for ways to use the building constructively. There’s a lot of opportunity,” said Pastor Craig Fourman, lead pastor of the LSIM.
LSIM has applied for a grant to renovate the building and provide funds for three additional years of St. Mark’s ministry, according to a video update by the organization.
The church has also hosted partner agencies such as the Fairborn Area Historical Society (FAHS), the Fairborn Community Library, and others who use the space for worship and programming. FAHS hopes to set up a repository for archival material within the church, as well as a permanent or semi-permanent display of Fairborn artifacts, according to Fourman.
The building itself is of historical importance on its own. Dedicated in 1924, St. Mark’s Church was designed by Architect Robert C. Gotwald of Springfield. The building is of a Tudor-Gothic architectural style, and the stained glass windows were constructed by The Von Gerichten Art Glass Company, with studios in Columbus as well as Munich, Germany.
“Communities have character,” Fourman said. “Part of the character of Fairborn is that the churches have been a significant part of the fabric of the community.”
St. Mark’s Church’s service to the Fairborn area includes the “Sonset Café,” which has been serving free meals to those in need for the past 10 years. Congregants from St. Mark’s, Abiding Christ, and other churches in the community prepare and serve free meals every Thursday from 6 to 7 p.m. St. Mark’s ministry also includes setting up a homeless shelter to serve the Fairborn area.
“Nothing bad can be said about St. Mark’s in this community,” Fourman added. “They have continued to be a powerful force for social action. Feeding the hungry and tending the poor is central to who they are. We are hoping to continue that spirit.”
All member congregations of LSIM are part of the North West Conference of the Southern Ohio Synod, ELCA.