A Brief History of St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley
In 1926 Episcopalians in the Santa Ynez Valley began gathering in homes for worship led by The Rev. Mr. Mockford, Vicar of St. Mary’s Church in Lompoc. The Rev. Mr. Maemann continued the work in the Valley when he became Vicar of St. Mary’s.
All Saints-by-the-Sea in Montecito took over the work in the Santa Ynez Valley in the 1930s with The Rev. Dean Weld and The Rev. John De Forest Pettus.
The congregation became a recognized parochial mission of All Saints during the years that The Rev. Pettus served in the Santa Ynez Valley. The growing congregation met in local schools, the old American Legion Hall (now the Santa Ynez Valley Women’s Club building), and then at Bethania Lutheran Church in Solvang. The Women’s Guild that continues today organized during the Pettus years.
Early members of the worshipping community were Mr. and Mrs. Odin Buell (Josephine), Mrs. Fred Mattei, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Herdman, Viola Tuckerman Schley Hansen, Mr. and Mrs. Landon Barnes (Elizabeth), Mr. and Mrs. William Hunt, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Batty, Mr. and Mrs. John Stout, Mr. and Mrs. Ben Rich, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Imbach, Mr. and Mrs. Milo Best, Amory Hare Hutchinson, and Miss Lucy Bancroft who helped with the young people of the church.
The Rev. Pettus left to begin work as the Chaplain of Midland School and The Rev. Howard Brummet became the first Vicar of the Episcopal Mission in the Santa Ynez Valley.
There was an interim of several years after Fr. Brummet left and worship leadership and pastoral care were provided by a Mr. Brown (a seminarian), by The Rev. Glenn Lutz of the Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church and a group of laity including Benedict Rich, William Hunt, Robert Herdman, Toby Woods, and Paul Squibb.
Paul Squibb was involved in founding the Dunn School and was also the founder of Midland School. He chaired the meeting at Mattei’s Tavern at which St. Mark’s name was chosen due to its proximity to the San Marcos Pass.
On January 27, 1943 St. Mark’s was accepted as a congregation into the Diocese of Los Angeles.
The Rev. David Pierce-Jones began his work as Vicar of St. Mark’s on June 1, 1944. A few years later, on June 28, 1948, the first service was held in St. Mark’s new church building on Laurel and Alisal in Solvang.
An architectural plan had been developed for the new church building, the location being chosen after considering sites in Ballard and Buellton. When the plan was deemed too expensive to execute, members banded together and built a simple, redwood church.
Early organists were Mrs. Ben Rich, who drove to the church from Midland School during the lean war years of gas rationing, and also Mrs. Elizabeth Parsons and Mrs. Kenneth Brown.
A month after the dedication of the new building, The Rev. Pierce-Jones retired and The Rev. John Worely Duddington became the Vicar. During his tenure, the new vicarage was built and occupied by Fr. Duddington and his wife Judy. When they left St. Mark’s in July of 1951 they returned to the Philippines, having work in Asia previously.
The Rev. Harry Russell Roberts was Vicar from September 1, 1951 to September 15, 1953, when he left St. Mark’s to take an Associate Rector’s position in Fillmore.
The Rev. L. Lynn Parker took up duties as Vicar in September of 1953, departing in January of 1956. Attendance grew in the post-war years with attendance tripling during Fr. Parker’s tenure.
The Rev. Karl Gustav Markgraf began a 10-year period of service in April of 1956. He departed in 1966 to accept an appointment to the theological faculty at Bloy House, an Episcopal theological school in Los Angeles. These were active years in which the custom of the parish to have an active program life flourished. St. Mark’s well-known Book Faire began during Fr. Markgraf’s tenure. At the time his wife was the librarian at the Solvang Library.
The Rev. Gary William Sitton came to St. Mark’s on All Saints’ Day, November 1, 1966. He was the last Vicar and first Rector.
In 1967, at the death of Anthony (“Tony”) Dunn, founder of the Dunn School, St. Mark’s parish hall was dedicated in his memory. Mr. Dunn was a committed member of St. Mark’s and a lay reader.
The church observed its 25th Anniversary in 1968 with a silver tea hosted by the Bishop’s Committee and assisted by the Women’s Guild. Members of the Bishop’s Committee at that time were Robert Hunt, Turner Schley, Jess Clark, Dorothy Richards, Jack Algeo, Tess Smith, Mrs. Hilburn Richards, Vincent Evans, and Gil Prince.
St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley applied for parish status in the Diocese of Los Angeles on December 20, 1972.
The Rev. Sitton departed St. Mark’s May 12, 1976, at a time of personal crisis.
In the interim, a much-beloved clergyman, The Rev. William Scott Chalmers served as Priest-in-Charge. Fr. Chalmers had retired to the Santa Ynez Valley with his wife Grace after a distinguished career as Headmaster of the Kent School in Connecticut and the Harvard School in Los Angeles. A one-time monastic in the Order of the Holy Cross, Fr. Chalmers came to St. Mark’s in 1970. Fr. Chalmers first served St. Mark’s as an assistant. After the death of his first wife, Fr. Chalmers married Marie Best who survived him and gave the top window in the chapel, Jesus and a young boy, in his memory.
The altar at St. Mark’s was given by the Bishop of Los Angeles, The Right Reverend Robert C. Rusack and Mrs. Rusack to the Glory of God and in memory of Fr. Chalmers. Of the dedication of the altar is written, “it is the altar… which brings the total offering of the life of Fr. Chalmers to a focal point. For this holy table beneath the cross was the focal point of his life. This was and is the place where he and we most profoundly meet God in the Risen Christ. It was to this place where he himself was led and to which he dedicated his entire life leading others.”
St. Mark’s longest serving priest and second Rector was The Rev. Charles Herrick Stacy for whom the parish hall building is named. He came to St. Mark’s in 1976 with his wife Shirley and their children Peter and Sarah.
Serving for over 31 years, Fr. Stacy presided over the move of the parish from Solvang to Los Olivos and the construction of the Church, 1982, the parlor and office building, 1987, and the parish hall, 1992.
In 1977, in the face of the need for expanded facilities, St. Mark’s received a challenge from The Hon. Leonard Firestone who offered to give the parish land if a church building was begun within three years. Brooks Firestone chaired the building committee and work progressed.
Built in a contemporary interpretation of the Arts and Crafts style, the design of the building was inspired by All Saints Church, Brockhampton, near Hereford, England. Noted California architect Richard A. Barrett, A.I.A. designed all three buildings on the church campus.
While presenting a challenge, the St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley complex was built without a loan, paid for by donations from parishioners and through many large and demanding fund-raising projects, many of which had the effect of bringing the community together in addition to raising the funds to build the structures.
A wide range of parish programs flourished during Fr. Stacy’s years and St. Mark’s actively engaged the social concerns of the region. The first large-scale food distribution program in the Santa Ynez Valley was begun and housed at St. Mark’s for twelve years. With the expansion of the physical plant, attendance grew significantly. In addition to retired clergy assistants such as The Rev. Harlan Wetzel, St. Mark’s had three full-time assistants, The Rev. Maly Adams, The Rev. Richard Swanson, and The Rev. Virginia Hall.
In Los Olivos, St. Mark’s continued the ministry of the church and its buildings serving the wider community as a community center, with the larger buildings providing increased capacity for a range of groups and events in the Santa Ynez Valley.
In 2007, St. Mark’s opened a professional Pre-School licensed for 24 students per day. The curriculum was designed by Director and teacher Mrs. Yvonne Lowe to offer classes for three and four year olds as well as a Pre-K program. The Pre-School is housed in Stacy Hall.
Fr. Chuck, as he was affectionately known, came to be called “the Pastor of the Valley,” often seen cycling through the area and appearing in homes and businesses with a word of encouragement or advice.
Fr. Stacy retired in January, 2008, initiating a nationwide search for a new Rector. In the transition, The Rev. Canon Mortimer Ward served as Interim Rector.
In September, 2008 The Rev. Randall C.K. Day was called to be the third Rector of St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley from St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Teaneck, New Jersey in the New York City area, where he had served as Rector for 10 years. Fr. Day and his partner William Hurbaugh arrived in the Santa Ynez Valley for their first Sunday at St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley on October 12, 2008 and The Right Reverend J. Jon Bruno, D.D., Bishop of Los Angeles, presided at his institution on June 20, 2009.
In 2012 the church completed its Los Olivos campus by purchasing a rectory two blocks from the church. With participation by more than a hundred member and friend-of-the-parish households and with lead gifts from the Rusack and Firestone families, the rectory was acquired debt-free and named the Rusack-Firestone Rectory in honor of Bishop Robert Rusack and Ambassador Leonard Firestone, both of whom were integral in the move of St. Mark’s from Solvang to Los Olivos.
In 2013 Rose Purcell Knoles retired after 27 years as organist and choir director, during which she instilled a deep love of music at St. Mark’s. In 2014 the parish welcomed Beverly Staples as Director of Music and Organist and Nichole Dechaine as Director of Vocal Music. They work with many in the parish who have a broad range of musical gifts.
Early clergy who served in the Santa Ynez Valley from other parishes
The Rev. Mr. Mockford, vicar of St. Mary’s, Lompoc
The Rev. Mr. Maemann, vicar of St. Mary’s, Lompoc
The Rev. Dean Weld, All Saints, Montecito
Clergy who served St. Mark’s from its days as an organized mission and parish
The Rev. John De Forest Pettus, 1937-1941?
The Rev. Howard W. Brummet, December 7, 1941
The Rev. David Pierce-Jones, June 1, 1944-1948
The Rev. John Worely Duddington, 1948-1951
The Rev. Harry Russell Roberts, September 1, 1951-September 15, 1953
The Rev. L. Lynn Parker, September, 1953-January, 1956
The Rev. Karl Gustav Markgraf, April 1956-1966
The Rev. Gary William Sitton, November 1, 1966 to May 12, 1976, 1st Rector
The Rev. William Scott Chalmers, Assistant and Priest-in-Charge,
1970 through early 1980s
The Rev. Charles H. Stacy, December, 1976-January, 2008, 2nd Rector
The Rev. Randall C.K. Day, October, 2008-present, 3rd Rector
St. Mark's-in-the-Valley's first building in Solvang. It was built by the parishioners and their friends on the corner of Alisal and Laurel Streets.