“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.And all that believed were together, and had all things common;” Acts 2:41- 44
St. Mark A.M.E. Zion Church Celebrating 100 Years of Worship, Word, & Witness
HISTORY OF ST. MARK A.M.E. ZION CHURCH- East Chicago, Indiana
In 1916, the Rev. James M. Howard left Alabama at the request of his brother, Shelly Howard to come to East Chicago, Indiana, for the purpose of leading the organization a small group of A.M.E. Zionites into a formal church body. As a result, St. Mark A.M.E. Zion Church was established that same year, and Rev. James Howard was assigned by Bishop George Lincoln Blackwell as the pastor of East Chicago’s first A.M.E. Zion church.
The original group congregated together in the Old Brick Yard Quarters, where they worshiped on a regular basis. They subsequently moved from the Old Brick Yard into a store front in the 1600 block of Broadway, in East Chicago. From there they settled in the old Union Hall which was located across the street from the old fire station at 135th & Deodar Street. By this time the group had made the decision and formulated plans to secure land to build a church. Sometime, during April, 1917 the congregation moved from the Union Hall to its own building. For over fifty-five years St. Mark was located at the corner of Deodar and 140th Streets. Completion of construction of the church occurred during the years to follow as it was erected from a basement level structure to a full church building, complete with an attached rear parsonage for the pastoral family. Rev. James Howard and his members remained united during this time of change that preceded their entering this basement structure. The cornerstone of St. Mark A.M.E. Zion Church was laid by Bishop George Lincoln Blackwell. The presiding elder, who was also present with the bishop, was the Rev. W.T. Beck.
Much spiritual growth occurred in the life of St. Mark A.M.E. Zion Church during the time between its beginning in 1916 and its move to its current location at 4200 Alder Street. St. Mark soon became one of the leading and progressive African-American church institutions in the East Chicago community. Its church ministries and outreach programs were active throughout the area and credited by many persons as being one of the true stalwarts in East Chicago. The Pastors who served as spiritual and administrative leaders during this period included:
Rev. James M. Howard (1916 – 1924)
Rev. David Prince Thomas (1924 – 1928
Rev. Lott Piggrum Powel (1928 – 1931)
Rev. Frederick Clarence Van Buren (1931 – 1949)
Rev. Thomas Jefferson Tipp (1949 – 1970)
St. Mark began an aggressive building fund campaign under the late Reverend Thomas Jefferson Tipp, which culminated under the late Reverend St. Clair Williams, who is credited with having completing the building project and leading the congregation into its current edifice in 1973. The new structure was officially opened on May 23, 1973 under Rev. William’s leadership. Bishop William Alexander Hilliard provided the sermon and officiated the Act of Dedication. Under Rev. Williams’s leadership several church organizations evolved including The Boutique Shoppe, A Food Bank Service, and the Lay Council. Additional activities launched during his tenure was the Davis Family Day and the Josephine Riggins Service Award. St. Mark continued to thrive in its new location and has grown under several ministers since that time
Rev. Dr. Alvin T. Durant (1983 – 1993) – Appointed by Bishop Clinton R. Coleman, Rev. Durant is historically one of the youngest pastors ever appointed to St. Mark. Credited with having led St. Mark in the liquidation of the church and parsonage mortgages and the purchasing of the several lots surrounding the church. While here several key ministries grew or formulated under his pastorate including: the Celestial Choir (former invincible choir and the gospel chorus combined), the audio/video tape ministries, the Feast Table, the church bus services, and the Acolytes. With the support of Rev. Olivia Williams, the Assistant Minister at this time, an Evangelism Program was birthed.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth W. Arrington, Sr. (1993-2003) – Appointed by Bishop Enoch Rochester, Rev. Arrington brought fresh, new, leadership to St. Mark upon his arrival in 1993. His visionary mottos “Pastor and People, Seeking a More Excellent Way” and “Pastor and People, Going to the Next Level” represented his desire to cultivate a church who had a great understanding of the word through his preachments. Known as the “preaching machine” he is credited with having established the Praise Dance Ministry, reorganizing the Feast Table, and leading the church in its partnership with the Community Re-investment Project of East Chicago, which resulted in the sale of many of the Churches lots and construction of the new Prairie Park homes which now surround the church.
In August 2003, the Rev. George Washington Carver Walker, Jr. was appointed by Bishop Clarence Carr to St Mark A.M.E. Zion Church. He and his family arrived with an enthusiasm to work for the Lord. The church’s current theme, Our Mission is Ministry, well represents the vision and goals of our pastor as he seeks to expand the church’s role in Kingdom Building within and outside the walls of St. Mark. He is currently credited with having organized and revived the following: the Voices of Judah choir, the Intercessory Prayer Team, The Evangelism Ministry, and the Marriage and Singles ministries, and leading in the liquidation of a $300,000 mortgage in 2014.