A Brief History of St. Mark Lutheran Church
St. Mark Lutheran Church is a congregation that is part of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and was established on May 26, 1891. At the time of its establishment, it had eight charter members in total.
St. Mark has been blessed to have many fine men serve as its Pastor. Probably the greatest Pastor and the most influential in the history of St. Mark, was Pastor Paul Fretthold. Pastor Fretthold has the honor of the longest serving pastorate in the history of St. Mark. He served St. Mark from 1916-1958. Pastor Fretthold had the reputation of being an excellent scholar, theologian, administrator, preacher, counselor, evangelist, and promoter of Christian Education. In addition to his duties as Pastor of St. Mark, he also had the privilege of serving as the Eastern District President as well. He was committed not only to the growth of his congregation, but to its sister congregations as well. During his pastorate, St. Mark experienced its greatest growth in the history of the church. Within five decades, St. Mark would grow at a rate of 100 communicate members for every ten years. At his retirement in 1958, St. Mark congregation was the second largest in the Eastern District. Only St. Matthew Lutheran Church in North Tonawanda exceeded St. Mark in size.
Another man that was very influential in the ministry of St. Mark was Carl Koenke. Mr. Koenke served at St. Mark Lutheran School from 1923-1964, and again from 1966-1967. He was known as an outstanding educator and teacher, a skilled principal, a renowned choir director, a good church organist, and a Freedom Foundation Medalist winner. One former student of St. Mark Lutheran School said, “Teacher Koenke was the smartest and best teacher I ever had.”
The greatest event in the history of St. Mark Lutheran Church and School was the dedication of its new church building. This building, which sits on its present location, was dedicated on Sunday, May 10, 1942. It is made of Wisconsin Lannon sandstone and seats approximately 525. The cost to build the church was $125,000.
During the construction of its present church building, St. Mark had experienced a variety of challenges. One of those challenges was the architect it had hired. Pastor Fretthold, and possibly other leaders within the congregation, had wondered if it were possible to fire the original architect and hire a new one. Mr. Charles Meyer, Chairman of the Building Committee, believed it was possible, and on behalf of the congregation, fired the original architect. The gentleman that would replace the original architect was Mr. R. Maxwell James. When meeting Mr. Meyer, Maxwell asked, “What kind of church do you want?” Mr. Meyer answered, “One, that when you walk into it, you know to take off your hat.”
As with a number of Christian congregations, St. Mark has had its challenges as well. In July of 2007, St. Mark underwent a restructuring of its ministries. It was decided by the voters of the congregation, that St. Mark would focus its attention fully on the Christian Education of preschoolers within the walls of its Day School Building. The preschool has been a blessing to the ministry of St. Mark and continues to be so today.
The mission of St. Mark Lutheran Church and Preschool is to make disciples for Jesus Christ, and to extend His Kingdom in the Greater Buffalo Area and throughout the world. St. Mark is blessed to be in partnership with the Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom! This all-important goal is achieved through foreign, social, outreach, children, family, adult, and fellowship ministries.
St. Mark has been blessed to serve the North Tonawanda community since 1891 and looks forward to serving it for years to come!