There were many tears and masked hugs as the members of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Santa Clara gathered for a final farewell. A few dozen parishioners attended a small deconsecration ceremony at the church on Feb. 20, holding hands and saying a final prayer in the church that served as a home and a community for so many families.
“I taught Sunday school here for 25 years,” said Barbara Snyder. “[I] raised my children here…lots of godchildren and school kids.”
Before the service, Snyder met with old friends, including Paul Brannon, who joined the church in 1962, just two years after she did.
“It was a big deal finding out that it was going to be closing last year,” said Brannon. “It was even bigger to me because a lot of people you’ll see along the side of the buildings, little brass plaques, parishioners’ ashes are spread around here.”
Brannon’s father was among those who had their ashes spread at the church. His niece, Deanna Tryon, also managed to make it to the deconsecration ceremony. She joined the church when she was just one year old and says a lot of family memories were made inside.
“I confirmed with Uncle Stuart and Aunt Susie that their wedding was the very first ceremony here,” said Tryon.
“The building wasn’t even finished. Well, it was finished, but it hadn’t been inspected. So, we had to use extension cords to power the lights for their wedding,” recalled Brannon.
Bishop Lucinda Ashby conducted the deconsecration ceremony for St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and offered her support to the parishioners.
“To many of you this building has been hallowed by cherished memories, and we know that many will suffer a sense of loss,” said Ashby. “We pray that we will all be comforted by the knowledge that the presence of God is not tied to any place or any building.
“We will mourn this space. We have lost a space that has been very important and at one time was a central place which is no longer in use,” continued Ashby. “But it has been an important space and we need to acknowledge that by letting this space go. We let go of a part of history that was in this neighborhood at one time.”
St. Mark’s was consecrated on Aug. 27, 1955 and served the Santa Clara community for nearly 66 years before it closed its doors in July of 2022. The deconsecration ceremony was the final service at St. Mark’s.
The church is expected to sell the land, which is located just a few blocks away from Westfield Valley Fair.
While many of the parishioners have found other local churches to attend, they say there was just something special about St. Mark’s.
“We built our lives around St. Mark’s. I’m now attending another church, and I’m happy there, but it will never be St. Mark’s,” said Snyder.