4141 Lee Rd 162 | P. O. Box 2234 | Opelika, AL 36801 | Phone: 334-749-1676 Rev. Jonathan “Joe” Benton, Sr.
HISTORY OF ST. MARK AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH
The church is a community of true and baptized believers under the leadership of Christ, and under the disciple of the Holy Spirit. The church exists for the maintenance of worship, the edification of believers, and a refuge for sinners to come and take their first step toward a new life of Christianity.
Much of the early history of the St. Mark A.M.E. Church is vague and incomplete. Before Mr. & Mrs. Penn Scott gave the land, the church services were held under a bush harbor. The original church was built in 1859 under the leadership of Rev. W.D. Hargrove. Its original name was Rough and Ready. Later, it was changed to St. Mark A.M.E. Church.
In 1921, the church was burned down. It was rebuilt in 1922 under the leadership of Rev. W. H. Wells. Later, the Rev. O. D. Folsom was called to pastor St. Mark.
Down through the years, the church progressed under the leadership of the following ministers: In the mid 20’s, Rev. C. L. Miller, Rev. E. D. Williams, and Rev. James Alexander. In the 30’s, Rev. J. L. Jones and Rev. C. L. Parker. In the 40’s, Rev. L. L. Smith. In the 50’s, Rev. A. H. Bellamy and Rev. E. D. Phillips. In the 60’s, Rev. R. F. Beckham, Rev. I. Alexander.
In 1965, the church was torn down and rebuilt under the leadership of Rev. R. F. Beckham. With much prayer and perseverance, new heaters, carpet, pews, and pulpit furniture were purchased. In 1977, under the leadership of Rev. S. G. Green, the church’s dream became a reality with the addition of a new kitchen, dining room, and bathroom facilities.
In October 1977, knowing that the church could not go far without a leader; Rev. H. A. Phillips was chosen to pastor. In 1979, the Usher Board of the Church labored to install screen doors for the kitchen. Rev. H. A. Phillips was chosen to render his services once again.
In 1981, the church was again without a pastor. The Rev. J. L. Parker was call to pastor St. Mark. Rev. Parker served faithfully from 1981-92. Under his leadership, the church began to grow spiritually, financially, and progressively. With the desire and willingness to serve and represent as shepherd of this flock, Rev. Parker accomplished the following: Replaced and purchased new windows and ceiling; increased the active attendance of Sunday School where the youth and adults began to grow with an eager desire to learn more about Christ; formed the Young People Department (YPD) which incorporated children of all ages and taught them the doctrine and assurance of the word of God; organized the Youth Choir to sing praises to the Almighty; and purchased ninety new hymnals were for the sanctuary. Later, Brother Judge Maddox Jr. saw the need and purchased a bookcase for the hymnals. As gradual improvements continued, two new pews were purchased for the choir loft from Brother Lucious Ward’s donation of $100. Also, with a need to hear God’s word more clearly and to expand the sound, a new PA system was purchased.
In December 1992, Rev. E. D. Phillips was chosen to lead the flock at St. Mark. He was a strong, courageous, inspirational, and knowledgeable leader. With his effort, he continued to lead the flock with spiritual guidance. A new facelift was given to the front porch, and the flooring was replaced in the kitchen and dining room area. In addition, the two side entrances leading to the back portion of the church were carpeted. Through our blessing in the year of 1997, the church was able to install central heat and air condition, re-carpet the entire sanctuary, and extend the altar in the church. Another PA system was purchased, new handrails placed at every entrance, and new decorative windows were installed. In the year of 1998, there was a growing need to purchase a new copier, Television, and VCR.
In October 1999, the Rev. J. D. Parker was chosen as the pastor of St. Mark. The Tuesday night Bible Study was initiated. During this time, the church began monthly visits and communion with the sick and shut-ins. Also, the church was repainted, and new light fixtures were purchased for the sanctuary.
In October 2001, the Rev. Alfonzo Turner was chosen as the pastor of St. Mark. In 2003, St. Mark went from worship services every 2nd & 3rd Sundays, to FULL TIME worship services. Rev. Turner was pastor until October 2005.
In October 2005, the Rev. Jonathan Benton was called to pastor St. Mark. WHAT A JOY! Along with Rev. Benton came his loving wife, Bernice Benton, and their three children, Jonathan Jr. “Lil Joe”, Roberta, and Charlie. Under the leadership of Rev. Jonathan Benton, St. Mark has grown in membership, finances, and most of all spiritually. Through Rev. Benton, St. Mark established a Church Motto: “We Have All We Need In Each Other”. Our Bible Study has more than doubled in numbers and Sunday School continues to be strong. Our choirs have grown in numbers and in spirit. We have gained the pianist whom we searched for throughout the years. Our Missionary and YPD have both become much more active on the District level with much encouragement from Mrs. Benton. Since Rev. Benton has been the pastor at St. Mark, there is rarely a Sunday that we do not have visitors. He truly has the “drawing power” and some of our members that had drifted away have returned. Rev. Benton, along with Sis. Barbara Morgan implemented a “Love Feast” which happens every fourth Wednesday of the month after Bible Study to celebrate birthdays. After 35 years of service, Sis. Vivian Harris retired as Church Secretary; Mrs. Gertrude Dowdell preceded her with 44-years’ tenure.
In 2008, St. Mark saw a need to reach out to the community and organized the Family Recreational Ministry. This ministry feeds the elderly for Thanksgiving, organizes Toys for Tot during Christmas for needy children, and makes other contributions within the church.
In 2009, God’s vision through Rev. Benton was revealed when St. Mark organized a Lay Organization. The Lay Organization informs new members as well as current members of the rules and regulations of the AME Church. Also in 2009, under the continuous leadership of Rev. Benton, the church underwent extensive remodeling inside and outside. Renovations expanded the church to include a larger sanctuary, new pulpit, choir loft, baptistery, pews, kitchen, classrooms, and learning center. Also, the church purchased a new church sign and historical marker.
On September 5, 2010 we were blessed to have our Bishop of the Ninth Episcopal District and President of Bishops’ Council Bishop James L. Davis, Presiding Prelate to dedicate this beautiful place of worship.
Knowing that we serve a God who can take the impossible and make it possible, we at St. Mark know “We Have All We Need In Each Other”. For it is written, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me”.
Worship & Service Times: Bible Study on Wednesdays 6:30 PM | Sunday School 9:45 AM | Sunday Worship Services 11 AM
Rev. Jonathan “Joe” Benton Sr., Pastor
4141 Lee Road 162 | P. O. Box 2234 | Opelika, AL 36801 | Phone: 334-749-1676
Church Motto: "We Have All We Need In Each Other"
Theme: "Preserving the Past, While Building the Future"
St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church