St. Mark’s UMC began as a Sunday School taught by Mr. W.P. Smith in the old Curtis home on South Main Street in 1893. In December of that year, the Methodist Episcopal Church Conference chartered the Sumter City Mission and Rev. T. Grigsby Herbert was appointed the first pastor. In 1899, a small frame building was constructed on the northwest corner of Magnolia and Kendrick Streets. It was known as the Magnolia Street Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
In 1908 due to changing conditions of the area and indebtedness of the church, a resolution was adopted to sell the property in order to pay off debt and cover the purchase of a new property on the southeast corner of Church and Broad Streets. This is where the current car wash is located. A small chapel was built to house worship for a temporary period. In 1910, a brick building was completed and the 112 member congregation became known as Broad Street Church. After several years of struggle followed by growth, the congregation outgrew that small lot and was forced to sell the property.
In 1926, the property on the northeastern corner of Broad and Church Streets was purchased. This was an acre in size and included the Shaw Mansion,home of 1st Lt. Ervin D. Shaw for whom Shaw Air Force Base was named. The congregation grew to over 500 by the year 1930 and a large timber frame tabernacle was erected to accommodate the large crowds and house revivals. There is a cornerstone on the west side of the church adjacent to the chapel constructed of stones from the steps of the original Shaw home.
In 1935, the tabernacle was torn down and the timbers were used in the building of the present parsonage at 309 Church Street. The congregation continued to grow and worked together to raise funds for the expansion into what is now the current sanctuary. Much of the labor was provided by members themselves. The current sanctuary was known as the “Miracle Church” and was officially dedicated in 1942.
On September 1, 1946, the church name was officially changed to St. Mark’s Methodist Church. By 1949, the church had constructed the “Little Chapel” for use by the Kennedy Bible Class, renovated the parsonage and grew exceedingly. The membership was 1085 with an average attendance in Sunday School of over 400. One particular Easter Sunday morning, 91 new members were received! By 1950, St. Mark’s membership was 1108 and had the largest church school and Vacation Bible School in our district.
As Sumter grew and additional churches were built in other neighborhoods, the membership declined. Even so, chairs were still required to line the aisles on special Sundays to seat everyone. The nursery and kindergarten rooms hosted over 100 children each week with a total Sunday School attendance of over 450. By 1958, a new educational building was constructed on the back of the church with the addition of eight new classrooms and four bathrooms and the parsonage had been enlarged with two bedrooms and a bath added.
The lovely leaded stained glass windows were installed during a renovation along with new pews and pulpit furnishings in 1966. Several of the original pews which had been built by the Kennedy brothers were moved into the current fellowship hall.
In 1968, we officially became a congregation of the United Methodist Church when the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church united to form a new denomination.
By 1982, the church had seen many ups and downs as did the community as a whole. Membership was at 414, but the financial state was very solid. The adjacent property, 23 Broad Street, was purchased and eventually the current fellowship hall was constructed in 1986.
In 2018, we celebrated 125 years of service and worship. The congregation remains committed to remembering their distinguished past while working toward an exciting future. There is a fascinating archive room where many artifacts have been preserved and displayed for all to enjoy.
We invite you to visit there and share in our proud story.