St. Mark's Lutheran Church

What did the designers of St. Mark's new church building intend in choosing the design elements?  Read this summary prepared about the time of the February 1960 dedication:



The tower is 130 feet high and is visible from many different directions in the area, especially as one enters Williamsport from the south. It should always be a reminder to the congregation and the community that there is one God and that He is my fortress and high tower in the words of David. The tower contains 10 cast bells made by the Petit-Fritsen Company in Aarle-Tixtle, Holland, founded in 1660. The electric striking devices were mounted at the Verdin Company in Cincinnati, Ohio. Automatic timing peals the bells at 9:00, noon, 4:00 and 6:00 P.M. The largest bell weighs 1100 pounds, the smallest 121 pounds. The tower is faced by anodized gold finished aluminum panels.


The narthex is purposely built with a rather low ceiling. This somewhat subtly calls attention to the fact that we often come in out of the world with cares, and burdens, guilts and anxieties. Yes, we sometimes carry the weight of many burdens on our shoulders. But then as we make the turn and enter the nave, our vision is immediately drawn upward. And just as our physical eyes are drawn upward by the rapidly rising laminated beams and wood decking, so hopefully our spiritual vision will also turn upward to God. The clerestory windows above the highest part of the roof with its light bathing the chancel wall reminds us of the light of God upon the cares and burdens of life. They also remind us of the words of Christ, “I am the light of the world,” and “no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” The Eternal Light descending from the high point in the ceiling also reminds us of this.

The Nave also reflects another high ideal and aspiration of our people. A Christian realizes that he has no permanent home on earth, but he looks ahead to a permanent place in Heaven. This Heavenward aspiration is expressed in the definition of the Worship Space as revealed by the great upward sweep of the laminated wood beams and deck.

The organ behind the altar and chancel speaks through a great wood grille containing polychromed symbols in traditional and modern treatment. The symbols are duplicated on either side of the dossal but with different carving or design. In spite of the great size of the church on the interior, intimacy is achieved through the warmth of wood surfaces, brick, stone and the use of color which is keyed for a feeling of worship and reverence. The new windows to be installed in May will complete the overall design of the nave and will increase the feeling of warmth.

In the tower facing the balcony is a rank organ which accompanies the choirs when they sing from the balcony.

Because of the design of the nave and natural materials used, the acoustics for music are superb. 


The Baptismal Font is located in the narthex or entry of the Church to bring to mind the fact that our entry into the Household of Faith is through Christ in baptism. The bowl itself will be brought forward and placed in close relationship to the pulpit during baptism to emphasize the necessary relationship between the Word and Baptism, for as Luther says, “Water by itself is only water, but with this Word it is a life—giving water which by grace gives the new birth through the Holy Spirit.”


The plan gives strong focus to the means of grace — the Word, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. The pulpit, from where the Word is proclaimed, is projected from a massive masonry wall, which both physically and emotionally speaks of strength. The Altar design also imparts this strength, and is free standing thus strengthening its focus. About 40 persons are able to commune around the Altar at one time. Ever strong will be the message of the crucifixion of Christ our Savior symbolized by the large wooden cross standing clearly in view and rising above the Altar reminding us that the ultimate sacrifice has been made and placed upon the Altar of God.


The choir position, close to the organ, will not be on display. It is not separated from the unified body, yet it retains its own entity. In this position, it is able to give strength to the voice of the congregation.


This is not a building designed to house God but rather it is designed as an assembly place for God’s people. The very nature of God defies limiting His presence to a portion of the Space, whether it is an alcove, a throne or a platform. To do so would be a contradiction of the faith which knows that God, through the Holy Spirit, resides in people. The temple of the most High is the individual, not a building. Therefore no part of the building is more holy than any other. God, together with His people, occupy and use the entire space.

This suggests that the individual at a worship service is an active participant in that service. He is not a spectator at a religious performance enacted by a professional clergy, but rather he is involved in a joint activity with the Worship leader. In this activity he received God’s Grace and blessing and in turn offers to God his praise, thanksgiving and gifts. This is done both as an individual and as a group. The individual is strengthened in his faith by this group participation in the worship service for it is at this time that the believer, along with others, publicly offer their praise and thanksgiving to God, publicly study His Word and publicly commune at His Table.

Believing this is true, the space used for this activity in this building is one space or room. The congregation of believers has moved into the Chancel or perhaps it would be more correct to say that the Altar has moved into the seating area of the congregation. This is supported by the fact that the Altar has moved toward the seating area and away from the traditional back wall of the building. This has permitted the congregation to gather around the Altar for Communion.

To further accent this oneness, the outline of the raised portions of the space and the position of the pews have been moved from the traditional position at right angles to the exterior walls. Both the pews, the raised area, and the walls themselves have been canted away from a usual line. This is an attempt to provide a more striking visual relationship between the seating area and the raised area. It has permitted moving the Altar area, even if only partially, into the seating area to suggest the inter-dependency of the two areas. There is no chancel rail. This omission suggests that there be no barrier between pastor and people in worship. The pews are built without pew-ends. This also suggests that there be no barriers among the people in worship. We are a family of God at worship. This is further brought to our attention by the angle of the pews to one another. In this type of seating arrangement, one is a cue that he is not alone and is supported by others in the worship and fellowship of this Christian Congregation.


Ancient natural materials - brick, stone, wood - combined with today’s concrete, steel and glass has been used in a forthright and honest fashion without gaudiness. The rustic clinker brick used on the interior of the building reflects the character of life which has been marred by sin. Life is not simple, easy, smooth and plain. Rather it is often twisted, gnarled, sharp, painful and tortured. And just as the brick and mortar are knit together in a unified whole, so the mortar of God’s Word unites people of many personalities and temperaments into the household of God. It all symbolizes the fact that life lived under the inflowing grace of God takes on order, unity and rich beauty. Not the simple, mechanical beauty of smoothness and transparent shallowness, but the complex beauty of hidden strength and wholeness.

So the material used in the building are natural products used in an honest and functional manner. These items range from the soft to the hard, from the soft carpet used to absorb unwanted sound, to the brick, the concrete, and wood surface used to reflect wanted sound. The utility of this material, together with the space enclosed by it, is neither wasteful nor skimpy, neither lavish nor cheap, and is an expression of both stewardship and sacrifice.

The simplicity of the design, wherein lies its strength, is free of detached symbolism. The total concept in plan and form is the symbolism. The building is warm and inviting, not slick or harsh.