Coming up at Saint Mark's...

Summer's end will be here before long, and we'll resume our fuller schedule of programs on Homecoming Sunday, Sept 7.  The Parish Choir and the Boys & Girls Choir both return to sing at their respective services.  Schola - Christian formation for children - resumes.  The 10 am Adult Forum will provide opportunities for adult learning, growth, and formation.

Our architects and contractors meet on the scaffolding above the north aisle at the start of the Saving A Treasure project.

Our architects and contractors meet on the scaffolding above the north aisle at the start of the Saving A Treasure project.

Worship and outreach go on unabated all summer long here: the Food Cupboard closes for only a couple of weeks and the Soup Bowl takes place every Saturday no matter what.  But we will also welcome our new Ministry Residents in September (they're getting settled in already).  

And if you have been away a lot during the summer months you may be surprised to find the scaffolding erected at several places around the church exterior, now that the Saving A Treasure project is well under way.  Please contact Fr. Mullen for more info about this project.

Classes resume at St. James School in September, and at last we will have all four grades (5-8) in place, as well as a new kitchen (thanks to the help of DiBruno Bros) and a fourth renovated classroom.  Your help as a volunteer, supporter, and contributor to the school is always needed.  And of course you can join the Rector in running the 2nd annual 5k run on Kelly Drive on Saturday, Sept 6 at 8 am.  Register at


Posted on August 18, 2014 .

The Choir of Boys & Girls

Music is a powerful force in shaping children's lives, and it is one of the ways both children and adults come to know God.  The Boys & Girls Choir at Saint Mark's is a unique way to get your child involved in music, and to discover his or her own spirituality.  The video below shows the kids of the Boys & Girls Choir singing during the summer Choir Camp.  If you'd like more information about the choir, please look here, or contact Dr. Darryl Roland through the Parish Office.


Posted on August 18, 2014 .

Sundays at Saint Mark's... this Summer

Please join us on Sunday mornings during the summer months.  The schedule of masses remains the same throughout the year.  During the summer our choirs are on hiatus and programs of Christian formation for children and adults are also suspended.  All the same, we continue to worship God every Sunday with joyful adoration and love!

8 am - Low Mass

9 am - Family Mass

(The Boys & Girls Choir is on hiatus until September)

11 am - Choral High Mass

(The Parish Choir is on hiatus until September)

Coffee Hour follows the High Mass in the Parish Hall

(For this week's sermon, please click here)

Posted on August 18, 2014 .

Saving A Treasure - Restoration & Preservation in 2014


Following years of preparation and planning, Saint Mark's is embarking on a project of restoration and historic preservation of the church exterior in 2014.  Funded in part by a grant from the National Park Service and National Trust for Historic Preservation, this project will address pressing needs for the restoration and preservation of the masonry, roofs, and glass of the church exterior.

For more information on the historic preservation project, please contact Cheryl Barber, Director of Development & Communications, at or click here

Click here to support "Saving A Treasure"
Posted on August 18, 2014 .

Saint Mark's at Wells Cathedral

Final Update

by Matthew Glandorf

The word Religion is derived from the Latin "religio" which means to "link back". It is fundamentally about connections and connecting to the life sustaining sources in which we all participate. In that sense, our trip to England was truly a Pilgrimage. For many of our choristers this was their first trip to England, let alone to Europe. I believe we all became acutely aware that we were participating in a daily round of offering sung prayer that is centuries old, in a sacred place in which the very fabric was saturated with prayer. 

During our week, those stones echoed with the same words; 

"O Lord, open thou our lips" 

"O Lord, make speed to help us" 

"Glory be the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost" 

"My Soul doth magnify the Lord"

"He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts"

"He hath filled the hungry with good things" 

"Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace" 

"to be a light to lighten the gentiles" 

and so on, world without end, Amen (why the modern translation of the doxology leaves on "et in saecula saeculorum" I've never quite understood…) 

In a fun sense, it was incredible at our last Evensong in St George's Chapel, Windsor to be shown to my music stand, realizing that I was staining directly over the graves of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII and Charles I!! Singing an anthem by Gabriel Jackson with words by King Henry VI whose remains rested only a few feet away from where we sang…..

 In a more profound way, our music was offered on behalf of those not only present at the sung daily services, but most especially for those suffering in Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Israel as well as the continuous violence and bloodshed on our own country. Did our music matter? Is this really just about wearing silly robes and going through an ancient pageantry that is merely quaint and Anglophilic?

I came to believe firmly that it DID matter. The fact that we were there, singing and imploring God for peace, justice and care, we became a living sacrifice as we offers our selves and bodies. Hopefully, our song could be used as a vessel to help turn people's minds and hearts to other things, that we could all be reminded   of the great light of the Incarnation that our God is the God of the poor, the lowly, the downtrodden and the oppressed, and that we are loved…..

After Sunday Eucharist, I watched Mother Erika go around and blessing various members of our choir and felt eternally grateful for the beautiful, talented and slightly wacky (and ALWAYS lively) group of individuals, now linked together in ways I couldn't have anticipated. We were grounded and linked not only by our music, buy by Love Itself. 

Listen to a recording from the choir's days in Wells here.

Update: Final Days

by Tom Sheehan

As we have just arrived in Windsor on our last full day in England, I am left thinking about our trip here in terms of what we have all accomplished here, and our reasons for coming. Obviously, the choir has made a lot of wonderful music, and we have all enjoyed seeing the country, which I think were two of the major reasons that we were all thinking about going.

However, something else has happened, and that is that we as a choir have bonded on a level that we have not before. Obviously, the choir has always spent a lot of time together, because of our weekly rehearsals and our demanding schedule of performances, but going on this trip has caused us to spend the kind of time together that leads to getting to know each other beyond just “as colleagues.” The choir has become friends in a way that we have not been before, and this is actually noticeable in our music-making.

The daily schedule of worship has solidified the group in other ways, though; not just as musicians. We have been singing the office of Evensong every day this week (except for Thursday, when we took one day off). The fact that we are not only singing together, but through our song praying the ancient evening rites of the Church, is also a tangible difference. Also, the fact that we did this in a building where some form of these same prayers has been offered for over 800 years was not lost on us, and the words we sang took on an entirely new meaning to the group.

I would not be at all surprised if the effects of this tour are felt in Philadelphia through this next year, considering the incredible improvement in music making that I have seen this week from the choir. I am humbled and grateful that I have been able to be a part of the growth of this institution’s choir, and look forward to coming back and hearing what they can accomplish beyond this, too, in the future!

From the choir loft at Wells

From the choir loft at Wells

Update: Day Seven

Some unexpected adventures

By Kate Tibbetts

I took it as a good omen that as the bus was pulling into Wells on Sunday, there was a guy running through the field on what looked like a nice trail- surely, this would be a great place to go running. So, after setting an early alarm Monday morning, Ryan and I set out around the moat of the bishop’s palace (where the resident swans were still asleep) and found a woods called Tor Hill, with a sign promising excellent views of the cathedral from the top. Getting to the top, however, was a bit more difficult than necessary, as we evidently took the steepest route that required grabbing onto rocks and tree branches to climb up, not noticing the nearly adjacent steps leading straight to the viewing point. When we did get there, the view was half blocked by trees, so we figured that the sign meant that the view is nice in winter!

On Tuesday we met Caroline, a member of the cathedral Chapter (similar to our vestry), who is an avid runner and drew maps of running trails for us over the title page of Ryan’s Ubi Caritas, which we had sung for that Evensong. We took her first suggestion on Wednesday, following a former railway through a wood and under some bridges to the village of Dulcote, where there was a quarry of “Dulcote stone” that was used to build the cathedral. Dulcote contains about six houses and a beautiful tiny chapel that looks like it would fit all of thirty people inside. We then looped back towards Wells, passing a farmer herding his cows in for milking and then finding the “public footpath” where I noticed the runner a few days before (I now keep a look out for signs indicating a public footpath because they generally go somewhere interesting!). It was impossible to get lost, as the cathedral was visible in the distance upon turning back towards Wells.

The tower on Glastonbury Tor.

The tower on Glastonbury Tor.

Later that day, an intrepid group of us decided to climb up to the top of Glastonbury Tor to see St. Michael’s tower. As we started up the public footpath, a lady coming down warned us that it was windy and we should hold on to “lightweight people” to avoid falling off the top! Sure enough, by the time we got up the switchback trail, the wind was blowing so hard that I fell down when we were gathering together to take a selfie at the top.

Kate before being almost blown off the Tor!

Kate before being almost blown off the Tor!

On Thursday, we decided to go on a run up the hill on Old Bristol Road, as per Caroline’s other suggestion. Sure enough, it was a huge hill, going up past some cow pastures to the village of Milton (not much bigger than Dulcote) and then farther up through the woods to some sheep pastures on top. The notorious English rain started pouring down as we got to Milton, and we were completely soaked through by the time we reached the sheep. They were apparently not happy about the down pouring down rain either, as they were constantly shaking like dogs, causing sprays of water to come flying off of their wool.  After a few minutes of jumping over the large puddles in the dirt road, we gave up when they turned into what looked more like ponds and headed back to the dry dining hall to get breakfast.

The sun finally came out by mid-afternoon in Bath, so we went for a walk along the river Avon and found another public footpath along the adjacent canal. The canal has a series of boat locks built during the 19th century that make it possible to raise and lower boats by enclosing them in between two sets of locked gates and then opening sluice gates on the appropriate end (up-river or down-river) to raise or lower the water level within the lock to the level in the direction of travel. As we were walking along, we noticed a boat in one of the locks and the couple in it opening the sluice gate to let the water into the lock so that the level would rise high enough to let the boat go through. We ended up helping them open and close the gates on the next three locks, and they went on their way to Bristol.

Helping the boats through the locks in Bath.

Helping the boats through the locks in Bath.

Update: Day Six

Patti McLaughlin and Peter Gulia


I’m a librarian:  I have to know what everything is, why it’s there, what its use was and is. Tour guides have shared that Wells was settled because of the abundance of water, flowing from an underground river in the nearby Mendip Hills. There are gorgeous fields around us; the hay is getting harvested, the cows and other livestock are enjoying the sun, and local apples are available at the market. But would that be enough to support the building and upkeep of a magnificent cathedral? Today Peter and I visited the Mendip Museum, which has exhibits on local archeology and history, and discovered that the Mendip Hills have been mined since prehistoric times. The Romans invaded to get the iron, silver and other ore. With plenteous water, abundant crops and manufacturing, I have a better understanding of why this city is here.

I’m also struck by little differences. There’s a sign in our dormitory common room that says “C’mon England, Let’s Keep it Tidy”  - so much more polite than "Don’t Litter." You can buy a 2-liter bottle of excellent spring water for 25 p, but a small coffee costs 2 pounds. All packaged cookies are delicious, and are higher quality than we get a home. All sandwiches are spread with butter or margarine. You can tell if the people passing you are British or from the Continent, depending on whether they’re walking of the right or left side of the pavement.


Among the many benefits of daily worship is getting different texts to think about.

The Old and New Testament lessons set for use in daily evening prayer services often call for more thinking than those set for the Sundays’ common lectionary. For example, Tuesday’s first lesson, about Jeremiah buying the field at Anathoth, refers to a sealed deed of purchase, which, beyond its legal meaning, might suggest a metaphor for God’s grace that already is ours. But the lesson is about preserving both the sealed deed and the open deed, so that through faith we can preserve both what is and the opportunity for what is to come.

The psalms too are more challenging than those selected for Sundays. Some use nice word nuances. Wednesday’s psalm use the noun alien as an intensifier of stranger. And all of this week’s psalms call for extra uses of grammar and syntax to get across poetry’s intensified meanings.

This afternoon’s Evensong included a Magnificat with an Ave Maria built into it. In this morning’s rehearsal, Matthew mentioned the composition’s two conversations:  Mary’s conversation with the Lord, and our conversation with Mary. If even one of this evensong’s three or four dozen worshipers “got” the simultaneous conversations, our music-making will have accomplished another of its several purposes.

Update: Day Five - A Day Off and a Trip to Bath

by Jennifer Boorum

Today was our day off (well-earned, we hope), and what started out as Wellies-only weather turned into an afternoon of bright sunshine, spent by most in the outstandingly beautiful city of Bath, about an hour away from Wells. The city is located in the Avon Valley, surrounded by the limestone hills of the Cotswolds. We took a bus ride through the English Countryside--this is not Septa, folks--and went straight to Bath Abbey, where Matt and Tom had arrived earlier to check out the organ. It's a magnificent place, so it's no wonder they welcome over 420,000 annual visitors.

We went next to the Roman Baths, which are hard to believe until you see them. A group of us discovered that the children's audio tour was a bit more fun than the grown-up version, so we opted for it and had a few laughs amidst the ancient history. The first stop on the self-guided tour is the Terrace which overlooks the Great Bath, lined with statues of Roman Governors of Britain, Roman Emperors, and military leaders. Though they were carved in advance of the Baths' opening in 1897, the site wasn't discovered until the late nineteenth century. The Sacred Spring was most impressive: hot water bubbles up at a temperature of 46°C (114.8 degrees Fahrenheit) has been doing so for thousands of years. The mineral-rich water attracted visitors from across the Roman Empire, and was thought to be the work of the ancient gods. You can taste the water on the way out. (Not advisable.) The couple of hours spent touring the Baths were well worth the price of admission (14 pounds per person). Only regret is that we didn't *spring* for the spa package.

After roaming around town for a while, popping into markets, snacking on Proper Cornish Pasties, navigating the narrow streets, and admiring the breathtaking architecture, gardens, and surrounding hills, we stopped to eat and drink at The Crystal Palace. We were joined at the pub by Rebecca Harris's father, Mark, step-mum, Inga, and little sister, Belle (6 years old and precociously adorable), who are longtime residents of Bath and were delighted to meet so many friends of Becky from the States.

The whole group of us took a long walk to the Royal Crescent, which is a row of 30 terraced houses laid out in a "sweeping crescent," and considered among the greatest examples of Georgian architecture in the United Kingdom. I hear the rent's expensive.

The Royal Crescent, Bath

The Royal Crescent, Bath

Matt's thoughts on the trip so far....

Matt's thoughts on the trip so far....


City of Bath:

Bath Abbey:

Roman Baths:

Update: Day Four - A Day Trip to Glastonbury

by David Stoverschlegel

Today, in between our morning rehearsal and Evensong, the choir ventured into Glastonbury. Before we left Wells, we had a chance to explore the outdoor market, which was full of crafts, jewelry, food, books, flowers, and many more things for any interest or need. We traveled by bus to explore the Glastonbury Abbey, Glastonbury Tor, and the town. The Abbey was originally built by the same masons who built the Wells cathedral; unfortunately, Glastonbury Abbey was stripped for its lead during the dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of King Henry VIII and is now a ruin.

The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey

The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey

The Tor is a large hill that overlooks the town of Glastonbury. The "Tor" is the hill; the tower on top of the hill is St. Michael's tower.It is quite a trek to get to the top of the hill, but it is well worth it. The English countryside is beautiful from the top of the Tor.

The town of Glastonbury has a very eclectic selection of shops. Due to the legends of King Arthur in the town, many of the shops have a medieval and/or magical feel. In town is also a well called the Chalice Well, known to have a connection to King Arthur's Court and to have healing powers. We caught a bus back in time for Evensong rehearsal and mass, conducted tonight by Tom Sheehan. After Evensong, the choir moved into the Chapter House of the Cathedral to record the "O Salutaris" of Eriks Esenvalds.

Preparing to record the "O Salutaris"

Preparing to record the "O Salutaris"

Update: Random Musings on Day 3


It would be hard to overstate the true warmth and friendliness of the welcome we've received at the cathedral. As Leslie mentioned yesterday, all of the tour guides and volunteers who have come to speak with us have taken the time to learn a little bit about us first. Their interest was not just in telling us about the cathedral but making a connection with us. It is remarkable how this kind of an approach helps to make the cathedral feel like home. True hospitality, indeed.


Evensong at the cathedral is a profoundly holy experience. Of course the music is sublime. Matthew and Tom are leading this choir in ways that helps to bring not only our best musical offerings to our singing but also the best of our whole selves. More than this, though, the entire office has a feeling of stillness - of all of the earth (at least that part of the earth in Quire at Wells Cathedral) being silent before the greatness of God. There is a beautiful intentionality to the movement of the office - virgers (C of E spelling) guide the processions and lead the readers to the lectern with grace and dignity...and a certain flair. The lessons begin with a brief but meaningful introduction that helps the listener to find his or her place in the cycle of scripture. The officiants then use these lessons to shape their prayers, prayers which also allow for silence and create space for holy listening. There is a sense of the whole in these offices, a feeling that all of our words, spoken and sung, are of a piece.

Perhaps most impressive is the care with which the officiants introduce the anthem of the day. Since the text of these anthems is not in the leaflet for the congregation, each officiant has taken the time to learn about the piece so that he or she can describe it well - open the door, as it were, for the listening ear. Case in point: last evening we all enjoyed a wonderful reception after Evensong where we were introduced to members of the clergy staff and the cathedral chapter. In my conversation with the priest who will serve as the officiant for tonight's Evensong, she was very keen to be introduced to Dan Shapiro, the composer of tonight's anthem, so that she could discuss with him his setting of George Herbert's "The Church Floore." She wanted to be able to craft an introduction that will help to place this anthem into the liturgy in a meaningful way. It is humbling and inspiring to see such care taken to shape the holy worship of God.

Adopting British traditions...especially the yummy ones

The Saint Mark's Choir is rapidly becoming addicted to cream tea. Yesterday afternoon we essentially took over one of the little tea shops right outside of the cathedral and ate them out of their scones. Philadelphia vendors, attend! There will be a decided upswing in the demand for clotted cream in about a week and a half.

 - Mother Takacs

Another day, another scone....

Another day, another scone....

Update: More photos from Leslie

The chained library.

The chained library.

The doodles of Thomas Cranmer.

The doodles of Thomas Cranmer.

Update: Day Two - 11 August 2014

by Leslie Delauter

Today, our first full day in Wells, was spent mostly in the cathedral. And what a cathedral!
The current structure's construction commenced in 1174, and continued off and on into the 15th century (the speed of constructions depended on what kings or bishops were around and what their priorities were). The plague of 1348 put a damper on construction as well.

The choir proceeded to rehearsal immediately after breakfast. The recently built music practice space, off the east cloister, is lovely and simple in an almost Danish modern sort of way, and the acoustics were terrific.  Matt tortured us until he got the sound he wanted (he suggested we represent him as an ogre on the blog!), before releasing us to take the private cathedral tour he'd arranged for us. We learned hundreds of interesting facts, and I wished that some of you could have been there to see/hear it all (Davis, you especially might have enjoyed seeing the medieval cope chest, as well as the embroidered textiles in the Quire. They are of a 20th century vintage, and very colorful.)

Rehearsing in the "Song Room."

Rehearsing in the "Song Room."

Before we sang Evensong this afternoon, we took a tour (once again, private) of the old library, which sits on an upper story along the full length of the east cloister. It's original to the building, having been built by mid-fourteenth century; however, the books are not original. Those first occupying the library in its first hundred years or so seem to have been "liberated" (there is some suspicion that dear Tommy Cromwell, with his eye for quality, may have played a part in their disappearance, as he was secular Dean - strange! - of the cathedral for a brief period of time).  We were permitted into the sacrosanct realms of the "chained library," so-called because the books are attached to their shelves by - you guessed it! - chains. There were some amazing texts that our librarian guide had thoughtfully laid out for us. Others may disagree with me, but I thought that the most wonderful book we were shown contained marginal notes and doodling by a young Thomas Cranmer!  (I have a close-up photo of his handwriting, but I don't have access to those photos - catch me when I get home.)

What stood out about these two tours, and our marvelous tour guides, is they both made a point to learn something about us (Saint Mark's) and about Philadelphia before talking with us, so that they could relate what we were seeing to reference points at home. Very kind of them!

The highlight of the day was, of course, singing in the Quire. The space is enormous and beautiful, and it was filled with people come to hear/pray Evensong. We did pretty well - at least, they *seemed* to like us!  We got stronger/more confident as the hour progressed, ending with a rendition of Philip Moore's "Through the Day" that gave me goosebumps. The soloists, Jessica (Magnificat) and Jackson (Nunc), did a lovely job, as did our wonderful "cantrix," Mother Erika.  I felt so proud to be a member of this choir today!

The day ended with a pilgrimage to Waitrose, the fun grocery in town, where folks bought food to prepare back at the dorm. We're thinking of you! 

11 August 2014

Half-past seven in the morning and all is very well!

The Saint Mark's Adult Choir arrived safely in the beautiful medieval city of Wells, England, last evening after a long day of travel. We began our journey in the Saint Mark's courtyard at 3pm, where a coach picked us up and drove us out to JFK airport. 

All packed and waiting for the coach....

All packed and waiting for the coach....

And yes, the coach was late, and yes, there was traffic, and yes, our flight was delayed. But there was some very good news - our flight on Norwegian Air was on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which meant a quieter flight, better air pressure, less dehydration, and a generally happier group of people on Sunday morning!

We arrived in Gatwick around 11 in the morning and were quickly whisked off into another coach (affectionately nicknamed the blueberry bus) and began the truly beautiful drive out to Wells. We took a break at a rest stop for some lunch, where we were delighted to see not only the ubiquitous American fast food options (McDonald's and Papa John's), but also a shop selling fish and chips and beef and ale pies. (Let the carb loading begin!)

After our lunch break, we were off again, this time driving over rolling green hills and along roads hemmed in tight by high hedges. We were actually grateful for the traffic when we realized that the road we were on would take us right by Stonehenge - the slow pace helped us to grab some great shots from inside the blueberry bus.



At 5:30pm, we arrived in Wells, where we all couldn't have been happier to meet up with Matthew Glandorf and Rebecca Harris. We settled in to our rooms in the Wells Cathedral School (bunkbeds!) and then enjoyed a lovely evening out at a local pub, The Crown at Wells. This traditional British pub is famous not only for its being featured in the Simon Pegg film Hot Fuzz but also because William Penn (yes, our William Penn) was arrested there once for preaching to a large crowd from the balcony. Very. Small. World. 

Today we'll have our first rehearsals and sing our first Evensong in the Cathedral. Matthew has also arranged for us to take a tour of the Cathedral and the Library. By the end of the day, I suspect that Wells is going to feel very much like home. And any day that ends with singing the Stanford Evening Service in G is a good day in my book!

-Mother Takacs

Posted on August 11, 2014 .

Vacation Music Camp at Saint Mark's

Updated: Day Five!

What an incredible week we've had. Dr. Roland is "ecstatic" about the progress his Vacation Choir Campers have made, Mother Takacs said this is the best singing and best behaved Vacation Music School we've ever had, and the campers are going home singing the songs that they've learned. We finished up our camp here by having two presentations for our families - a presentation at lunch for the parents of our littlest campers in Vacation Music School, and a concert this afternoon for the families of our choir students. Both groups are singing extraordinarily well and have been an absolute joy to work with. After our noontime concert, all enjoyed a celebratory feast with tacos, cupcakes, and delicious ice pops.

Quote of the day (from a departing camper): Why does VMS have to be only five days?

And to that I say - there's always next year! A million thanks to all of our incredibly hard working volunteers. They are, and always have been, the heart of Saint Mark's and of our ministries.

Come, let us sing to the Lord!

Vacation Music School-ers singing beautifully for their parents today.

Vacation Music School-ers singing beautifully for their parents today.

Updated: Day Four

Another day of beautiful singing and sharing here at our Vacation Music Camps. At this point in the week, campers who didn't know each other on Monday have become fast friends, and parents who come into pick up their children at the end of the day are invited to sit in on one of our singing circle games just so the campers can have one more turn. We have practiced all week and are looking forward to sharing with parents tomorrow all that we have learned.

Our Vacation Choir Campers working with volunteers from the Walnut Street Theatre - one of the best parts of the week, one of our campers told Mother Takacs!

Our Vacation Choir Campers working with volunteers from the Walnut Street Theatre - one of the best parts of the week, one of our campers told Mother Takacs!

Updated: Day Three

Today was the story of Jonah and the Whale for our Vacation Music School students. We explored Jonah, this "Backward Prophet" and wondered what he might have done next in the story! The choir campers enjoyed another fun day of work with their leaders from the Walnut Street Theater so much that one of our younger students wondered what they were doing to make such a happy "ruckus" upstairs. They continue to sing incredibly beautifully. Two more days of fun to go!

Some of our younger campers enjoying an organ presentation in the church.

Some of our younger campers enjoying an organ presentation in the church.

Updated: Day Two

Our Vacation Music Camps had another wonderful day today. We all learned new songs, listened to the story of Moses and the Red Sea, and enjoyed a beautiful presentation by a classical guitarist. All of our Choir Campers are singing beautifully already, after having been together for only two days!

Vacation Music School and Vacation Choir Camp listen to a brilliant presentation on the classical guitar.

Vacation Music School and Vacation Choir Camp listen to a brilliant presentation on the classical guitar.

Day one of our Vacation Music Camps at Saint Mark's has been a huge success. In Vacation Music School, we learned new songs, heard the story of The Flood and the Ark, and got to listen to some incredible singing by our very own Veronica Chapman-Smith. Our older choir campers worked hard improving their singing technique and learning some new music together. And everyone enjoyed a delicious lunch of grilled cheese and tomato soup!

Quote of the day:

When one child's mother came to pick him up, he pulled her over into our singing circle game and said, "Come on, Mom! Join the fun!"

Mr. Fischetti helps our youngest campers do their work after hearing the story of The Flood and the Ark.

Mr. Fischetti helps our youngest campers do their work after hearing the story of The Flood and the Ark.

Posted on August 4, 2014 .

Coming Up at Saint Mark's

20s/30s Host Summer Garden Party - Tuesday, July 22, 6:00 PM

Join the 20s/30s this Tuesday as they host the Center City Young Episcopalians in the Saint Mark's Garden for a summer Beer Garden.  20s/30s from all of the center city Episcopal congregations are welcome for beer, cheese, wine, and a chance to spend a relaxing evening together.  For more information, please contact Mother Erika Takacs at  

Saint Mark's Bible Study, Wednesday, July 23, 6:00 PM

During the summer, Saint Mark's Bible Study will meet on July 23, August 6, and August 20 at 6:00 pm in the air conditioned comfort of the parish house.  For more information, please contact Jay Blossom at

Saint Mark's Summer Music Camps - Register by July 28

Saint Mark's is providing two opportunities for children and youth this summer - our traditional Vacation Music School and our new Summer Choir Camp.  Both camps will run concurrently starting Monday, August 4 through Friday, August 8.  Please register for Vacation Music School or Summer Choir Camp by July 28.  For more information and to register online, scroll down or click here.



Posted on July 20, 2014 .

A New Tradition: 20s/30s Simple Suppers

The 20s/30s Simple Suppers is a new tradition here at Saint Mark's. Each month, we'll gather in someone's home for a simple home Eucharist, a delicious meal, and lively conversation.  These dinners have involved a lot of our Saint Mark's 20s/30s - they are a great opportunity to get to know each other a little better and to invite some new friends to get to know us. Interested in joining us or hosting a Simple Supper at your home or apartment? Please contact Mother Erika Takacs at 215-735-1416.  


Posted on July 18, 2014 .

Medical Mission 2014: Honduras Updates

UPDATED: Friday, 4 July

A monsoon-like rain began to fall yesterday afternoon about 2 pm and in no time at all the water was spouting down off the corrugated roof.  Children were showering beneath these fountains, and the rain in no way squelched their enthusiasm, nor did it send them scurrying to take cover anywhere at all - not even inside the church where we were keeping dry. The rain effectively brought the clinic to a halt; it was so overcast that it became hard for the doctors to see (the power had been out all day).  We still managed to see 94 patients during the day before waiting out the storm and heading back to the hotel.

Last night we took our Honduran partners out to dinner at a  fun place known for its good food in the center of Puerto Cortez.  We enjoyed big platters of fried plantains followed by bigger platters of mixed grilled meats and shrimp with a variety of beans and salad. Our hosts suspect that this was the first time some of the teenagers we took with us, and who live in the community nearby, had ever been out to a restaurant for dinner.  We were pleased that we were able to do a simple thing and enjoy such warm fellowship.  During the course of the meal thanks was given, toasts were made, and affection shared among the 31 of us at the table.

The plan was to wrap up on Thursday and take Friday as a free day, but it had become clear to us several days ago that continuing to work on Friday would be a welcome thing, especially since we discovered that school would be out, and there might be some children brought to us on a day with no school.  It was an easy decision for us to return this morning to open the clinic for the morning before packing up the remaining supplies to be distributed by our diocesan hosts where they are needed most.

The usual horde of children was awaiting us - some for treatment and some are the same children we see every day who are simply hanging around.  Today they were hoping for handouts of the chocolates we happened to bring with us- we are happy to share as much s we possibly can.

One of our doctors examined a new-born child (3 days old), our infectious disease specialist was able to provide some treatment and reassurance to a patient with chagas disease (a rare South American parasite), we provided intervention for several people suffering with diabetes, provided pregnancy tests (some positive) for several women, dispensed all of the inhalers we brought for asthma to those who needed them pretty badly, and or course more lice and all the other symptoms of poverty.  We restocked our Ibuprofen, Tylenol, and baby aspirin supplies and nearly depleted them again, and we handed out thousands and thousands of vitamins to adults and children, as well as lots and lots of Tums.

It did not escape our notice, despite any obvious signs in the local environment, that today is the Fourth of July.  Your blogger was prepared, in some small way, to spend the national holiday abroad, and had secreted a supply of American-flag-design bandanas in his luggage, which he distributed to the team, and several of our Honduran cohort.  Subtlety being the watchword and modesty the standard of your blogger, he had, of course, no desire to draw undue attention to the aura of liberty that must have enveloped us; but if it was obvious to the casual observer, can he be blamed?

We closed the clinic at noon and had seen and all the patients and distributed medications by 1.  After cleaning and packing everything up, we celebrated a Mass together with our Honduran partners with Mother Marguerita at the altar and Fr. Mullen at her side.  This act of thanksgiving allowed us all to say what needed to be said to one another and to God.  The Gospel reading instructed us to "seek first the kingdom of God," and it seemed to many of us that we had been doing just that, albeit somewhat unawares.  We had seen about 92 patients during the morning.

About half of us made a trip in the afternoon to a small waterfall in a local park where we could walk for a short while beneath the rainforest canopy and swim in the cool water beneath the waterfall, and soak up for a little while a bit of natural beauty, perhaps shown to us to allow us to see the less obvious beauty with we have been surrounded these past several days.

Reflection on what all this means is probably best delayed to allow for the passage of some time and the input of others.  All the same, there seems to be a consensus that God has been at least as good to in bringing us here as he may have been to those whom we have served, who number, we think, about 628.

UPDATED: Wednesday, 2 July

Today it felt as though we fell into a bit of a rhythm, having established a good system that seems to work well.  Our Honduran partners continue to be absolutely crucial to the smooth running of the clinic - so many good interpreters makes a huge difference in what we are able to do, and in how well we are able to respond to the needs of the people who come to us.  

Children are everywhere, still.  They are adorable and often filthy - these two are not mutually exclusive we have found, though we often wish that we could scrub the children clean.  Their smiles mean a lot to us, sometimes prompted by nothing but the gift of a rubber band or the favor of a photo taken.

Bob and Bonnie Dettore, two of our team members, had finagled the Phillies to provide a supply of baseballs, backpacks and T-shirts to bring with us.  As it happens, there is an Episcopal school located just down the hill from the church where we are working: a three-room schoolhouse with a dirt courtyard, and an outdoor stage. We arranged to give these gifts from the Phillies to the students of the school, and to say that that it caused excitement in the schoolyard would be an understatement.  Unadulterated glee was the response to these gifts.  It is too facile a thing to compare these children with the well-provided-for (dare we say jaded?) children with whom we so often come into contact in the States, but it was still hard not to be moved by how easy it was to make these children so happy for a short while.

We have some idea of what we hoped to accomplish on this mission - we wanted to bring a measure of care and relief to people who we understand to be in need of it.  Your blogger finds himself wondering (at last) what God might be trying to accomplish through our time here.  Such a question may stretch the imagination, or its possible answers might seem very simple.  It does seem appropriate to wonder what God might be using us for, and, with only a couple of days left, to try to open ourselves up to whatever that might be, and make us more available to being what St. Francis called "instruments" of peace.  We pray that God will make us sing or hum or buzz with his peace.

Philadelphians far and wide will be interested that our beloved Nurse Pearlstein was referred to more than once today as "Fr. Kenny."  Your blogger is reflecting on this phenomenon, which he expects to be repeated tomorrow - he has used the moniker once or twice today himself.

We treated something like 135 patients today.  Images of the day are in the gallery that you should click through, below.

UPDATED: Tuesday, 1 July

We estimate that the ratio of children to adult patients we saw today is about 3:1.  Additionally, there is a significant gaggle of children who hang around the clinic all day long hoping that we will give out gifts, take photos, or blow up their soccer balls with syringes (this is not an effective method, we know, but sometimes you just have to demonstrate how ineffective it is).  The children mostly amuse themselves, running all over, peering in windows at the workings of our pharmacy, and tormenting one another.


Some days of a mission like this are marked by a measure of drama.  We thought that when a man showed up asking for a bullet to be removed from his abdomen (it was an old bullet wound, not a fresh one), this might be the day's drama.  The bullet was deftly removed by one of our surgeons without much drama at all.  And the drama of the day was yet to come, when a 28 year old pregnant woman arrived (with her four young children in tow) to announce that she was having contractions only five months along.  It was clear to one and all that delivering a premature baby was not a good idea under the circumstances, and yet this was a situation for which we were not exactly prepared.  Nurse Pearlstein, ever resourceful, quickly established a phone connection to his cousin in Texas who is an Obstetrician, at just about the same time a local mid-wife arrived.  Another of our nurses, Suzanne, was also called down to assist.  In the pharmacy it seemed to us that hot water and towels were being called for.  No magnesium was on hand for a medical intervention.  Your humble blogger knows little about what actually happened to successfully address the situation, but he can testify that mother-to-be and all children were seen smiling as they left, having been as well cared for as we possibly could.

Although the decisions about care are not complicated in some ways, the implications of the care we are able to provide sometimes leave us feeling ambivalent.  It is frustrating to know that there is little opportunity for follow-up, and that we don't actually have an ability to impact the lives of the people we are treating in obvious long-term ways.  We are hoping that in some ways the impact will be longer-lasting that we expect, even if we cannot know how.  This may depend on the willingness of others to come and follow in our footsteps.  We pray that the expectation will be fulfilled.

This entry will mention only in passing other cases today: the 9 year old girl with a chest wall abscess that was drained; the infant child whose infected in-grown toe-nail that had to be cut out; the  families of children whose heads are infested with lice.  Still, most of our patients present simple issues with troublesome symptoms that we address as well as we possibly can, knowing that we are making the barest dent in the poverty that afflicts each and every one of them - otherwise they would not be coming to see us.

Our appreciation for our Honduran partners and for one another grows day by day, and we continue to pray that God is guiding us in all we do.

Today we treated about 162 patients.  Click through the gallery below to see images from today.

UPDATED: Monday, 30 June

A contingent of children awaited us at the church when we arrived at 8 am this morning, to prepare for an 8:30 opening.  Of the 137 patients we looked after today a great number of them were children.  We had anticipated the possibility of a slow day at the start of the week, and we had to work out the details of our own system, but there wasn't much slow time between opening and the time we finally left, about 5:30 pm.

Our mission is in many ways a simple one.  We have come prepared to deal with a good number of medical conditions; although we have some specialists, and even two surgeons, we are not equipped to handle any but the most basic surgeries - which so far have not presented themselves.  We have learned from previous trips here that the most severe condition we are treating is often poverty and its effects on a person and on a community.  This trip is proving to be no different in that respect.  We are dispensing a lot of antibiotics for infections, medications for gastritis, an ample supply of basic pain killers for acute or chronic discomfort of all kinds.  Still the range of issues varies "from the trivial to the profound," in the words of team leader, Ken Pearlstein.  Our doctors have shown themselves to be marvelously adaptive and cooperative.

We have been hugely supported today by a cohort of local students, church folk, and others corralled by the indomitable Ana.  The help from these additional members of our team - especially the interpreters - is just immeasurable, and we are very grateful to be working in partnership with them.

Two contrasting observations have struck some of us.  On the one hand, we are reminded of how embarrassingly rich we Americans are in almost every respect.  On the other hand, we are reminded that poverty in America, and its effects, looks in many respects very similar to the poverty here in Honduras.  There is a feeling in the group that we are all grateful to be here, and to have gifts and abilities to offer, and the freedom and inclination to share them with this community and with one another.  Click through the photos in the gallery below to get an idea of what our day was like.


UPDATED: Sunday, 29 June

Your 14 missionaries arrived in San Pedro Sula without incident yesterday, Saturday afternoon.  Our hosts from the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras were waiting for us at the airport.  We were allowed to bring out 16 bags of medication and medical supplies into the country without question or any trouble whatsoever.  We loaded up a pickup truck and our very crowded van with all those supplies and with our own luggage and made our way to Puerto Cortez, on the north coast of the country.  Our hotel overlooks a fairly grungy beach, and a bay that's hemmed in by a naval base and commercial wharves.

This morning we worshiped at the church where the clinic will be located: Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados (Our Lady of the Defenseless (seriously)).  The priest kindly allowed Fr. Mullen to concelebrate, and in fact say all of the Eucharistic Prayer in English.  There was no electricity in the building for the first half of the mass, and all the singing was led by four young kids and the priest.  About half way through the service the electricity came on which enabled the use of the sound system, controlled by a small notebook computer the priest had on the altar, which also served as his missal.  The computer was equipped with a software program unknown to us at Saint Mark's: Catholic Karaoke.  The reader will enjoy letting his or her imagination fly, but not as much as we enjoyed joining in the singing as best we could.  (Most of us had never sung the Lord's Prayer to the tune of Simon & Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence" before.)

Also with us is Ana, who works with SAMS (South American Missionary Society) and is our guide and helper throughout the week.  She is an impressive woman who has clearly  been working hard to help the church in this corner of Honduras become more self sufficient.  She tells us that there is not a single parish in the diocese (which covers the entire country) that is self-sufficient.  The Episcopal Church here is a missionary diocese of the American Episcopal Church and has been heavily dependent (we are told) on support from the American Church, but that support is now waning for various reasons, posing a real challenge to the church here in Honduras.

After Mass we started to organize the space in the church and an adjoining building to serve as the clinic for the next  four days.  The weather is hot and humid - but everyone assures us that it is  not especially so for this time of year.  Our work wrapped up around 2, and we headed back to the hotel.

A late lunch, then about half of us headed out to see a local colonial fort that guarded the Honduran coast in the 18th century and served as a prison in the early 20th century.  Tomorrow we open the clinic at 8:30.  (Be sure to click through the gallery of photos above)

UPDATED: Friday, 27 June

Medical supplies packed up to go to the airport.

Medical supplies packed up to go to the airport.

Late this morning we packed up the 16 duffel bags of medical supplies, each weighing in at 50 pounds or so (yes, that's about 800 pounds of medical supplies we are carrying with us), into our friend Steven's big SUV.  Steven will take Kenny and the supplies to Newark Airport in advance of the rest of us to negotiate getting them all on the flight at the lowest possible cost.  Kenny has been collecting these supplies over the past months, working with the doctors to produce a list of medications and other supplies we needed to bring.  Previous experience has taught us that trying to ship supplies in advance can lead to lengthy and costly "negotiations" with Honduran officials.

UPDATED: Thursday, 26 June 2014:

Fourteen of us from Saint Mark's are preparing to depart in the wee hours of Saturday morning for Puerto Cortez on the northern coast of Honduras.  We'll be staying in a hotel there and setting up a free medical clinic in cooperation with the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras.  We also ran free clinics in Honduras in 2011 and 2008.  We'll be posting reports here on the website to let you know how things are going.  Thanks to many of you who supported this mission, and please continue to pray for us and for all the people we serve, and for the people of Honduras.


Sometimes, when we tell people that we're manning a medical mission to Honduras they'll ask, why Honduras? Why not stay and help people right here in your own back yard? And why, of all the needy places in the world, have you settled on Honduras? These are fair questions, and here are some answers.

Saint Mark's already helps right here in our own backyard. We supply the poor of our city with sackfuls of groceries four weekdays each week, year-round. Likewise, with the greatest care every Saturday we serve a warm homemade meal to Philadelphia's most indigent and forgotten people.

Sometimes though, when the wind blows from the west, we breathe in a suffering that surpasses any that we've seen here in our own cities, and Christ calls for us to help. Our Christian brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras work to serve their poor in the midst of a corrupt government that has cast a great divide between themselves and their people. Honduras holds one of the poorest populations in the Western Hemisphere with greater than 60% of the populations falling below the national poverty line. Public healthcare systems are sadly neglected, and the church remains the strongest provider of basic missionary healthcare.

Under these circumstances, Saint Mark's Church has committed to do her part. Manned with skilled doctors, nurses and interpreters, with an artillery of medical equipment and carrying a fully stocked pharmacy, we are preparing to serve 600-800 people in the hub town of Puerto Cortes.

We need your help! Consider making a tax deductible donation by visiting our medical mission page:

Meet the team of doctors, registered nurses, interpreters and support staff that together make up Saint Mark's own "Team Honduras" by visiting our Press page:   

Posted on June 30, 2014 .