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St. Mark's Episcopal Church History

St. Mark’s has been blessed with a history that began with and continues with seminarians from the Virginia Theological Seminary.  It was originally established in April 1880 as Groveton Mission by Virginia Theological Seminary seminarians.

In the midst of a new period of evangelical excitement at the Virginia Theological Seminary, students went forth as diciples into a new community known as Groveton, just south of Alexandria, Virginia. Two young seminary students named Kensey Johns Hammond and Andrew Johnson “AJ” Willis began meeting in the homes of the Groveton farmers. By April 4, 1880, Hammond and Willis were holding Sunday School in the first Groveton schoolhouse (which is still standing on the corner of Popkins Lane and Route 1).

The establishment and founding the Groveton Mission is attributed to the seminarians Kensey Johns Hammond, Andrew Johnson Willis, Jacob “Brit” Brittingham and Mercer Patton Logan.

125 Years Later......In April 24, 2005, St. Mark’s celebrated 125 years. Besides a party, the church members received a document containing the historical record of St. Mark’s. The document was updated in 2010 to expand some of the history aspects and to include pictures of the April 2005 celebration.  History_of_StMarks-2010.pdf 

In 2013, a St. Mark’s parishioner and long-time resident of Groveton, authored a book under the Images of America series entitled “Groveton.”  Chapter 4, Early Churches, addresses St. Mark’s history with some additional history and pictures. Click here for extract.

In 2018, the church’s history was also included in the Early Groveton Elementary School history found at this link: https://grovetones.fcps.edu/about/history

The Groveton School used by the Seminarians was initially referred to as the Kerby School in reference to Justice of the Peace James Owen Kerby.  Justice Kerby provided the property that would eventually be the beginning of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.

 Groveton Mission

For almost sixty years, the Groveton Mission (also known as Christ Chapel or Groveton Chapel) was under the guidance of seminarians, teachers, and its own community. Because of that relationship, Groveton Chapel did not have the same kind of Episcopal oversight as other churches in the Diocese, and the mission was released from some canonical expectations. In the early years, the Vestry was made up of elected members from the parish, whether or not they were Episcopalian. It was recorded that Methodists and Presbyterians were elected to the Vestry. The seminarians and parishioners went into the nearby communities inviting others to the church, regardless of race or creed. The mission's isolation strengthened its dependence upon its own resources.


Christ Church Groveton 1903-1929

The Groveton Mission evolved into the Christ Episcopal Protestant Church of Groveton and was built on the west side of Route 1. In 1929, the chapel burned to the ground. Fortunately, some items were saved to include the communion table and alms basin hand-made by Seminarian David Campbell Mayers. Within a year, the resilient Groveton community had rebuilt the chapel. From 1880 until 1942, the Seminary students managed the church. In 1942, Groveton Episcopal Chapel had its first full-time minister-in-charge Rev. Foxhall Parker Thornton.

The changing demographics and world events would open new opportunities. The Second World War and the growth of the neighborhood along Richmond Highway, or Route 1 as it is also known, would lead the Groveton Chapel to a new location a mile away with the new name of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.  








In 1958, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on South Kings Highway opened its doors to the community.

 St. Mark's Cornerstone