It was 1948. World War II was over and there was a baby boom underway in the United States. All Saints Episcopal Church in downtown Palo Alto, CA, was growing rapidly as young couples sought out a spiritual community for their families. Some of All Saints’ parishioners, though, were unhappy with what they believed was a lack of adequate funds directed towards children’s programs. Mary Kennedy and Arthur Poole, both St. Mark’s founders, claimed that they and others felt Fr. Oscar Green (All Saints’ Rector in 1948) was not interested in children’s programs, but more focused on pleasing older, wealthy parishioners such as Elizabeth Gamble and Madame Mitchell (both large donors to All Saints). (Mary Kennedy Interview). The final blow for many was the 1948 All Saints’ budget. Arthur Poole, said “lack of funding for children’s programs” was one reason many of the founding families finally decided to leave All Saints. He felt the a problem was the “age of All Saints’ Rector, both in years and in terms of office…being a bachelor he seemed to be less understanding of children and their needs.” (Poole, pg. 1). After she saw the 1948 budget, All Saints’ Superintendent of Christian Education, Sybil Kenyon, resigned her position…followed by a group of Sunday School teachers. “Sybil led the way and we all followed her lead,” said Kennedy. “I had been teaching Sunday School at All Saints, but the rector would not give us the money we needed, so for a while I left and went to meetings with my husband who was a Quaker.” (Mary Kennedy Interview). A group of families left All Saints and quickly connected with other families looking to explore founding a new Episcopal congregation in Palo Alto.
The founders met for the first time on February 19, 1948 at the home of Alan and Annie Adelia Ferguson at 354 Seale Avenue. 17 families were represented. During that first meeting they discussed the events of the past few months at All Saints. Ferguson proposed that the group: “Using those present as a nucleus, to see if there is enough interest, enthusiasm and financial support to start another Episcopal Parish in Palo Alto.” (Vestry Minutes, pg. 3)
Over the next several months, the founding group grew in size and decided there was “a great need for a strong Episcopal Parish in this community for young people and that it rested with us, as members of this community to work towards that end “ (Vestry Minutes, Pg. 7). Arthur Poole noted that there were a “substantial number of Episcopalians in the newly developing South Palo Alto area.” (Poole, pg. 1) Mary Kennedy remembered that after the war South Palo Alto was still very rural. “There were little farms all along Middlefield. This was all country with cows and chickens. After the war young people began coming to build in South Palo Alto. There were no churches on this side of Oregon.” (Mary Kennedy Interview). During the next ten years South Palo Alto was under tremendous development, going from fields to housing more rapidly than at any other time in Palo Alto’s history. Poole explained that the group noticed those “moving into South Palo Alto were largely young families with children. All Saints, the closest Episcopal congregation, was too far north for many newcomers and would take them away from their neighborhoods.” (Poole, pg. 1) The group quickly decided South Palo Alto was the perfect place to “plant” a church focused on children and families.
Next steps included raising funds, locating land and securing permission from the Episcopal Bishop of California to move ahead. By late spring, 1948, they were well underway.
By LeeAnne McDermott