VESTAVIA HILLS, Alabama -- Since its formation in 1961, Saint Mark United Methodist Church has grown from 103 members to nearly 1,200, has moved from a school to a church, has undertaken three expansions and has seen 13 ministers lead its congregation.
But what has remained constant is its commitment to missions and Christian service, both locally and globally, church staff and members say.
That's the theme the Vestavia Hills church at 2901 Columbiana Road plans to highlight as it marks its 50th anniversary celebration Sunday.
"I always think of this church as a church with deep roots as well as strong wings," said Rev. Steve West, pastor since June. "It's old, in terms of history, but it's not that old. There's young and old. There's history as well as possibility. It's real exciting to be here at a pivotal point in our history."
The church generally sponsors three Sunday services: one 8:30 a.m. and two 10:45 a.m. services for traditional and contemporary worship styles.
Saint Mark United Methodist will hold one 10:45 a.m. service Sunday, which will feature elements of both worship styles as well as the adult, children's and youth choirs.
The church has invited former members and pastors to the service and for a luncheon and group picture afterward.
Saint Mark United Methodist draws from the Vestavia Hills, Hoover and Homewood communities.
"We've always been able to retain a strong basis of membership that has been there since the church began," said Jeff Rodgers, president of Saint Mark's Church Council. "But we also seem to bring in a continual cycle of new members who have relocated to the Hoover-Vestavia and Homewood communities."
Though the years, Saint Mark has focused on missions, sending teams to Russia, Mexico and Africa to visit orphanages and build homes for underprivileged people.
It also maintains a Christian witness nationally by organizing vacation Bible school trips throughout the Southeast, Midwest and Northeast, and locally through a vacation Bible school it offers in the summer, Rodgers said.
"Missions and service have always been a big part of our church so we're really highlighting a lot of that work that has been done the last 50 years," he said.
Saint Mark United Methodist's first service was June 18, 1961, at the former Berry High School, said Jane Landers, 75, a charter member.
The church adopted its charter Sept. 24, 1961, and then moved into its present building Sept. 8, 1962, Landers said.
Landers and her husband, Ed, have raised three boys at Saint Mark and "our middle son was baptized in the lunchroom at Berry before the church was ever built."
Beyond its missions work, Saint Mark has thrived as a congregation because church members feel like family members, Landers said. "We do a lot of missions outside the church and look out for each other inside the church too," she said.
"This is the fourth reunion we've had and every reunion we've had, we've had a lot of former members to come back," Landers said. "I think they've really formed an attachment to this church."