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St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
A copy of this article written for the Annandale Advocate by Jane Schulzetenberg in the 1980s now hangs in the church.

See also: Julia Barkley's 2001 History Club presentation St. Mark's Episcopal Church

See also: Jan McGinnis' 2018 History Club presentation on St. Mark's Church including many photos.

St. Mark’s Corinna, fondly known to its faithfuls as the “Little Church,” is the oldest Episcopal church in Minnesota still operating in its original building. Built in 1871, the Little Church looks “like a church ought to look” – it is the picture one’s mind forms at the thought of the word “church.” The frequent comment of visitors and regulars to Sunday services at St. Mark’s: “It makes you feel like you’ve been to church.”

St. Mark’s aura is both easy and difficult to explain. It is set in the woods, where sunlight filters in through lovely old stained glass windows, and even rain patter on the uninsulated roof gives one the feeling that God did indeed have a hand in building the unpretentious structure – that His presence is one with Nature so close. The leaning headstones in the churchyard add their permanence to the surroundings.

The old building is at once charming and dignified. It’s simple board and batten interior radiates warmth, though dimly lit and vaguely musty smelling, even with all side windows tilted open. Straight-backed rough hewn wooden pews are hard, but somehow comforting. From wide-planked floor to open rafters, native lumber abound and blend with the splendor of the beautiful stained glass windows above the altar, and another especially striking one high at the back of the church. With hefty tugs on its worn rope, the bell in the tower resounds through the woods, calling worshipers as it has for a century, a cue for the organist (Mrs. Dayton Barkley) to send a hymn floating into the summer air.

Seating capacity is small – around fifty – though there’s always room for a few more. The hymns are generally “the old favorites,” and everyone sings with gusto. St. Mark’s congregation is just that – a gathering of people – some faces are the same Sunday after Sunday, but many are visitors, and all are welcome, regardless of church affiliation.

A few concessions to modern times and comfort have been  made through the years, but these have been carefully carried out without corrupting the nature of the Little Church. Hurricane lamps mounted on the walls have been electrified, using small flame-shaped bulbs. Formerly sparcely-carpeted wooden kneelers have been padded. The old pump organ has been preserved, but replaced with one that plugs in! The black pot-bellied wood/coal stove still stands amidst the pews, but flowers decorate its burner, and it most likely will never again be stoked up to warm the Little Church. (There are no services at St. Mark’s in winter months for lack of heat, though this past winter monthly services were held in parishoners’ homes.) Weekly summer services begin in late June and continue into September.

Until a few years ago, St. Mark’s had no regular pastor – it depended on Episcopal priests from other parishes to take turns. Now Rev. Williams Goddard, rector of St. Edward the Confessor Episcopal Church in Wayzata, and a summer resident on Clearwatear Lake, conducts services with the exception of an annual visit from the Bishop of the Diocese of Minnesota.

The first Bishop to set foot in St. Mark’s Corinna was Bishop Whipple, who consecrated the church on September 4, 1872. Thirteen years before, in 1859 Octavius Longworth had settled on Clearwater Lake (then called Clear Lake). He began reading prayer services in his home, which soon became too small to hold an increasing congregation. With the help of Rev. David B. Knickerbacker and others, the Little Church was built in 1871. (There is one take about the builders “borrowing” logs being floated down the Clearwater River – but we don’t want to start any Watergate investigations!)

Octavius Longworth died in 1889, at the age of 85, and the church property was given to the Bishop Seabury Mission and later to the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota. His home was later converted into Longworth Resort (known as Tuelle’s by many people). It was destroyed by fire years ago.

The descendants of the founders of St. Mark’s Longworth still actively participate in the business of the Little Church. Elwyn Knickerbocker is the grand-nephew of Bishop E. D. Knickerbacker, and Keith Smith, a great-grandson of Octavius Longworth.

Colin McDonald has been a warden of the church for over 40 years. He and his wife, Marion, have been record-keepers, bankers, custodian, altar guild, and faithful church-goers since the days of Keith Smith’s Grandmother. Colin keeps the old Church Log up-to-date. The original book will last another 100 years, for there are few entries. But those names preserved among its precious pages tie bygone generations to the present – father to son to grandson to great-grandson – Baptism to Confirmation to Marriage to Death and Burial. All are set down therein. As the world changes, so it stays the same. May St. Mark’s remain – changing and unchanging.