Guest Post from Rich Howell

On April 30 both the congregations of St. Mark’s and Sanctuary UMCs will vote on whether to merge. I have served as part of a task force team made up of Pastor Lynn, Marsha Dean and John Cecilia from St. Mark’s. Pastor Kevin, Kerry Powers and Bill Shafer from Sanctuary have also been a part of the team. This team has thoughtfully worked through many questions as to whether a merger is right for both churches. I have been heartened by the commitment and thoughtfulness of each team member and the approach we have taken to consider all aspects of the potential partnership and how it would affect each church.

I have felt a strong need for my voice on this team. I have been a member of each church at a point in my life. Both churches reached me at an important time in my life, ensuring that my family and my own journey with Christ were supported. I have experienced great joys at both churches and both churches have supported me in some of the most difficult times in my life. My heart is truly in both churches. Therefore, the question of a potential merger is very personal to me.

So, my friends, hear this good news: St. Mark’s and Sanctuary are both living reflections of God’s love into the world! They are blessings to those who worship at and belong to the churches; and they are blessings to those who are served through their outreach and missions.

The question I have spent the most time on has been: are we better together? I believe we are. As a combined church, we will be better able to reach those we have not yet reached in Continental Ranch, Dove Mountain and other parts of Marana. There are many people and missions who need a United Methodist Church in these areas, and we will serve those needs more effectively as a combined church. In the short-term, a combined church gives current Sanctuary attendees a well-established traditional worship experience and it gives current St. Mark’s attendees a strong contemporary worship to attend. In the long run, a combined church gives us the possibility of additional worship and multipurpose space. I truly believe this is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

The process of officially merging the churches will be time-consuming and will come with bumps along the way, I am sure. Still, I am confident if we boldly move in this direction, we will make new disciples and we will reach more people through our missions work.

Yours in Christ,
Rich Howell


  • 8:30 a.m. Traditional service in Sanctuary and child care in Rm 15
  • 10 a.m. Traditional service in Sanctuary and child care in Rm 15
  • 10 a.m. Youth and children’s Sunday School and child care (except fifth Sundays)
  • 10 a.m. Livestream premieres on YouTube and Website

To access our livestream service:

  • From the main menu on our website click “Worship.”  -OR-
  • Go to YouTube and search for UMC St. Mark’s Oro Valley or use this link.