Garden offers serenity on Main Street
St. Mark’s celebrates 160 years in Waupaca
When Rev. Jackson Kemper established the Episcopal Church in Waupaca in 1856 it is unknown if he held services outdoors.
“We do know that he traveled in many states and that, over the next few years, services were held in several different locations in the area. Some may have been out of doors, Rev. Nigel Jay Bousfield said. “In any case, today we can feel a connection with the Waupaca Episcopalians of 160 years ago, when we visit our new Garden of Blessings.”
Bishop of Fond du Lac Rev. Matthew A. Gunter will consecrate The Garden of Blessings as an outdoor chapel of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, June 12.
The garden is located next to the church at 415 S Main St., two blocks from the Waupaca post office. St. Mark’s Episcopal Church is a parish of the Diocese of Fond du Lac.
The church itself was built in 1905 on the site of the original Episcopal Church, which had been built in 1863 but burned in 1904.
Part of the property included a house next to the church, which served a variety of uses over the years. With that building no longer useful as a residence, the question arose of how best to use the land.
Crews took the house down in 2014, and members of the St. Mark’s vestry worked with Silver Mist Garden Center to design the green space. The plan includes a covered shelter area, private seating area, water fountain, ornamental plantings and a 28-foot-diameter labyrinth.
Since the green space is part of the church property, plans grew to expand the grounds to serve as an actual chapel, and the search began to provide appropriate chancel furnishings.
Two existing historic artifacts have found a new site in Waupaca.
A focal point is the altar. Diocese of Fond du Lac Historiographer Matthew P. Payne identified the stone altar as located in the chapel of the Grafton Hall School for Girls in Fond du Lac until the 1930s.
Following its time in the diocesan office building, Payne wrote, “When the Diocesan Office was moved to Appleton in 2006, the altar was stored in the Diocesan Archives. It was provided to St. Mark’s by the Trustees of the Diocese on permanent loan in 2016.”
Payne also discussed another feature of The Garden of Blessings. “The baptismal font dates to at least 1852 from the original Christ Church, Green Bay building. On July 3-4, 1898, a fire burned down the wood church building, but the baptismal font survived.”
The lectern is a vintage piece also deemed appropriate for its surroundings. Above the three antique artifacts stands a wooden cross of recent manufacture – but vintage in its own rights.
“The cross was made of repurposed wood from the century-old tree that had grown in the garden itself. When we realized it was dying, we searched for a way for it to continue to be part of our surroundings, and so it stands today,” Bousfield said.
Since the plans for the project were begun, members of the congregation have raised funds for the garden in a variety of ways that have included simple donations from members, their families, and friends.
In order to provide a pleasant spot for personal meditation, even near a busy road, the project also includes seating areas, a shelter, and a walking labyrinth in the style of France’s Chartres Cathedral. As is the case with the nearby church itself, this is on church property and, so, is appropriate for the cross, the altar, and the labyrinth.
But, as is also the case with the church itself, it is open to all the community.
A reception will follow the June 12 celebration of the Eucharist and the consecration of The Garden of Blessings. The event is open to the public, but reservations for the consecration and the reception will be appreciated by contacting Carolyn Smith at 715-256-0374.
“We hope that both Waupaca residents and visitors will find our garden a welcoming spot for respite and meditation, located as a restful spot near the busy street,” Bousfield said.