One of the churches of Penn Yan is now the home of a new work of art by metal sculptor Sam Castner.
When a wind storm struck the area April 10, 2018, the face of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church received a blow. The cross at the peak of the roof was blown off its base, struck the roof and slid off, landing in the lawn below. The heavy hardwood center of the cross had rotted over the years due to its being covered in aluminum sheet metal which did not allow for moisture to escape.
Weighed down even more by its sodden condition, the cross hit the roof with a heavy thud. Rector Dan Burner hurried to the sanctuary to see what had made the noise but discovered nothing. The cross was discovered by Junior Warden John Christensen as he was passing. Fortunately, little damage was done to the roof, but the cross was beyond repair.
With the insurance money and the generosity of a congregant, the vestry decided to replace the cross, (believed to be the third or fourth on the peak and installed in the late 1950s) with something far closer to the original style of a Celtic Cross that had first been in that place when the church was built in the 1870s; and one made of material that would last longer than the one that fell.
Christensen began researching old photos of the church, and contacted Castner, knowing his work from several stories written in the Chronicle-Express in recent years. Castner examined the research and the base the fallen cross had come from. He then made a full-scale model to try in place with the help of J.J. Covell’s Tree Service’s bucket truck.
Drawing inspiration from St. Mark’s original cast iron steeple cross that is still atop the bell tower (sadly and significantly shortened many years ago), Castner made his final Celtic design from square aluminum tube, adding cast iron fleurs-de-lis at the ends, an old Episcopal design, and smaller crosses at the center - all powder coated to protect against the weather, and in a gold tone to stand out against our often overcast skies.
The assembled cross was presented to the delighted congregation at Christmas Eve services when it was blessed and dedicated by Rev. Burner. With the help of contractor Alex Kuehne’s motorized lift, Castner raised the cross to the roof solo, with ground support from his son, Roark. And at that moment on an otherwise grey but mild winter day, the sun shone from the west, seeming to bless this new symbol of faith.