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Columbarium open to the public

St. Mark’s offers option for burial of loved ones

LEWISTOWN — In response to a rising number of cremations, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Lewistown has become the first church in Mifflin County to offer a columbarium — a structure specifically designed for public storage of loved ones’ cremains

The bishop of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, the Right Rev. Audrey Scanlon, consecrated the columbarium and a memorial garden at the church, 21 S. Main St., on Aug. 23.

The columbarium will be open to members of the community, just as the St. Mark’s Community Cemetery has been since 1845.

Father John Harwood, priest at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, said funeral directors in Mifflin County have indicated about 70 percent of families now prefer cremation at the time of death.

“St. Mark’s wants to be responsive to the needs of this community,” Harwood said. “Our cemetery was established in 1845 and is the final resting place for nearly 6,000 people. We know that our new columbarium will be a good choice for people in our age.”

At about $1,500, Harwood also noted that the price of a columbarium is far less than the cost of a traditional burial with a casket. The price includes the urn, engraving and a marker. The structure offers space for 140 cremains — or cremated remains — with room for expansion, Harwood said.

Traditionally, when a loved one is cremated, the urn is buried, Harwood said. “But from the earliest days in the Christian church, people were buried in or around the church. Some people in our church wanted this. We had the perfect spot in our memorial garden for (a columbarium),” he said.

“There is a very practical problem that arises when people die and that is ‘how do we respectfully dispose of the body?’ Increasingly, this is the choice, but I meet with a lot of people who have a spouses ashes in their closet or on the floor of their bedroom. That doesn’t really solve the problem. It just postpones it,” Harwood said. This is “a dignified place for the final remains.”

The garden is always open for families who want to visit their relatives.

Those interested in making St. Mark’s a loved one’s final resting place may contact the church at (717) 248-8327 or email jtharwood@comcast.net or rector@stmark-lewistown.org for more information.

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