The oldest church in Utah to house continuous religious ceremonies has a lot of new improvements, thanks in large part to a successful fund drive.

Dedication ceremonies were held this week at the Cathedral Church of St. Mark, 231 E. First South, where a $850,000 remodeling program was recently completed.The Rt. Rev. George E. Bates, Episcopal bishop of Utah, dedicated and blessed the new facilities Tuesday night and then hosted a tour and reception at the church.

The Very Rev. William F. Maxwell, dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Mark, said construction took about a year to complete.

Architects were Jim Christopher and Dan Gibson of Brixen and Christopher, AIA. Culp Construction was the general contractor.

"We started a feasibility study in 1984, looked at the building from head to toe, made a list of everything we wanted to do and started a new building fund drive in 1987. The fund drive raised $600,000 and the diocese contributed $250,000.

"The undercroft, or basement, was completely gutted right to the foundation and then remodeled.

"During the course of the work it became obvious that the church's foundation was crumbling and that, during previous remodeling work, the structure of the cathedral had been weakened.

"This necessitated additional work and money to reinforce the foundation and related structures in the basement."

The newly refurbished basement now has a reinforced foundation and floor and completely remodeled church school classrooms, bride's room, youth room, choir room and four restrooms, the Rev. Maxwell said.

"Windows have been uncovered, providing a light and airy space for the cathedral.

"The entrance stairs were rerouted and a new stone floor installed at the entrance to the cathedral.

"Spalding Hall, adjacent to the cathedral, has a refurbished kitchen, meeting space and a new restroom accessible to the handicapped. Inside the cathedral proper, the walls have been repainted, new lighting installed and structural work completed."

The Rev. Maxwell said a new heating and air conditioning system was also installed in the cathedral, a sprinkling system installed in the basement and lighting in the church and the outside landscaping improved.

"We are very happy with the outcome of the project. We would still like to build a small chapel in the old organ loft - the organ has been moved to a balcony at the rear of the church - but that will cost $75,000 to $100,000, so we will wait awhile for that."

The Rev. Maxwell said the church was completed in 1871, making it the oldest church in Utah to have continuous religious services and one of the oldest cathedrals in the country.

"It is called a cathedral because it has the bishop's cathedra in it, which is Latin for big chair, or the bishop's chair.

"The cathedra was made in New York in the late 1800s, was taken aboard a ship, which sailed around Cape Horn to San Francisco, and then brought overland to Utah."

He said he has about 750 in his congregation and, in Utah, there are about 5,000 Episcopalians.

"The Episcopal Church is the American branch of the Anglican Communion, and the Church of England is the British branch. There are 3 million Episcopalians and 65 million in the Anglican Communion.

"One of our fastest growing areas for converts is in Africa," the Rev. Maxwell said.