STARK, MARK YOUNG, Presbyterian minister; b. 9 Nov. 1799 at Dunfermline, Fife County, Scotland, son of Robert Stark and Elizabeth Young; m. 22 June 1835 Agatha Georgiana Street, and they had three sons and two daughters; d. 24 Jan. 1866 at Dundas, Canada West.
Mark Young Stark’s mother having died in his infancy, he was raised by his stepmother, Mary Bannatyne, member of a prominent Glasgow family. After private tutelage in Essex, England, he matriculated at the University of Glasgow, graduating ma in classics in 1821. He completed theological studies at Glasgow in 1824 and was licensed to preach by the Glasgow presbytery of the Church of Scotland.
Stark was unable to secure a call under the oppressive patronage system that existed in the Church of Scotland, in spite of illustrious support from Professor Dugald Stewart and Sir George Napier. He travelled extensively on the Continent, becoming proficient in French, German, and Italian. His cultural interests also encompassed the areas of art and botany; after immigration to Canada he corresponded with the noted British botanist, Sir William Hooker, and hunted out rare specimens at his request.
Despairing of an ecclesiastical settlement in Scotland, Stark offered his services to the Glasgow Colonial Society, then directed by the Reverend Robert Burns. Stark was appointed to Upper Canada on 19 Feb. 1833, but without the financial support usually provided by the society. Prior to leaving for Canada he was offered a living in the Church of England but refused it, preferring service within the Church of Scotland. He was called to Ancaster and Dundas and was ordained 26 Sept. 1833.
Stark was elected moderator of the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada in Connexion with the Church of Scotland and so presided over the famous “Disruption Synod” held in Kingston in July 1844. In spite of sympathy for the Free Church cause in Scotland Stark at first saw no reason for a similar division within his own synod. When the division became inevitable, however, he identified himself wholeheartedly with men like Alexander Gale* of Hamilton, John Bayne* of Galt and George Brown* of the Globe, and helped form the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada (Free Church). He was elected the first moderator of the new synod and wrote a lengthy and spirited defence of the secession in Canada for the first issue of the Ecclesiastical and Missionary Record in August 1844.
Stark was not fully supported by his congregations at Dundas and Ancaster (four of the six elders at Dundas refused to follow him) and he was eventually forced to leave church buildings at both places. Free Church supporters built Knox Church at Dundas and accommodation for services was arranged at Ancaster. Stark’s work prospered, particularly at Dundas, under his gentle and conscientious leadership. In 1854 the Knox congregation separated from that at Ancaster, with permission of the Hamilton presbytery, and Stark remained as minister at Knox.
He served as the clerk of the Hamilton presbytery from 1841 to 1844 in the undivided church and from 1844 to 1857 in the Free Church. Throughout most of his ministerial career he was deeply involved in the finding and settlement of ministers. Because of his considerable intellectual abilities he was invited to serve on the College Committee charged with the development of Knox College founded in Toronto in 1844.
In 1861 the United Presbyterian Church and the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada (Free Church) united. Stark had been at first apprehensive of the sectarianism implicit in the voluntaryism of the former, but he rejoiced nevertheless at the union. Locally he facilitated the reception of the United Presbyterian congregation in Dundas into Knox Church.
In failing health, Stark resigned his charge in 1863. His name, however, was kept on the roll of synod by special resolution, and he continued to provide ministerial assistance when requested until his successor, the Reverend John McColl, was inducted.
Presbyterian Church in Can. Archives (Toronto), Stark (Mark Young) papers. Knox Presbyterian Church (Dundas, Ont.), Church session of the congregations at Dundas and Ancaster, in connection with the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Can., records. UCA, Can. Presbyterian Church, minutes of the Synod, 1861–66; Glasgow Colonial Soc., correspondence; Presbyterian Church of Can. in Connexion with the Church of Scot., minutes of the Synod, 1833–44. Presbyterian Church of Can., minutes of the Synod, 1844–61; Stark (Mark Young) papers. Can. Presbyterian Church, Home and Foreign Record (Toronto), V, (1865–66), 147–51. Presbyterian Church of Can., Ecclesiastical and Missionary Record (Hamilton, [Ont.]), I (1844–45), 69. [M. Y. Stark], Sermons by the late Rev. Mark Y. Stark, A.M., formerly minister of Knox’s Church, Dundas, ed. William Reid (Toronto, 1871). I .S. Rennie, “The Free Church and the relations of church and state in Canada, 1844–54” (unpublished ma thesis, University of Toronto, 1954). G. Smellie, Memoir of the Rev. John Bayne, D.D., of Galt (Toronto, 1871).