The Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Stephen was formed as an English speaking congregation in January 1910. Worship services were held in various places before the property on which the church now stands was purchased in April 1910. Plans were made for a basement and St Stephens was to be known in the community as the Basement Church for many years. St. Stephen was off to a flying start in a matter of 6 short months with 106 Charter Members.
The Great Depression of 1929 brought hard times to our nation our community and the members of St. Stephen’s. In spite of the depression St. Stephen’s continued to grow in numbers and the worship space needed to be enlarged. The construction of the “upstairs” church was finally begun in late 1937. The new Estry pipe organ was dedicated in Dec., 1941 just in time for Christmas services. However, the “upstairs” church had to await completion until after World War II. During this time, St. Stephen’s became a member of the United Lutheran Church in America in January 1943. The long awaited “upstairs” worship space and furnishings was finally dedicated in May 1949, twelve years after the construction was begun.
The Education Building became a reality in 1960 finally uniting three widely separated units of the church; Worship, Sunday Church School and Administration under one roof. A special day of celebration was the retiring of the mortgage on the Ernest E. Franke Memorial Education Building on Thanksgiving Day, 1971, eleven years after its dedication in Dec., 1960. The church continued to become active in Community affairs. A Head Start program was sponsored and a Nursery School program was begun in 1976 whose Mission Statement is “to provide excellent education in a safe Christian environment at a reasonable cost.” St. Stephen’s provided the Ecumenical Consultation Center its first home. Still in existence today, it provides professional services to individuals, church and community.
A building campaign was initiated in the spring of 1991 which would renovate the chancel area and provide a new lobby with a lift to the upper and lower levels of the building. The new and relocated lobby, the lift, modifications to the Chancel which provided a free standing altar, removal of the pulpit, relocation of the Baptismal Font to the entrance of the Nave and the parking lot were completed in Dec. 1991. The Bishop of the Synod presided at a Service of Rededication of the Sanctuary in Jan. 1992. The Sanctuary and the Pastors’ Lounge were air-conditioned in 1995.
Meanwhile, the congregation was aging and folks were on the move again. Services were cut from three to two. However, the church remained vibrant. The church had become a member of the Lutheran Church in America as mergers of Lutheran bodies took place. We have been members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America since its inception in 1988. A “Mission Statement” was developed for St. Stephen’s: “We, the church of Saint Stephen, gather to worship The Lord and to grow in our intention to reflect his example. To share the peace and joy which comes from knowing His true presence and encourage others to follow him, too.”
Our mission at St. Stephen’s is to strive for:
P participation E encouragement A acceptance C commitment E enrichment
The congregation takes its many ministries seriously. The Evangelism committee is continually active in revitalizing our membership by spreading the Good News throughout the community in many different ways. Social Ministry faithfully carries out the duties and responsibilities connected with benevolence. Fellowship provides fun and fellowship for all of us. Education, Worship and Music and Property are not neglected.
Celebrating our 100th Anniversary was a year long exciting event.. The over all theme was “Many hands, Many hearts, One Lord.” The years since have brought more changes and challenges. The most recent being a Capital Campaign bringing renewal, much needed maintenance and additional facilities to the buildings.
Each of the fourteen Pastors has served faithfully to move this church forward. Our current Pastor, Emily Trueby- Weller, began her ministry here in January 2015 and is our fifteenth Pastor.
St. Stephens has always been a generous church in many ways and continues to be so. Benevolence giving has always been an important part of our church life. It’s exciting to anticipate God’s unfolding plan for St. Stephen.
This is our history; grace-filled and full to overflowing, attempting to live within our baptismal vows.