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CELEBRATING 60 YEARS OF ST. STEPHEN'S!

Over the last 60 years the people of St. Stephen's have been gathering to worship together, grow in love and serve the people of the Santa Clarita Valley.  Join us as we honor this milestone, celebrate all that has come before and pave the way into the future.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF ST. STEPHEN'S

Early in 1961 the seed for St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church was planted when 30 members from the Newhall, Saugus and Castaic areas, who had been driving to St. Simon’s Episcopal Church in the San Fernando Valley, met in the living room of Walt and Joyce Wayman to discuss the possibility of forming an Episcopal church in the Santa Clarita Valley.

 

From 1962 until early 1965 services were held in the basement of the Newhall Presbyterian Church on Newhall Avenue. The first service was Palm Sunday of 1962 with Dean Marshall celebrating. The Rev. Orrin Knox became our supply priest, celebrating our first Christmas Eve midnight mass later that year. In 1965 St. Stephen’s relocated to the very small Seventh Day Adventist Church on Newhall Avenue, the current location of Queen of Angels Catholic Church. The Seventh Day Adventist Church had so little room that Sunday school classes were held in one small room in the church, in members’ homes nearby, and even in the backs of station wagons (the gospel according to the Ford Motor Company). The Altar Guild performed its duties from the one bathroom in the church. By this time The Rev. Keith Landis had been appointed our priest.
 

In 1967 the Four Square church at 13th and Spruce in Newhall became our home. In 1968 construction began at our current location on Orchard Village Road. We remained in the Four Square Church until September 21, 1969 when we held our first service in what is now known as Spurling Hall.
 

The parish hall/church and classrooms were dedicated on October 10, 1969. We took great pride in our new church and were eager to install sprinkler lines, build fences, plant trees and lay sod–our own home at last. Since our location was directly behind a shopping center, The Rev. Minter, our second priest, wanted St. Stephen’s to be known as the “Church in the Market Place.” Shoppers were encouraged to come to church, have coffee, rest their feet and share conversation.
 

The Vicars/Rectors of St. Stephen’s have been:

The Rev. Keith Landis, Vicar 1963 – 1965
The Rev. Russell Minter, Vicar 1966 – 1973
The Rev. Jim Seipel, Vicar 1974 – 1984
The Rev. Lynn Jay, Vicar 1984 – 2009 / Rector 2009-2011

The Rev. Kelly O’Connell, Rector 2012-2018

The Rev. Christopher Montella, Priest-in-Charge 2019-2020 / Rector 2020-Present
 

We have also been the church home to those who have had a calling to the priesthood. The Reverends Ann Tumilty, Steve Dean, and Rick Byrum all were members and had their discernment period at St. Stephen’s. Our
Discernment Committee meets monthly with those who believe they have a calling to the priesthood.
After one year of discernment the aspirants meet with the Bishop’s Committee and Diocesan Bishop for endorsement to continue their journey. Current members Susan Bek and Cynthia Jew are candidates for holy orders. Numerous study year students have also come to St. Stephen’s to learn and develop as a
step toward becoming priests.

 

Throughout the years St. Stephen’s has become a vital part of the Santa Clarita Valley. In addition to being the temporary home for Temple Beth Ami and the current home for Temple Or Emet, we have been instrumental in creating and supporting numerous communitywide outreach programs.

 

  • St. Stephen’s Preschool was established in 1969 and continues to provide a warm God-centered atmosphere in which 125 young children are encouraged to discover the joys of learning about themselves, about God's world around them and about their place in that world.

  • The Child & Family Center of the Santa Clarita Valley had its beginnings at St. Stephen’s in 1976 as the Special Children’s Center. Today it continues to help build a healthy Santa Clarita Valley by providing mental health, behavioral and educational services to children, adults and their families.

  • In 1986 a group of volunteers from St. Stephen’s and the community opened up the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry in a small building located in the parking lot of the St. Stephen’s campus. There it remained until 1992 when it outgrew the small building and moved to Railroad Avenue in Newhall where it continues to provide supplemental food to local residents in need.

  • Over 20 years ago The Rev. Lynn Jay, St. Stephen’s Vicar, and The Rev. Sharon Rhodes-Wickett, co-pastor of the Santa Clarita United Methodist Church in Saugus, formed the SCV Interfaith Council as a model of religious unity in this community. Embracing a wide expression of religious practice and belief, the Interfaith Council works to present the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration, the community Thanksgiving dinner and the community walk for the hungry (CROP). The Council was also instrumental in establishing the local winter homeless shelter.

  • Every winter since 1997 with the aid of the City of Santa Clarita, local churches and community members, the Santa Clarita Community Development Corporation (SCCDC) has opened a temporary winter shelter for the homeless of the Santa Clarita Valley. Members of St. Stephen’s have played a vital role in the development.

  • of this charitable organization and have given volunteer support each winter.

  • In 1994 we sold our unused baseball field to Southern California Presbyterian Homes to build affordable senior housing, now called Canterbury Village. This complex is HUD supported and has been a blessing to many local seniors including some of our own parishioners. The church members, preschool students and seniors have benefited from our close proximity and have enjoyed intergenerational activities. Throughout the years St. Stephen’s has had its challenges. In early times the congregation would vary from as few as four or five to as many as one hundred. Since the mid-1980s we have enjoyed stability and steady growth.

 

The 1994 earthquake shook our valley early on the morning of January 17. It damaged local roads and buildings, including members’ homes and our parish hall. Members pulled together to support one another and their neighbors. We made emergency repairs and removed broken glass from our parish hall/church. We requested help from other Episcopal parishes of our namesake, St. Stephen. These parishes sent us money, clothing and altar pieces to help us as we made our repairs. Their assistance was a blessing as well as a sign of spiritual unity. Due to earthquake damage we could not use the parish hall/church for several months. Starting the first Sunday after the earthquake we held services in our preschool building and courtyard. It was a place of tears, fellowship and prayers.

In 1995 after years of planning, a successful building fund campaign and the completed sale of our baseball field (where Canterbury Village is now located) we were able to break ground for our new sanctuary. It was an exciting time of growth and building. We moved into our sanctuary on April 5, 1996. The first service held there was a community ecumenical Good Friday Service. That spring and early summer we enjoyed our new

facilities. However, in August of 1996 it was determined that our new sanctuary had multiple engineering flaws and was not structurally sound. The Bishop’s Committee voted unanimously to vacate the building immediately. Over the next year we dealt with engineers, architects and builders. After all parties came to an agreement and with the extraordinary financial support from the diocese, we were able to start reconstruction in

1998. However this reconstruction added an unplanned burden to our debt load of $406,800. Our newly rebuilt sanctuary, sacristies and memorial garden were rededicated on January 10, 1999 by the Bishop Diocesan, The Rt. Rev. Frederick H. Borsch, PhD. Over the years St. Stephen’s has been the spiritual home for many. As we come together for worship, study and fellowship we have become a family.

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