HISTORY OF ST. STEPHEN’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
In the beginning
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church was begun on October 8, 1957, when several families declared their intention to found a new Episcopal Church in what was a rapidly growing suburban community on the South Hill of Spokane. St. Stephen’s was the first new Episcopal Church in 30 years established to serve Spokane.
The first worship service was held at Adams School on Regal Street on January 19, 1958, with the Rev. Kenneth M. Snyder appointed Priest-in-charge. One hundred people attended this service. By June, the church was self-supporting and the current property, on which the church now stands, was purchased for $5,000. It had been an old gravel pit which was now vacant. In 1958, the Annual Convocation of the Missionary District of Spokane formally admitted St. Stephen’s as a mission of the District. The Rev. Snyder served as the church’s first Vicar.
The Parish Hall was built in 1959 and dedicated in September 1959. Church services were held in the Parish Hall, which was lovingly called the “Giraffe Starting Gates” because of the design of the high arched windows. In 1960, St. Stephen’s advanced from mission to parish status. In 1961, the Rev. Snyder departed and was succeeded by the Rev. Willis Gerald Lonergan. He was followed by the Rev. Harold Lawrence in 1964.
Our award-winning sanctuary
Construction on the award-winning sanctuary building was begun in 1966 and completed in 1967. The local newspaper wrote, “Of contemporary design and more than five stories in height, the structure will be circular in form with 16 sides. The edifice with a towering central spire will overlook the Latah Creek valley area and will become a landmark, marking the southwestern limits of the city to travelers approaching Spokane from the Colfax and Pullman areas.” Worshipers held their first service there in January 1967, six months before the building was completed.
In February 2009 we finished and dedicated our exciting new entry.
St. Stephen’s has been blessed with dedicated and faithful leadership. Following the Rev. Lawrence, rectors serving the church were Fr. John Hay, Fr. Brian Prior, Fr. Robert Dunn, and Fr. John Shepard, and Interim Rector Kristi Philip. Deacons Carol Bommarito, Marj Denniston, Kathryn Ballinger, Tom Minnerly, Karen Baker, Charles Jett and Ellen Loposer have been faithful servants of the church in liturgy and in the world.
Innovative in ministry
St. Stephen’s has brought an innovative style of ministry to the Episcopal Church and to the community of Spokane, with an open-minded approach to serving God. Here are some “firsts” that St. Stephen’s has accomplished:
Firsts in the Diocese of Spokane:
First Folk Mass
First licensed woman chalice bearer
First female acolytes
First inter-parish golf tournament
First comprehensive lay readers’ training course
First healing services and healing ministry team
First classes in Kerygma Bible study
First Saturday evening Eucharist
First Lay Eucharistic Ministry (LEM) team
First member of Episcopal Youth Conference (EYC) to address the House of Bishops
First church to use Holy Eucharist Rite II for all worship services
First to include deacons and laity in the Prayer of Consecration
First Stations of the Cross for children
Firsts for the city of Spokane:
First major art showing of local artists
First church to sponsor city lecture series
First ecumenical Vacation Church School
First training course for Hospice volunteers
First Easter Sunrise service at Cliff Park