Milestones in a Legacy of Worship and Service
St. Stephen’s was formed from the merger of two congregations: The Church of the Good Shepherd and the Mission of the Holy Spirit. Church of the Good Shepard, located on Park Street near Goodale, was formed in the 1880s as a mission to railway workers and the poor. Mission of the Holy Spirit was an evangelical outreach in 1900 to the growing university community located on the current building site.
Henry Wise Hobson became Bishop of Southern Ohio and issued a call for college ministries.
The old frame St. Stephen’s church was razed and the congregation worshipped at the Old World Theatre during construction of the new church building. Members of Vestry slept at the construction site to prevent the theft of building materials.
The new St. Stephen’s building was dedicated. The unique architecture of the church buildings resulted, in part, from shortages of some building materials during the Korean War.
Its neo-Gothic design based on a traditional basilica form has since attracted much attention and won several awards.
St. Stephen’s became an eloquent symbol of peace and reconciliation. During one period of campus unrest, it was said to be the only building that remained open, providing a place for opposing voices to mediate their differences.
St. Stephen’s hosted the Center for Peace, served as a homeless shelter as the state deinstitutionalized its mental health facilities, and continued as a place of dialogue in time of social and economic upheaval.
St. Stephen’s continued a tradition of openness as it explored emerging issues such as the ordination of women, inclusive language, human sexuality, and alternative lifestyles.
St. Stephen’s challenged the Episcopal Church to become authentic, genuinely open, and inclusive. It become part of the Center for Progressive Christianity movement and developed a speakers’ series including Bishop Spong, Marcus Borg, among others. In 1995, the community executed a capital campaign for the first renovations of the current structure.
St. Stephen’s explored new uses for the building and land; become more active in BREAD social justice actions; developed and supported sermons from the laity; included poetry as part of the readings; and developed lay collect writers.
St Stephen’s explored new ideas for our land and building. St. Stephen’s explored a student housing project as a way to serve the OSU community, and build our presence. The project generated a struggle with the university president and board of trustees. After several years, a monetary settlement gained St Stephen’s a 25-year flow of money to fund program and maintain the building and grounds. Improvements to the building are in progress now. We are in discernment about the future direction of program and building use. We now look forward into a near term future with a certain level of abundance with which to build presence.
Out of this history grows an open and challenging Christian Community.