We’re so glad that you found us, and thrilled to welcome you into our lovely community here at St. Stephen’s! On this page you’ll find information about our understanding of the Episcopal tradition, activities you can be involved in, and how to join our church. If you want to skip ahead to any portion of this page, simply use the links below.
The Episcopal Tradition as it is understood at St. Stephen’s
What is the Episcopal Tradition?
The Episcopal Church is the American branch of the Church of England, which arose out of a particular set of historical circumstances which shaped our understanding of how to be a Christian community. King Henry VIII left the Roman Catholic Church in 1534, mostly because he wanted to divorce his first wife and the Pope wouldn’t let him. Admittedly, this is not the best reason for founding a Christian denomination. Henry wasn’t very impressive, but his daughter, Elizabeth I, was. However, she didn’t become queen right away. After Henry died he was succeeded by his son Edward, who died at 15, and who was succeed in turn by Mary, his oldest child, who tried to return England to the Roman Catholic Church. She did this by persecuting Protestants, for which she was nicknamed Bloody Mary (and yes, the drink is named after her). Her father had persecuted Roman Catholics, so there was a lot of anguish and violent factionalism in the country. When Mary died, her younger sister Elizabeth became queen, and returned England to Protestantism. But Elizabeth was sick of all the fighting, so she came up with what is called The Elizabethan Compromise. Basically, she said that people could believe whatever they wanted to, as long as they showed up for church on Sunday morning.
This brings us to one of the most important ideas underlying the Anglican tradition, and its American branch, the Episcopal Church. We are a church of orthopraxis and not a church of orthodoxy. That is, we believe that our practice – the way we worship, pray, and treat our neighbors – is much more important than adhering to any given set of doctrinal propositions. We like talking and thinking about ideas, but we do so with a light heart, and with a desire to grow from our disagreements instead of getting upset and insisting on being “right.”
How is the Episcopal tradition understood at St. Stephen’s?
There are many aspects of Episcopal religious practice, and at St. Stephen’s we tend to focus on two – social justice and the arts. We are an open and affirming congregation with many LGBTQ members. We seek racial justice and repair through protesting, advocacy, and education. We care deeply about the Columbus community, and work with BREAD, a local community organizing group, to decrease gun violence, push for restorative justice practices, advocate for safe housing, and ensure that migrants and refugees receive a warm welcome to our city. We help our neighbors who are in need of food assistance through our work with Neighborhood Services, Inc. and the Buckeye Food Alliance. And we help our unhoused neighbors by working with the University Improvement District to provide an on-site social worker.
Our interest in art and poetry helps us sustain these efforts by feeding our spirits. We regularly use poetry in our Sunday morning worship and during Midday Prayer. We have many poets, artists, musicians, and dancers in our community, who offer their talents on a regular basis. Our small talk on Sunday mornings and at other times is often about concerts we’ve been to, poems we’ve read or written, books we’ve read, and museums we’ve visited. We feature art in our sanctuary from many local artists.
We are a campus church, located on the northern edge of the Ohio State University. Faculty, staff, and students are very active in our community, and we joyfully involve ourselves in campus life.
There are a great number of small groups at St. Stephen’s, and you can become involved in as many as you like. You can also become involved in worship, and in Christian formation. Clicks the links below to learn more.
Service and Justice Groups
- We are very involved with our local food shelf, Neighborhood Services, Inc. (NSI). We collect food and household goods for NSI throughout the year, and many parishioners volunteer at the food shelf weekly. If you’d like to become involved, contact Carolyn Vanderstouw.
- Every few months, we travel to Franklinton to join with St. John’s to serve a meal at Street Church. If you’d like to become involved, contact Jen Schmied.
- We are committed to our advocacy and justice work with BREAD (Building Responsibility Equality And Dignity). We hold house meetings in the autumn, join the Annual Assembly in November, and bring almost our entire parish to the Nehemiah Action in May. Members of the parish also serve on research committees and in leadership with BREAD. If you’d like to become involved, contact Norm Wernet and Rae Fellows.
- We are part of a denominational movement, Creation Care, which promotes and works for environmental recovery and justice. Our local Creation Care group is working on improving recycling efforts, ending single use plastics and commercially bottled water, and phasing out dangerous chemicals in our church building and beyond. We also are working with the Diocese on solarization and with Interfaith Power and Light on lobbying and would like to work with BREAD ON justice initiatives. We support gardening and gleaning for our local food pantry, NSI. We post an environmental article weekly on the church website. If you would like to be a part of advocating and working for creation care, contact Elliott J. Bush.
Arts, Music, & Poetry Groups
- We have an excellent choir, and a supremely talented music director in Dennis Davenport. The choir is mostly volunteer, although we do employ Choral Scholars as section leaders. Choral Scholars must be currently enrolled college or graduate school students. If you would like to join the choir, or learn more about our music program, contact Dennis Davenport.
- Our Book Club meets monthly, and reads fiction, nonfiction, and, occasionally, poetry together. If you’re interested in joining, contact Cynthia Whitacre.
- The Poem Pickers meet before each liturgical season to choose the poems that we’ll use during our Sunday morning services. Each member brings two poems that they share with the group. If you’d like to encounter poets whom you haven’t read before, and to lead other people to encounter your favorite poets and poems, contact Stuart Hobbs.
- Many local artists have had shows in our sanctuary. If you are an artist and want to learn about having a show, contact Stuart Hobbs.
There are a number of formation opportunities that occur throughout the year.
- Our Young Adult Ministries (YAMS) group meets on Thursday nights from 7:00 – 8:30 PM during the school year. Sometimes we study scripture together. Sometimes we discuss issues in our lives and in the world. And sometimes we just play games together. YAMS also goes out to lunch together after the 10:30 AM Sunday Service on alternating Sundays during the school year. Contact our Deacon and Campus Minister, the Rev. Brice Patterson, to learn more, or visit our YAMS page.
- Children’s Formation takes place during the 10:30 AM service on Sunday mornings, and Youth Formation takes place Sunday afternoons. We’re always looking for people to help with children and youth formation. If you’re interested in helping out, or want to learn more about how your children can become involved, visit our Children & Youth Ministry page and/or contact our Children and Youth Formation Director, Darien McCoy.
- We have a wonderful Book Club that’s been meeting for years, usually in parishioner’s homes. Contact Cynthia Whitacre to learn more.
- Kaitlin Raver leads our Soul Sisters group, a woman’s group which meets twice a month for fellowship and formation. Contact Kaitlin if you’re interested in joining.
Prayer & Spirituality
- Our Centering Prayer group meets on Zoom on Wednesday mornings at 8:00 AM. Click here to learn more.
- We gather for Midday Prayer on Wednesdays at 12:15 in the Sanctuary. The service is followed by a light lunch.
Our worship wouldn’t be possible without the time and talents of the Altar Guild, which sets up the sanctuary for Sunday services and cleans and cares for all of the objects we use in worship. They also do a mean flower arrangement. If you’re interested in joining the Altar Guild, contact Janet McNaughton.
Sunday worship incorporates several special roles for lay people. Every Sunday we have two lectors, who read the Old Testament lesson and the Epistle. An intercessor leads the prayers of the people. Acolytes and crucifers help lead the procession and set the table. Chalice bearers help distribute the wine. If you’re interested in taking any these roles, contact Karl Stevens, our priest.
Joining the Church
If you like what you’ve read here, have attended a few services, and are considering joining the church, start by contacting our priest, The Rev. Karl Stevens. He will want to meet with you for coffee or lunch, just to get to know you and find out more about your interests. You should also contact Liz Hecker, our Parish Administrator. She will put you on the mailing list for our newsletter, which will arrive in your email every week. She’ll also be happy to add you to our directory.
At least once a year, we’ll hold an Inquirer’s Class, a series of one hour sessions over the course of four weeks that will teach you about the Episcopal Church and prepare you to be baptized, confirmed, or received into the church. Baptism is for those who are brand new Christians and have never been baptized before. Confirmation is for those who were baptized as infants, and are now ready to affirm their faith as adults. Reception is for those who have been both baptized and confirmed in another Christian denomination, and now want to officially join the Episcopal Church. All three rites (baptism, confirmation, and reception) make you bona fide members of the Episcopal Church, wherever it may be found.