History Page 5
It was a sad group at lunch. When suddenly, I remembered overhearing the chamber of Commerce President telling my husband of the Village Meadows Development. It occurred to me that, just maybe, if I telephoned Tower Real Estate, they would consider our request for land. Leaving the table in the middle of lunch to make the telephone call, I couldn’t believe that in five minutes I’d been promised three acres of land on condition that I promptly come to the office for the deed.1I Note: Tower Realty was located at 4724 North Central Avenue, Phoenix. “The two brothers (Henry P. and Joseph E. Stern), a lawyer and a secretary were waiting. Presto, we had the signed deed and rushed back to the Bishop’s office. Naturally, we were overjoyed. Only one requirement we begin building In a year.
Lots were not platted. No one knew exactly where our property was in relation to streets, schools, and homes. But that was not important. It was how would Bishop Kinsolving react to the gift. When I presented the deed to him at the afternoon meeting, several members of the Bishop’s Committee had returned to the Fort. Father Lewis accepted the Bishop’s instructions. We had our mission.”
Today the church tends to be very scientific about the siting of new missions by using economic analyses, demographics, street plans, time factors, minimum numbers for viability, etc., etc. This approach is designed to provide the greatest margin for success to any new mission. Allyne Niemi’s account shows us another time when the founding of missions was not nearly as refined as the process is today. Imagine being part of that small group of intense believers which not only swam upstream against a Bishop who seems to have blown hot and cold by turns but also had to deal with local resistance. Insofar asthe Bishop went, it was” No” because of money; then it was “Yes” to the “Buy a Brick” campaign; next, it was “No” because no more missions were wanted in the Diocese; finally, it was “Yes” when presented with a deed. Regarding the local resistance, the Rev. Mr. Lewis wrote the following to Allyne Niemi in May of 1959: “I do not imagine any of us fully understands how much you have endured in order to bring about the organization of the congregation and the inauguration of the Building Fund. Certainly you and I did not envisage the conflict and (illegible) that ensued.”
God’s will prevailed despite internal and external opposition and the illogic of building a mission in a town that was totally dependent on a military installation that had twice closed in the previous twelve years.
The episcopal sensibilities of Bishop Kinsolving satisfied, or at least worn down to the point of non-opposition an equally hard part of the process was at hand, i.e. raising the money to build the church building. The recorded architectural style decided upon was rather unique considering the building was to be a church. It was called” Arizona Bunkhouse”. But then, it was intended to become the church hall once the “real” church was built. How was the money raised? Individual pledges and contributions were sought and the “Buy a Brick” campaign continued. A fashion show sponsored by the “Klothes Kloset” for the benefit of St. Stephen’s was designated “A Stairway From The Stars Of Fashion.” It was held on October 26, 1960 at the EI Coronado Restaurant with Allyne Niemi as chairman. One of the models remembered by many was the late Julie Farnsworth who died in July 1995. Julie modeled “Helen Harper Coordinates, Purple Ensemble”, Slim Wool Jersey, and Cerise Peau de Soiell” so the record says.
Following is a story told by Boll Worthington, a late former member of St. Stephen’s. In 1960, the chairman of the Department of Missions was the Rector of St. Philip’s-in-the-Hills, Tucson. St. Philip’s has a striking view of the Santa Catalina Mountains from the window behind its altar. Knowing that, a member of the as yet unbuilt St. Stephen’s who was quite an amateur photographer had a first’ rate idea. He took a picture of the Huachuca Mountains from the perspective of where St. Stephen’s altar window would be. He then took an over the altar and through the window picture at St. Philip’s. Using
photographic sleight of hand, he removed the Santa Catalinas from the St. Philip’s picture and superimposed the picture of the Huachucas on the St. Philip’s picture. The “doctored” picture was then shown to the Rector of St. Philip’s in his capacity as Department of Missions chairman at the meeting to distribute money for new missions. “That’s my window” he exclaimed. The reply was “You’re half right. The window is yours. The mountains are ours.” As the story goes, St. Stephen’s received 75% of the building funds available for that year or about $15,000.00. The original building site that was blessed by Bishop Kinsolving on 31 May 1959 was not the final site. The blessing came after a Confirmation by Bishop Kinsolving in Chapel II with an attendance of 39 and a collection of $19.00. At 9:30 A.M. on 13 November 1960, ground was broken at the present site with the new Vicar, the Reverend James E. Hayes on the earth mover. At 11 :00 A.M. on 5 February 1961, a mere 69 days later, the first service was held in the new church building. According to the entry in the Register of Church Services, there were 200 present, 156 communions, and a collection of $262.00. At 5:00 P.M. on 23 April 1961, Bishop Kinsolving consecrated St. Stephen’s and all that therein was before conducting a Confirmation service. One of the prayers used that day was:
“0 God, make the door of this house wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship; narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride, and strife. Make its threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling block to children, nor to straying foot, but rugged and strong enough to turn back the tempter’s power. God, make the door to this house the gateway to Thine eternal kingdom. Amen.”
But what of those who made this service possible? The Rev. Mr. Lewis was transferred by the Bishop in August 1960. Another, the Rev. Mr. James E. Hayes, sat on the earth mover at the ground breaking ceremonies, conducted the first service in the new church, and assisted the Bishop at its consecration. The man was gone but the imprint remained. Allyne Niemi’s own words describe what happened to her:
“Also in later part of October 1960, I suffered a severe stroke.