History Page 6

So there is a lapse of time in the building of St. Stephen’s I do not recall. The stroke was a blessing in disguise. Everyone picked up their tools and with faith immediately started the building of St. Stephen’s. Mr. Worthington, Juanita Furbush and Tom Weir kept me informed of the progress.  Blessings upon blessings rained down. The first ride in a wheelchair was in February 1961 when roof was put on the church. I sat there in the large vacant sanctuary looking out at the Huachuca Mountains crying with joy and thanksgiving for the Divine working of Christ within me and so many others…” which makes one want to shout II Alleluia, Amen:’ So was St. Stephen’s, Sierra Vista, founded. The bricks, bought at $1.00 apiece, and the mortar remain the focal point of the Christian fellowship known as St. Stephen’s, but they are only a symbol. They cannot know joy or sadness, laughter or tears, acceptance or rejection. They cannot show forth or extend the love of God in Christ Jesus. Only the living body, the
congregation, is the outward and visible sign of the church’s inward and spiritual grace. To borrow an idea, your arms are the only ones God has to hug someone else.  Over the years, the congregation has
needed on more than one occasion to reach out and hug each other in hard times.

There was the “hard time” in 1964 when a well known bank operating in Arizona was going to foreclose on the mortgage. In desperation, the vicar called the Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Joseph M. Harte. The Bishop knew a vice-president of the bank in question who was also an Episcopalian.  Bishop Harte telephoned the gentleman and assured him that St. Stephen’s would meet its payments in arrears. To ensure that, the Bishop said he would contact every rector and vicar in the Diocese of Arizona and have them announce the plight of St. Stephen’s on the following Sunday. This announcement would be followed by a request for a special collection to ensure that the First National Bank would not foreclose. The vice-president was not insensitive to such honest corporate publicity and assured the Bishop there would be no need for it because he was certain an accommodation could be reached between St. Stephen’s and the bank. There need be no further talk of foreclosure!

As can be seen below, the period of greatest clerical stability at St. Stephen’s was from February 1976 to February 1998. The Reverend Doctor William F. Wright, Jr. who was known to everyone as “Father Wid” came in 1976 and retired in 1988. For six months thereafter, the Reverend Howell (Howie) C. Sasser who was at the time a U. S. Army Intelligence Corps Colonel on active duty was the acting Vicar. The Department of Defense moved him to Greece in January 1989. From January to August 1989, the congregation had a variety of supply clergy with Morning Prayer led by Lay Readers once a month. In August 1989, the Reverend Steven Carroll was placed in St. Stephen’s by Bishop Heistand. The Reverend Mr. Carroll was to be the last vicar and the first rector when St. Stephen’s was granted parish status at the Diocesan Convention in Prescott in October 1992 after more than 30 years as a mission.

The clergy who helped, goaded, guided, comforted, and loved the congregation from its time as The Episcopal Mission of the Huachuca Area to its reception as a parish of the Diocese of Arizona to be known as St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church of Sierra Vista are:

The Reverend Arthur E. Lewis 1958 to 1960

The Reverend James E. Hayes 1960 to 1961

The Reverend Robert O. Lord 1961 to 1962

The Reverend Ralph E. Mead 1962 to 1963

The Reverend Thomas P. Hobson 1963 to 1969

The Reverend Robert B. Williams 1970 to 1975

The Rev. Dr. William F. Wright, Jr. 1976 to 1988

The Reverend Howell C. Sasser 1988 to 1989

The Reverend Steven E. M. Carroll 1989 to 1998

The Reverend Ben L Somerville, II 1999 to 2005

Deacons were the Reverend Emmett J. Babler (1982-1983) and the Reverend
Carl C. Gobdel (1983-1995).

Other clergy who served as much needed supply clergy during “sede vacante” periods when St. Stephen’s was without benefit of resident clergy are:

The Reverend James M. Reaves 1969 to 1970

The Reverend Samuel H. Sayre 1975 to 1976

The Reverend W. Kenneth Williams 1989

The Reverend Veronica H. Knapick 1989  (The Reverend Ms. Knapick was the first female priest of record to celebrate the Holy Eucharist at St. Stephen’s.)

The Reverend Frank Bergen 1998 to 1999

The names of members and friends over the years are recorded in the Parish Register, on memorials, and in the Book of Memorials. Believers have come and gone over the years, and they still do so. The seasons of the calendar year come and go as do the seasons of the church year. There are baptisms on one end of life’s spectrum and funerals on the other. There is order; there is continuity in a ceaseless series of endings and beginnings. This continually changing sameness means but one thing – the Body of Christ is alive at St. Stephen’s. Why? Deus Vult'”

Note: I have let the voices from the past speak for themselves without the annoying “(sic)” where I noted grammatical errors. Any such errors outside quotations are my own.   (Ronald McCreery, Author)

 

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