Each of us came to St. Stephen’s at different points in the life of our parish. Some of us know the history and legacy of our church, the story behind our traditions and the evolution of our collective parish home. Others may not. This story is the first in a series that aims to share and celebrate of how the faith and gifts of many have had, and continue to have, a huge impact on all of us.
A strong sense of community is one of the continuous threads that connects our parish from past to present. We started as a true community church and it’s a role we continue to play today. Is it because of our location, the ease by which neighbors can walk to our doors, or our amazing 4th of July hot dogs? Maybe.
But an even bigger draw may be the spirit of welcome for people of all faith backgrounds that permeated the very foundations of our building in much the same way it permeates our parish today.
It’s hard to imagine today what the city of Edina was like the 1930’s when the journey of the parish began. The now stately and established Edina Country Club area was a suburban “addition” at the time. Edina included only 5,000 souls and there wasn’t a protestant church to be found.
In 1937, our Bishop Stephen E. Keeler and a small group of folks from several denominations, including the 12 Episcopal families in Edina at the time, met to discuss the possibility of forming a new Episcopal Church in the city. The group quickly unified around the idea.
The first worship services were held on April 18 of that year in the music room of Wooddale School, which stood diagonally across from our church, and attendance that day foreshadowed the community role our church would play. Ten people shared Communion, 80 came to the family service and 56 children attended Sunday school. They were from all walks of faith – Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists and Roman Catholics. All were welcomed! (Sound familiar?)
Within two months, the community decided to erect a church building and a lot was purchased for $1,500. The members of the parish pledged $20,000 for the new church with the remaining $50,000 financed by the Bishop. Our cornerstone was laid on September 18, 1938 and the first worship service was celebrated in our church building in March of 1939.
A living legacy was created by those original parishioners, not just the legacy of a physical church home but, more importantly, a legacy of community and welcome for all.
BUILDING ON THE FOUNDATION
Since that time, successive generations of parishioners have taken up the mantle and built upon that legacy. The parish has grown through the years, both in size and reach, through the expansion of ministries and multiple construction projects. Yet one thing hasn’t changed, we are still a community church and we still rely on each other to continue our legacy of faith, service and hospitality.
The needs of our community have changed over the years and how we, as a parish, have shown up for that community has evolved too.
LEAVING YOUR OWN LEGACY
You too leave a legacy through the gifts you bring to our parish family. Gifts in the form of your presence and communal worship, service, fellowship, annual pledging and by supporting the parish’s endowment, the St. Stephen’s Fund.
These gifts enable us to continue to evolve and expand how we serve, and will continue to serve, our community and each other.
When another 80 years have passed, what might future parishioners write about how we have continued to build on our collective legacy?
One great way to leave your own legacy is to remember St. Stephen’s in your estate planning. There are a variety of options open including naming the parish as a beneficiary of your IRA, 401(k), annuity or life insurance. At St. Stephen’s, we call those who have left legacy gifts and special gifts, Bridge Builders. Since Bridge Builders was founded in 1957, over 100 households have made the decision to leave their legacy in this way.
Have questions about giving to the St. Stephen’s fund?
Want to learn more about our church’s construction? Checkout this amazing video created by the Edina Heritage Preservation board!