Discerning God's Direction
In 1966 a small group of people gathered for worship in the Lake Cable Clubhouse located in Jackson Township. They had no property on which to build a church building. They couldn't pay the necessary expenses for rent, pastor, and educational materials. Each Sunday at the Clubhouse, the makeshift altar, pulpit, communion rail, and chairs had to be set up, then put away.
Those first members of St. Stephen were pioneers. They had a vision and they gave their money, abilities and time to launch that vision-in spite of the many obstacles and hardships they faced. Although they were short on resources, they were not short-sighted. They took on something bigger than they were because they believed and trusted in God. They would build upon this foundation of trust and God's love.
The Promised Land?
The congregation grew and called a young pastor named Ned McMillen who would encourage the congregation to purchase land and build an "A-framed" sanctuary in 1972 that was literally at the end of the road. Once again, the people of God shared a vision to proclaim God's Good News in and around the township of Jackson. The sanctuary was built at a time when there was nothing else around, no mall, no restaurants, no real reason to even travel this way. Yet, the people of St. Stephen felt that this was God's way. Once again, they took on something bigger than they were, because they believed and trusted in God. Upon the foundation of trust and God's love the first sanctuary, office and classrooms were built.
Growing in God's Grace
In 1986, members of St. Stephen were faced with a decision: whether to build a new sanctuary or expand the already limited educational space. They could not afford to do both. In fact, they were told they didn't have enough members to build even the worship facility. But, like those early members, the congregation stepped out in faith. They believed in something bigger than themselves. They believed the best years of St. Stephen were yet to come. So, after much discussion, thought and prayer, it was decided as a matter of priority, to build a new worship facility. They made their decision with the clear understanding that expansion of educational space would need to be addressed within five years.
Developing in Faith
In 1994, Project 2000 conducted a survey of our membership to prioritize the physical and capital needs believed to be most essential to the continued success of our ministry. This survey demonstrated that parking, expansion of educational facilities, new office space, restrooms, storage space, renovation of our organ, and expansion of the fellowship hall were the highest needs. The need was to create a space where God's people could learn, grow, and fellowship together so that we could continue to be firmly rooted in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. As a result, the Family Life Center, new office spaces, and classroom spaces were built and completed in December 2000.
Following the completion of this project, Pastor Ned McMillen retired from St. Stephen Martyr, knowing full well that the people of God here in this place would continue to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and nurture to wholeness those who respond.
Moving Forward in Mission
In 2000 Pastor Bruce Roth was called to serve with the people of St. Stephen Martyr Lutheran Church. The vision he shares is to build on the foundation of faith and continue to trust in God's guidance. The desire is to help St. Stephen Martyr Lutheran Church be the most dynamic center for mission in the Northeastern Ohio Synod where all of God's people can experience fullness of life in Christ. Today we seek new ways to tell the story to the unchurched, to discover new ways for people to hear, see, feel, experience, and imagine a new way of being in the world and make disciples of all people. Our ministry includes drama, music, dance, art, prose, poetry, Bible studies, Prayer groups, video, small group ministries and a variety of other ways to help people grow in the faith Christ has given us. St. Stephen will be known as a place where love lives!
Where Love Lives... Love Grows
By 2011 the congregation had grown to become very alive, but also very fragmented. Our different services held in different ends of the building meant many people simply didn't fellowship with one another from week to week. The economy was suffering and the church had to make a decision. Do we continue on in our dated, fragmented, cramped space or do we step out in faith again and show our community our beliefs by putting trust in God?