Dear St. Stephen Members and Friends:
It’s gotten to the point that “2020” is the punch line to any joke about “What’s the worst that can happen?” Laughing is a great way to cope in this time of worldwide pandemic, racial tension and protest, natural disaster, and social distancing.
For a lot of us, the inability to attend church in the usual way only makes this time harder. It can be easy to forget that despite the fact that we stopped having worship in the sanctuary, St. Stephen has never stopped doing ministry. In fact, the opposite is true. It is in times like these that St. Stephen is most needed.
A World War II Navy veteran once compared the church to his job when he was a battleship’s engineer. He said it was a whole lot of doing everyday maintenance punctuated by moments of chaos and sheer terror. That was when all the everyday maintenance proved its mettle. That has been true of St. Stephen. Our normal routines have always included community outreach, compassionate service, well-thought-out worship, improved communications and strong human relationships. During the coronavirus pandemic, all this everyday work has proved its worth in thousands of homeless individuals served meals and dozens receiving welcome packets; in an easy transition from live to online worship and activities; and in a 75% increase in non-member “attendance” via our website that indicates that St. Stephen’s message of God’s inclusive grace and love through Jesus Christ is meeting the needs of a new audience hungry for hope and connection.
Every year at this time St. Stephen launches its annual stewardship campaign. In October, we will ask that you make a pledge to support our 2021 operating budget. This is the “maintenance” that makes St. Stephen seaworthy in “normal” times and crisis-worthy in times like these.
In addition to that, in early 2021 St. Stephen will embark on a three-year capital campaign to improve our readiness for the future. The campaign will make our buildings accessible for folks with special needs (including adding an elevator to the Education building and accessible bathrooms to the Sanctuary); perform long-needed overhaul and improvement of our amazing Garland Organ (under the supervision of Dan Garland himself); provide for our outreach to our youth and our homeless friends by purchasing a new church van; install security doors for St. Stephen Presbyterian Day School; and make various improvements to our building that empower us to minister in new ways.
These are facility fixes, but each of them underlines our long-term commitment to the things that make St. Stephen strong: intentional inclusion of ALL people, excellence in worship, compassionate ministry to our members and outreach to those most in need in Tarrant County.
We know that in these challenging times, your own finances may be stressed and that your mailbox and inbox are filled with charitable requests from the many nonprofits straining under the burden of increased demand. We believe it’s important that you know your church’s twin financial requests lie ahead so that you can make the charitable and financial decisions that make the most sense for you and your family.
We hope that we have proven, and will continue to prove, that when it has most been needed, St. Stephen has risen to the needs of its congregation and community, to the glory of God and our savior Jesus Christ.
We also want to thank you for your amazing generosity to St. Stephen since the COVID-19 lockdown began. Your giving has made our ability to minister in this crisis possible. It is because of you that one day very soon we’ll be back in our magnificent facility. It will once again be filled with children in its day school and Sunday school, the homeless seeking food and friendship, and people from diverse backgrounds worshiping and sharing communion together. We will continue to draw new friends who are attracted to our message of the all-embracing love of God. St. Stephen will remain the beacon of grace, hope and welcome that we value so dearly for decades to come, because of your faithful support right now.
Grace and peace,