Updated 9 December 2018
The church is a community of people who believe in Jesus, and in the Anglican tradition a priest is normally appointed as the Incumbent to lead it. The church community teaches the faith to each new generation and cares for the present generation. The spirit of Jesus works through the people in the church to minister to each other and to those who live in the area in which the church is located.
Farmers and woodcutters first settled the area of Current River. When they came, some of them wanted the church to continue to be part of their life. St. John's Anglican Church, built in 1872, was the first church for the people of Current River. St. John's became a mother church to St. Michael's on Red River Road (1906), St. Mary's Brent Park and St. George's (1911).
As more people settled in Current River, the desire for a local church grew. Rev'd Percy Steed of St. John's Anglican Church suggested the idea of the Current River Mission to Bishop Rocksborough Smith. Lee Greene a student of Bishop's College, Lennoxville, Quebec led the first official worship service of the Mission. It was held December 4, 1927 in the home of Mr. & Mrs. Harry Potter on Hodder Ave.. Lee was ordained and became the first Incumbent.
By mid January 1928 services were held in the Mission House on Conyers St. A building committee was appointed and Mr. W. Basford drew up plans. The diocese loaned the Vestry six hundred dollars to assist with the purchase of materials. Under the supervision of Mr. H. Potter the parishioners constructed the church building with a furnace in a dugout beneath it. Rev. D. Popey, the Rural Dean, dedicated the building on St. Stephen's Day, December 26, 1928. It was the second largest Anglican Church in Port Arthur and the first church building in Current River.
St. Stephen's joined with the Port Arthur Missions, which were the congregations of St. George and St. Michael's with Rev. Greene as the Incumbent (Dec. 1927 to Jan. 38). In May of 1932 it became a self-supporting parish.
In 1935 Calvin Presbyterian Church was built on Surrey St.
The parish was realigned with St. Michael's congregation being separated off and Rev. Benjamin Wood (Jan. 38 to Oct. 39) was made the Incumbent of St. Stephen's and St. George's. Rev. Norman Post (Jan. 40 to Jan. 43), and Rev. Thomas Cann (Jan. 43 to Jan. 49) followed as Incumbents.
The post-war housing construction in Port Arthur and Current River brought new families into the area. Other churches were built in Current River: Current River United Church in 1948 and Our Lady of Loretto Roman Catholic Church in 1952. Rev. Canon Stephen Turner (Jan. 49 to Jun. 52) was appointed Incumbent. Both St. Stephen's and St. George's grew. They became independent in 1952 and Rev. Turner continued as the Incumbent of St. George's.
Rev. W. D. Pope (Jun. 52 to Jan. 54) and Rev. Lawrence Robertson (Jan. 54 to Oct. 58) became the next Incumbents of St. Stephen's. In 1955 a basement was dug, which allowed the space to be used for a parish hall. Until the parish hall was built, Sunday School was held upstairs.
Rev. Bob Lumley was the next Incumbent (Oct. 58 to Mar. 67) and in 1962 he became the first Chaplain to the Missions to Seamen. A controversy during this time was moving the crucifix from the back of the nave to the front. In 1961 Epiphany Lutheran (Missouri Synod) Church was built.
Rev. Canon Frank Moore served as a non-stipendiary incumbent (Mar. 67 to Nov. 82) while he worked the paper mill in Red Rock. During Canon Mooreís tenure a Vestry Room was added in 1970, and the installation of eleven stained glass windows over an eleven-year period greatly added to the appearance of the church. Families and friends donated windows in memory of Ethel and Albert Somerton (1974), John and Maud Raynard (1978), Annie and Harry Abbott (1980), John and Annie Louttit and other departed family members (1983), Captain James Galbraith, C.A. (1983), and John H. and Annie Basford (1985). In addition, Canon and Mrs. Moore donated a window in 1980, as did the Somerton family (Marguerite and Bert Somerton, Margaret and Laurie Heritage, Joyce and Ray Forslund) in 1984. In 1981 the Anglican Church Women installed a triptych in the sanctuary in loving memory of past members.
With the assistance of a stipend grant from the diocese, Rev. Murray Bradford was appointed as the Incumbent (Nov. 82 to Jan. 84). Since Canon Moore lived in Red Rock, the Rectory had been sold. With the appointment of Rev. Bradford, a Rectory was purchased on Montclair St.
Rev. Mark Moote was the next Incumbent (May 84 to Mar. 88). During his tenure the Rectory was sold and a larger one was purchased on Adelaide St.. Rev. Alan Knight filled in (Mar. 88 to Apr. 89) and also was the assistant curate at St. Michael and All Angels Anglican Church.
Rev. David Bradford and Rev. Michael Dunnill filled in during the interim and then Rev. Joan Mitchell was appointed Incumbent (Sept. 90 to Dec. 93). The parish hall was renovated in 1991. Rev. Mitchell already lived in her own home. The difficulties of renting out the Rectory became too much for the people and it was sold in 1992. During Rev. Joan Mitchell's ministry an emphasis on mutual ministry encouraged many lay people to try new ministries.
Rev. Canon Ed Swayze (Apr. 94 to present) is the Incumbent/Pastor and the Chaplain to the Mission to Seafarers. The pulpit was removed in 1995 to make more room and because it had ceased to be used by the clergy. The Current River Churches Food Cupboard was started at St. Stephen's in 1995 and operated from St. Stephen's until 2011 when it was relocated to Elim Community Church. A wheel chair ramp was constructed in the spring of 1998. Solar panels were installed in August 2011. A storage shed was built in 2009 and has made our parish hall a more useable space by providing much needed storage.
St. Stephenís continues to be an active and vital part of the community of Current River and in Thunder Bay. Our parishioners volunteer at the Mission to Seafarers, the Dew Drop Inn, the Current River Churches Food Cupboard and in many other outreach opportunities. As a congregation, we fundraise to support various missions such as Blessings in a Backpack, MEMO and the Underground Gym. We continually strive to be more inclusive and to make our Church more accessible to encourage the involvement of a wide variety of people in our church family.
Stephen, the first Christian Martyr
Stephen was a leader in the Jerusalem church and the first Christian martyr. He was one of seven men chosen and approved by both the Twelve and the community for the daily distribution of food. It is generally felt that the appointment and ordination of these seven men was the origin of the office of deacon.
How appropriate, therefore, that as an ecumenical project with other Current River churches, St. Stephen the Martyr Anglican Church initiated and participates in the Current River Churches' Food Cupboard for the less fortunate in this area.
The story of Stephen relates to Jewish-Gentile conflicts in Jerusalem as well as opposition to the Christian mission within the city. Stephen engaged in preaching and missionary work and was the impetus for the Christian mission out of Jerusalem into the Greek world. He spoke of Israelís relation to the God of Isaac, Abraham and Jacob and confronted the Jews. He made the statement that he saw ďthe risen Jesus at Godís right hand.Ē For this, false accusations were made against him and he was stoned and buried in the presence of the young persecutor Paul.
Stephen is identified in Acts as a distinguished and reputable member of the community, full of the Spirit and power, and a man of wisdom. He performs signs and wonders and, like Joseph and Moses, he understood Godís purpose, and sought to clarify Godís plan for his audience. For this he died a Christ like death as the community was scattered beyond Jerusalem. As a person who died giving witness to the faith in Jesus, he is, by definition, a martyr! Ref: Acts 6:1 - 8:2.
Since the 4th century St. Stephen's day has been observed on December 26, although in the modern liturgical calendar it can be observed on August 3, which is the date of the supposed discovery of his tomb by the priest Lucian in 415 CE. The events in the hymn Good King Wenceslas take place on St. Stephen's day. St. Stephen is the patron of deacons and in the later Middle Ages he was invoked against headaches.