History of St. Stephen’s

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church was founded in 1823 in Oxford, North Carolina. The first sanctuary was built in 1832, and the current sanctuary was completed in 1902. In the Journal of the Convention of 1821 it is stated that the diocesan missionary, “Mr. Thomas Wright, held services twice in Oxford during the summer of 1820.” In the Journal of 1822 we find that the Rev. William Mercer Green, pastor of St. John’s, Williamsborough reported that “he officiated once a month at Oxford during the past year.” And in 1823 “…the certificate of organization of a parish in Oxford was presented to the convention by the Rev. Mr. Green.” Thus began the storied history of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of North Carolina, under the leadership of its first bishop, the Right Reverend John Stark Ravenscroft.

For well over thirty years, St. Stephen’s under the leadership of the Rev. Harrison Simons offered a renowned Book Store ministry which served the diocese and well beyond. And during this same period St. Stephen’s was yoked together in ministry with St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church, the African American Episcopal Church in Oxford.  Through the end of the twentieth century St. Stephen’s increased its outreach and mission work in the diocese and beyond, and especially its work and service in Latin America.  During the first fifteen years of the twenty-first century, Bishop Michael B. Curry led the Diocese of North Carolina, and in 2007 he made the decision, along with St. Stephen’s and St. Cyprian’s to unyoke as separate churches, but to continue to share in ministry. In 2010, after serious examination and deliberation, the Vestry of St. Stephen’s made the decision to close the Book Store ministry. Today St. Stephen’s is an active member of the diocese under the leadership of the Bishop Diocesan of North Carolina, the Right Reverend Samuel S. Rodman, and the Bishop Suffragan, the Right Reverend Anne E. Hodges-Copple.

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