Sixteen people met at the home of Mr. and Mrs. RE LeMont, 8th Street NE on June 8 for a prayer and devotional hour. That evening the group decided to organize a new congregation.
The first worship service was held June 22. Kermit Roisen, a student at St. Olaf Collage, served as pastor during the summer of 1947. The constitution was adopted on October 1.
Rev. Lowell Sattre, graduate student at the University of Iowa, served as interim pastor during the 1947-1948 academic year.
Judson Crary, a student at Luther Theological Seminary, served as pastor during the summer of 1948.
St. Stephen's congregation was officially accepted in to the membership of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in June 1948.
Rev. Arthur Jothen was installed as the first resident pastor on November 7, 1948.
A ground breaking service for the new church was held on March 13, 1949, and excavation started on March 14 by Skogman Construction Company. The first service in the new church was on July 17, only four months after the start of construction.
Pastor Norris Wogen became the second pastor to serve St. Stephen's and was installed in September 1951. The church's weekly newsletter, The Messenger, started at this time.
The parsonage was built at 3220 Iowa Avenue SE in 1956. It was a four bedroom house with full basement, two-car garage, and bomb shelter under the front lawn. The church office was in the walk-out basement.
A new organ was purchased and better used pews installed in 1957. The interior of the Sanctuary was painted and center aisle carpeted.
The organ was played for around ten minutes before services, making it a time for meditation and silence. Services began and ended with the singing of a hymn. Late comers could only be seated during hymns or readings and not during prayers. When the pews were filled, folding chairs were set up in the center aisle. Communion was held the first Sunday of the month. A member of the council assisted and wore a black robe. Usually the adult choir sang on communion Sunday. The adult choir marched in at the beginning of service wearing choir robes and were seated at the front of the church. The youth choir choir did the same. During the summer months, solos were sung by various members.
A small house south of the church was purchased in 1961 for use as a parish house and church office.
Church membership had grown to the point where three services were held each Sunday to accommodate the people. There were two complete Sunday schools, three vocal choirs, and a hand bell choir.
The congregation voted to build a new church north of Bever Avenue SE. Pastor Wogen wrote,
The continuous adult membership courses were regularly adding new members and finances were no problem to build a new church. The annual budget only had to increase $440 a year.
It was to be a magnificent edifice: a stone church in Gothic style, air-conditioned, the choir in stalls near the altar instead of in the balcony, and there was a provision made for a full-scale pipe organ. Out front, a parabolic arch was to face the main thoroughfare, and a flood-lit, 17-foot statue of Christ would be visible for five blocks down 32nd Street, day or night.
Pastor Wogen resigned in October 1972 after being at St. Stephen's for 21 years. Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque supplied the congregation with pastors before a new pastor was called.
Pastor Landis Olsen accepted the call to St. Stephen's in June 1973. Roene Cammack became the first woman president of the congregation.
St. Stephen's celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1974. The properties were updated and repainted.
The ceiling in the Sanctuary needed to be repaired, so pews were moved to the basement through the basement windows. The ceiling and walls were insulated, sheetrock applied and painted. Members of the congregation made stained glass windows that were installed in the Sanctuary windows. Church services were held in the basement throughout the Lenten season because of the Sanctuary renovations. The mid-week Lenten services were a round-robin with other area lutheran pastors, each pastor taking a Wednesday night in a different Lutheran church in the Cedar Rapids-Marion area.
Pastor Olsen resigned in May 1981. Gary Boe accepted the call in August of 1981. The front steps were enclosed with a roof and sides. The altar was moved so that the pastor could be behind the altar, facing the congregation. Communion started being celebrated at each Sunday service.
Pastor Boe resigned on November 3, 1985.
Pastor David Dennison became the next pastor. His wife, Julie, became a pastor while at St. Stephen's. They were the first co-pastors for St. Stephen's.
The education unit was built, adding Sunday School rooms, a new kitchen, fellowship hall, and offices in 1989-1990. The parish house was purchased by the Sisters of Mercy and moved to make room for the new building.
Pastor Dennison accepted a position with the synod in Chicago and moved the family there in 1991.
Pastor Jackie Tjarks and her family came to St. Stephen's in 1991. Pastor Tjarks was the first woman to be called to St. Stephen's. She resigned in 1993.
In June 1992, Anita Fuehr, the last active charter member of St. Stephen's, died.
Pastor Tim Smith accepted the call to St. Stephen's in 1993. It was his goal to visit every member household by the end of his first year as pastor. Music became a more important part of services with guitars, horns, and drums. A new piano was donated by Janet Bergman in memory of her late husband.
A new air conditioner and furnace were installed in the parsonage in 1994, as well as a new electric stove. The kitchen was remodeled with new cupboards.
The highlight for Pastor Smith was the building of a new Sanctuary. A dinner was held in Squaw Creek Park Lodge on May 10, 200, for the congregation as a kick-off to raise funds.
Everything was to be new, including padded pews. A new altar, pulpit, and baptismal font were built by church member Chuck Barnes. Later, an elevator was installed. A new and better sound system was installed.
The congregation held services in a building on First Avenue NE while the new addition was built.
Pastor Steve Pannkuk became Family Life Minister in 2004. He was with St. Stephen's until 2010. Pastor Steve was very well liked by the youth, leading them in many activities. He had his name removed from the list of prospective lead pastors after Pastor Smith left and later accepted a position with a church in Oregon.
After 15 years with St. Stephen's, Pastor Smith resigned in the spring of 2008 to start a mission church in North Liberty. The synod requested that St. Stephen's have an interim pastor for a while. Pastor Mark Kukkonen became pastor for 22 months. When Pastor Judy Klusman was called, Pastor Kukkonen left.
The parsonage was sold in 2008 after Pastor Smith left. The general consensus was that most pastors preferred to purchase a home with the hope it would appreciate in value. The proceeds from the sale were used to pay down the church mortgage.
Pastor Judy Klusman began her ministry in May 2010 but resigned that August.
Retired Pastor Lyle Kleman, a member of St. Stephen's, took over the duties as pastor. He contnued to lead the congregation until a new pastor was called. Pastor Kleman continues to be involved in the congregational activities today.
A new era began with the installation of Pastor Ritva Williams in October 2011. The hymnals were removed from the pews. Clipboards were no longer passed through the pews during services and are instead kept below the bulletin board or on the counter in the Narthex.
Two large viewing monitors were installed in the front of the church, as well as one in the rear for the pastor to read. Two monitors were installed in the Narthex for the convenience of the ushers and overflow attendance.
A pastoral internship program began in 2013, with third year students from Wartburg Theological Seminary. The intern serves half-time at St. Stephen's and half-time in St. Luke's Hospital Pastoral Care Department during the school year. At St. Stephen's, under Pastor Ritva's care, the intern gets a taste of the many aspects of pastoral ministry. The congregation has welcomed and nurtured each intern, witnessing their growth. All our interns have gone on to be installed as pastors.
In May 2016 Mark Howland accepted the newly-appointed position of Youth and Young Adult Minister. Mark has and continues to develop programs and events for our youth and young adults.