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Our History

     With the aid of the Church of the Mediator, Allentown, their Rector, The Rev. F. W. Bartlett, held worship services in the old Catasauqua School, at Second and and School Streets, for almost two years. Rev Bartlett prepared and presented the first class for Confirmation and the Bishop administered the sacred rite in the high school. The congregation began to dream of building their own church.

     In 1872, Mr Asa Packer, President of the Lehigh Valley Railroad and founder of Lehigh, was so impressed with this small congregation that he offered to duplicate any sum of money raised for the erection of a church building. Father Bartlett was soon transferred and without his driving spirit the opportunity was lost.

     In 1872, The Rev. David Whitehead of the Church of the Nativity in South Bethlehem held services at regular intervals in the old schoolhouse and in the original Trinity Lutheran  Church. Rev. Whitehead later became Bishop of Pittsburgh. Beginning in 1873, the Rev. Charles E. D. Griffith, Rector of the Mediator in Allentown, held services for several years in the Lehigh Valley Station. Although the work of the official clergy was suspended from 1872 to 1885, the laity continued to hold services in private homes. Baptisms, funerals, weddings, and confirmations were recorded in the records of Grace Episcopal Church of Allentown.

     On April 23, 1893, The Rev. R. H. Kline of Grace Church Allentown, held a service in the Catasauqua Town Hall, attended by sixty faithful Episcopalians. According to the "Catasauqua Dispatch" of 1898, this service "proved to be the beginning of a permanent work, resulting in the present church and congregation."

     In 1998, The Right Rev. Ethelbert Talbot, Bishop of Bethlehem, appointed The Rev. William H. Heigham, Ph.D., Minister in Charge. For the first time in twenty-eight years, The Mission "Church of the Holy Comforter" was under the care of its own Vicar. The Rev. Heigham was an excellent missionary, uniting Episcopalians scattered throughout the area, increasing the list of communicants. According to church records, the first of these families who helped start the mission were the R Clay Hammersley and the Patrick Families.

     By March 1, 1898, there were 16 church families, 38 baptized persons, 29 communicants and 33 confirmands. Sunday School was held at 3:30 p.m. followed by Evensong at 7:00 p.m. Celebration of the Holy Eucharist was held on the first Sunday of the month, July 3rd and September 11th at 8:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. By March of 1899 there were 58 families and 85 communicants. During that year there were 109 Sunday services, 4 week-day services and 14 celebrations of the Holy Eucharist. There were 16 baptisms, 12 confirmations and 3 burials. Our first organist was Miss Emily Boyer, who, according to the historic notes, "plays most acceptably at all services" on the pump organ. Miss Boyer later became the wife of the Rev George Green during his time at St. Stephen's.

     Contributions of $658.00 wee received for the year 1898. After expenses were met, including the Rector's support of $348.00 and $190.00 set aside for the building fund, the Church began the new year with $17.25. They celebrated that Easter with thanksgiving for a new brass Altar Cross, and a memorial Eucharistic set of solid silver and gold.

     On May 7, 1899, the name of the mission was officially changed to St Stephen's Church. In 1900, Rev Heigham was called to New York City and Bishop Talbot appointed as Vicar, The Rev. George Green, who had just graduated from the General Theological Seminary in New York City. A lot at Howertown Road and Walnut St in Catasauqua was donated for the new church by Mr and Mrs Leonard Peckitt. Building plans were drawn up by Frank R Watson of Philadelphia and the contract was awarded to Joseph F Martz and Company of Allentown. After four months of prayer, sacrifices, devotion, and many frustrations, the cornerstone of the original church was laid by Bishop Talbot on October 28, 1900.

     The congregation continued to worship in the Patriotic Sons of America Hall on Bridge Street until Easter Sunday, April 7, 1901, when the first services were held in the new church. The "Catasauqua Dispatch" of May 1905 gave the following description of the church. "In making this review, it would seem incomplete without a word about the architecture of this unique and beautiful little church, to which our townsmen, without reference to creed, may point with just pride, for it is one of the most perfect specimens of Gothic architecture to be found anywhere in this Valley. The design of Frank R. Watson of Philadelphia is carried out in every smallest detail. The ceiling and wainscoting of weathered oak and furniture , all finished in the same color, are most pleasing in the i their effect and blend admirably with the buff colors of the side walls. Only this Easter, the ladies of the Church have put in a handsome Wiltron carpet of dark green, which harmonizes most completely with the color scheme, and adds immeasurably to the comfort and complete furnishing of the church. It is of interest to note that this church in our community is modeled after the most ancient of British churches, St. Martin's (225 A.D.), situated just outside the walls of Canterbury, and which was restored and used by Bertha the first Christian Queen of England about the year 580 A.D."  

  The church was consecrated on May 1, 1905, by The Rt. Rev. Ethelbert Talbot, Bishop of Central Pennsylvania. In 1905 an organ fund was started for a pipe organ. In 1910, Mr Leonard Peckitt and the vestry corresponded with Mr. Andrew Carnegie, trying to get his cooperation in "the shape of a subscription" for the organ fund. On the receipt of a $500 gift from Mr Carnegie, with the $600 already in the fund and a $100 donation from The Rev. May, the vestry entered into a contract with the Esty Organ Company. Mr Eugene Devereaux became the first organist to play the new pipe organ.

  On Memorial Day, 1920, in observation of the fifteenth anniversary of the consecration of the church, three beautiful stained-glass memorial windows were unveiled and dedicated by Bishop Talbot. One of them portrays Christ in Gethsemane's Garden, presented by Mr and Mrs Leonard Peckitt in memory of their son, Leonard Carlton Peckitt, and was placed directly over the altar. The other two, representing Christ the Consoler and Christ the Good Shepherd, were placed in the side walls of the Sanctuary. They were given by Mrs Helna Hillenbrand and her family as a memorial to her son George S Hillenbrand. These windows are now located in the Chapel of St Stephen's in Whitehall.

    A planning commission was established during Rev Joseph S. Falzone's first year as rector. The results indicated a need for expansion with provisions for off-street parking for the anticipated increase in membership due to growing population n the surrounding area. In 1968, thanks to Mr C. Thomas Fuller, eight acres of land were purchased next to the Whitehall High School in Whitehall. On August 27, 1972, immediately following the late service, the congregation proceeded to the site on Mechanicsville Road in Whitehall for the ground-breaking ceremony. Construction began August 28th. On Sunday, July 7, 1974, the Rt Rev Lloyd E Gressle, the Bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem, joined the congregation for the laying of the cornerstone. This was placed under the original cornerstone from the old edifice, dated 1900, the erection date of the Catasauqua church. The first service of St. Stephen's Church on Mechanicsville Road was held on Sunday, September 15, 1974. 














     On March 1, 1998, we began the celebration of our 100th Anniversary with Rev. Jonathan Ostman of Newport, Rhode Island, as our guest preacher. The "HIS Kids" and Senior Choirs , along with the Handbell Choir provided an outstanding selection of music for voice and bells. It was a great start to a year long celebration.  At the time of the 100th Anniversary our parish had 500 members this members traveling from New Jersey.

     From this high point in our history we entered a period of uncertainty and division. St Stephen's has always been a more conservative parish in our beliefs and practices. Although some of that remains and can be seen today in our worship services, this was a point of contention and division that forced our parish into a period of refinement. As the Episcopal Church USA became more broad minded, issues arose in the parish which led to a period of discernment ultimately dividing the Church. Those that stayed choose to remain a part of the Episcopal Church USA and continue to be in communion with the Dioceses of Bethlehem. It is because of this division that our congregation is in a period of rebuilding. 

     St Stephen's Nursery School opened its doors on September 8, 1975, with classes for 3- and 4-year-olds. Currently there are a total of 12 different classes in the schedule. An extended-care program was added to provide preschool care for working parents. The staff has grown from 2 people to 15 teachers and assistants and 110 students. In 2001-2002 school year we also added a full day Kindergarten class. A summer camp program was added in 2011 and has been a hit ever since.  

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