HISTORY OF ST. STEPHEN’S
ANGLICAN CHURCH-TULLAHOMA, TN
In November, 2006, several members of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church left that congregation due to the vision of all that the Episcopal church in the USA was moving in a direction away from the Holy Scripture in its actions and ecclesiastic direction. For several months, this fellowship attended other churches and met in the homes of some of the members of the congregation with Fr. Guy Lytle conducting Episcopal services. After some time, Fr. Ray Kasch of St. Patrick’s Anglican Church was invited to speak to the group about the feasibility of forming a mission church in Tullahoma. Several of the members transferred membership from St. Barnabas to St. Patrick’s preceding this meeting. Fr. Kasch and his assistant, Fr. B.E. Palmer agreed to preach and celebrate Holy Eucharist for our group on an alternating basis with the blessing of the St. Patrick’s vestry and mission committee. We agreed to name our group the Anglican Fellowship of Middle Tennessee and took the necessary legal steps to accomplish this. Bill Goodman was elected to be our coordinator, Viki Blondin as our secretary, and Rick Higgins as our treasurer, with Ann Rodgers as assistant treasurer. Chris Blondin was chosen as our organist. Through the diligence of some of our members, we were able to negotiate a lease for use of the Seventh Day Adventist Church of Tullahoma on Sundays and a lease was signed and we celebrated our first Eucharist Service on Sunday, July 29, 2007, with Fr. Ray Kasch as our celebrant. Fr. Ray and Fr. B.E. continued to support our fellowship for approximately a year. During this time, we had our first baptism. Little Miss Lexie Dangler was baptized by Fr. Ray in 2008. Fr. Ray introduced us to Fr. Sam Clarke early in 2008 who had recently returned from a year in Jerusalem as the Christian Director of Vad Yashim. Father Sam conducted his first service on Easter Sunday, 2008 and joined the other two priests in rotation as our celebrant until in October, 2008, the Anglican Fellowship of Middle Tennessee voted to call Fr. Sam as our Vicar. In a vote at our annual meeting in November of 2008, the name of St. Stephen’s was selected as a permanent name for our church and we petitioned for inclusion in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). We also voted to name Gwynne Gilbert as our organist, as Chris had accepted a full time organist position at another church. We also elected Theresa Lemmon to replace Viki Blondin as secretary.
The St. Stephen’s members elected the first vestry by acclamation at our annual meeting in November, 2008 were: Bill Goodman, Tom McCoy, Melissa Shuran, Ally Filer, Kass Von Wert, Maria Hargrove, and Jerry Lemmon. Bill Goodman was subsequently elected by the vestry as Sr. Warden, and Tom McCoy as Jr. Warden. Maria Hargrove volunteered her services as Christian Education Director for the children and youth of the parish. In 2009, Ally moved to Alabama and resigned her position on the vestry, and the decision was made not to replace her.
At our annual meeting in 2009, it was decided to seek our own building, and in February, 2010 we signed a lease for the property at 601 W. Grundy Ave in Tullahoma. We purchased pews and altar from a church in Halliday, TN and through many hours of hard work and effort, led by Wayne and Kass Von Wert, we refurbished the pews and remodeled the building into a sanctuary and parish hall. We held our first service in the new sanctuary on March 6, 2010.
During 2010, Fr. Joel Hassell, from Pulaski, TN joined us as supply clergy, assisting Fr. Sam on several occasions. We also were served by Deacon John Johnson on some occasions.
At our annual meeting in November, 2010, Bill Goodman and Maria Hargrove stepped down from the vestry as their terms expired. Mike Matheson and Sandie Goodman were elected as new vestry members. Jerry Lemmon was elected by the vestry as Sr. Warden, and Tom McCoy was again elected as Jr. Warden. Also selected were Connie Heath as treasurer and Dottie Matheson as Vestry Clerk. We also voted to relinquish our affiliation with Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) and join the Anglican Diocese of the South as a member parish. We were accepted into ADOTS the following month.
In September, 2011, Fr. Sam Clarke announced his retirement and the vestry served as a search committee for a new priest for St. Stephen’s. Jerry Lemmon and Kass Von Wert were asked to continue their terms for an additional 6 months until a new priest could be found. In January, 2012, Fr. Joel consented to be our interim supply clergy until a new vicar/rector could be called.
Jerry Lemmon served as our first delegate to the Anglican Diocese of the South Synod held in November, 2011. He was accompanied by alternate Mike Matheson. Bishop Foley Beach made his first visit to our church on Wednesday evening, December 14. 2011 and conducted an ordination ceremony for a new deacon, after a catered dinner at the parish hall.
New leases were negotiated and signed in January, 2012, for an additional 2 years at the 601 W. Grundy location and adjoining lot for parking. In April, 2012, Fr. Joel was named our new rector. In July, 2012, Connie Heath resigned as Treasurer, and Jerry Lemmon was selected to replace her upon his retirement from his industrial career in September, 2012.
In 2013, Loaves and Fishes Café program was initiated as a church fund raising activity upon a suggestion by Sandie Goodman. A volunteer church member would provide a meal in the parish hall on the first Sunday of every month, with donations given for the meal and the donations going to the church operating fund. This program was a resounding success in 2013 and was continued into 2014. Jerry Lemmon conducted the first confirmation class in 2013 with 2 participants: Stevin Register and Rachel Hambrick completed the 8 week class in the summer. On March 23, 2014, Bishop Foley Beach confirmed Stevin and Rachel into the church. In January, 2014, at the annual parish meeting, Bill Goodman was elected to replace Kass VonWert on the vestry. Tom McCoy was selected as Sr. Warden, Mike Matheson was named Jr. Warden. Other vestry members were Melissa Shuran, Sandie Goodman, Theresa Lemmon. Dottie Matheson continued to serve as Vestry Clerk and Jerry Lemmon as Treasurer. At the January meeting of the vestry at the urging of Fr. Joel, he requested that half of his agreed upon salary be deferred to a world outreach program to provide water wells for a third world country, provided the remaining amount of money required could be raised from the rest of the church members during the year. This program was agreed to and the fund created for restricting this amount during the year. During 2014 St. Stephen’s donated $10,000.00 to Living Waters, International. Our leases for the building and adjoining lot were renewed in February, 2014 for 2 years.
At the annual meeting in January 2015, Kass VonWert was elected to the vestry with the current members agreeing to continue to serve, bringing the vestry membership back to 7. At the January meeting Bill Goodman was elected as our Sr. Warden, and Kass VonWert as our Jr. Warden. Remaining members were Sandie Goodman, Theresa Lemmon, Mike Matheson, Tom McCoy, and Melissa Shuran. Dottie Matheson was selected to continue as Vestry Clerk and Jerry Lemmon as Church Treasurer. We also agreed to continue our Living Waters outreach program.
In 2016 Gwynne Gilbert resigned as our organist. After a cursory search for a replacement, Mike Matheson mentioned that we could get an electronic music machine with the hymnal programmed into it for about $2500. The vestry voted to spend the money from our music director budget item. The machine was purchased in early 2017.
In August, 2018, Fr. Joel resigned as our rector, but agreed to remain as our permanent supply clergy for as long as we needed him. The vestry agreed to pay him at $200.00 per service as our supply clergy until a new rector or vicar could be hired.
The following Spring, in April, 2019, thru negotiations with Bishop Frank Lyons and our vestry, Fr. Terry Sweeney from Sevierville, TN was invited to preach and interview for the position as our rector. He was offered the position in July, 2019 and accepted. He moved to the area in December to be able to devote himself full time to our church.
At our annual meeting in January 2020, Jerry Lemmon was reelected to the vestry to replace his wife Theresa who had become ill and was no longer able to attend. In February 2020, thru the efforts of Wayne and Kass VonWert a Little Free Pantry was constructed and placed on the East side of the church building and a bank account opened to accommodate the donations and expenses associated with operating the pantry. Teresa VonWert volunteered to coordinate the monitoring and supply of the pantry.
In March, 2020, the Covid19 pandemic reached Tennessee and all our lives were severely disrupted as we quarantined in our homes and were unable to attend church per guidelines from the state and the diocese. Thanks to Fr. Terry’s initiative and creativeness, within a couple of weeks we attempted to hold services on line using the Zoom platform and within a week or two we were holding regular services via Zoom. Fr. Terry also conducted a catechism class during the summer via Zoom and we began a Friday night Compline service on line as well. In November, 2020, we began having in house services as well as continuing on line services. In January 2021 we again ceased in house services due to the pandemic surge in cases, and conducted on-line services only via Zoom. We resumed in-house and Zoom services at the end of February, 2021.
In January 2021, Kass took over as coordinator of the Little Free Pantry when Teresa resigned her position as coordinator. At the annual meeting, the vestry was reelected by acclamation to continue their service.