St. Stephens’ ecclesiastical rich history started in 1927. In that year that Owls Creek became the central location for a new era for the Church of God in Christ in Virginia. A young lady, by the name of Hattie Keys, consented for her home to be a gathering place for a handful of folks to worship and praise God under the guidance of Elder Joseph Jerome Spence.
They eventually had to move to a bigger location because the saints were growing daily in numbers. These “sanctified” saints chose the name as “Saint Stephenson Holiness Church” when they started their mission at their new location in Atlantic Avenue.
“Saint Stephensons,” worshipped God with all their being. Saints were continually being saved and added to the congregation. They exemplified God and enjoyed the Holy Ghost with “continuous tears, foot stomping, hand clapping, and holy dancing.” Their fervor, commitment, and dedication to God earned them the name of “Holy Rollers” throughout the community.
In 1932, Elder Spence and Brother William Albritton built an edifice for Saint Stephenson on Hughes Ave. Brother Donald Lewis and Brother Albritton constructed the pews and pulpit respectively. A Gospel Ensemble of Elder Spence, Brother Joe Walf, and Sisters Lillian Chandler, Dorothy Cuffee, and Lucy Parker brought a joyful noise to Saint Stephenson’s Holy Ghost filled saints for 11 years at this location.
In 1943, Trustees Brothers Solomon Ferebee, Fred Cowl, and William Freeman purchased a parcel of land on the west side of Seatack Road (now “Birdneck Road) from Nancy Hardy. Ground was broken and the foundation was laid for the 1st Church of God in Christ in that area. Elder Spence, Brothers Albritton and Cuffee completed the building. They cut the trees from a nearby cemetery and utilize that wood for the floors and ceiling of the new structure. Saint Stephensons were able to march into the new edifice in 1954 where Elder Spence preached “Holiness” until the Lord called him from “labor” to “reward.”
In 1965, State Bishop David C. Love, appointed Assistant Pastor Elder Thurlian Burden as the Pastor of St. Stephenson. St. Stephenson continued to grow and God blessed them in many ways. God was in the midst of it all in that as Elder Burden preached “Holiness,” Bishop Ted Thomas, Sr. was chosen to lead as Prelate of the Historic First Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of Virginia after Bishop Love’s demise in 1984.
In 1991, as Elder Burden’s tenure as Pastor went from “labor” to “reward,” Bishop Thomas extended his service to become the Pastor of the St. Stephenson. Under Bishop Thomas’ sound leadership, the name was changed to St. Stephens and massive architectural expansion renovation projects were completed giving St. Stephens the beautiful image that so many of us know of today.
St. Stephens has endured the test of time and continues to move forward in doing the Lord’s work. It is because of its rich history, pioneers of past and present, saints of now and in the future, to be “A church LARGE enough to serve you and small enough to know you!”