The Episcopal Church
Saint Stephen’s is a parish of the Episcopal Church, which belongs to the Anglican Communion, the worldwide fellowship of national and regional Churches in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury in England. The Anglican Communion is the third largest body of Christians in the world, after the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.
The Episcopal Church got its start during the British colonization of North America – beginning in Jamestown, Virginia – when English colonists brought the Anglican Church with them. After the American Revolution, congregations and clergy formerly belonging to the Church of England reorganized themselves as an independent and self-governing American Church, with its own Prayer Book, bishops, dioceses, and administrative structures.
What does it mean when we say we're Anglo-Catholic?
Saint Stephen’s stands in the “Anglo-Catholic” tradition of the Episcopal Church and Anglicanism. After the Church of England separated from the Church of Rome in the sixteenth century, some Church members still sought to maintain continuity with their Catholic heritage. This movement started to gain traction in the late 1830s, around the same time this parish was founded. As people sought to recover ancient practices and reclaim the divine, mystical nature of the Church, things like ornate vestments, the burning of incense and candles, and chanting much of the service became commonplace.
Much of the Episcopal Church's worship is now centered around the Eucharist -- the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood. As Anglo-Catholics, we honor the Real Presence of Christ in this Sacrament through certain gestures like making the sign of the cross, touching our knee to the ground, and using incense and candles to draw attention to the Living God in our very midst.