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Fourth BCEF Call of 2021: St. Stephen's, Millburn

Hurricane Ida

The Bishop’s Church Emergency Fund (BCEF) provides financial support for church buildings in the diocese needing repairs and renovation, usually with a special focus on emergency and unforeseen needs. Through the BCEF, you can support the critical needs identified by the Bishop.

The fourth BCEF call of 2021 is for Hurricane Ida recovery at St. Stephens, Millburn. You can donate online, or mail a check payable to Diocese of Newark with BCEF Call #4 in the memo line to: Diocese of Newark, Attn: BCEF, 31 Mulberry St., Newark, NJ 07102.

St. Stephen’s Church in Millburn has a venerable history dating from 1851 when the first service was held. Land was secured in 1853 and a church built from oak timbers felled near the site. The church stands today as a strikingly beautiful landmark in the center of town. A rectory was added to the property in 1868 and a parish hall sometime later. Today St. Stephen’s operates a preschool on the property and also has a historic cemetery a short distance away. The congregation returned to in-person services on June 20 and continues to stream Sunday services live on Facebook and YouTube. Sunday attendance prior to the pandemic averaged 50-60 members.

The Rev. Paula J. Toland has been rector of St. Stephen’s for the past three years. Prior to St. Stephen’s, she served bi-vocationally as a parish priest and as a chaplain. “The people here at St. Stephen’s are so honest, faithful, and trusting,” says Rev. Paula. “They are an authentically welcoming and caring congregation.” Among the parish’s many opportunities for service “Within Our Walls” (as they are called on the church’s website) there is a special emphasis on music, with choirs for both adults and children as well as a hand bell choir whose members are mostly in their teens. The church also has an impressive pipe organ by the celebrated German builder, Rudolf von Berkerath.

The congregation’s many outreach ministries (“Beyond Our Borders”) are too numerous to outline here but Rev. Paula says chief among them is the Drumming Camp. This ministry serves children who have an incarcerated parent in Essex County. In additional to a weeklong summer program, St. Stephen’s has a year-round relationship with the children and their families, one that is especially meaningful during the holiday season. “The impact of the camp is so far-reaching it embraces our whole congregation,” says Rev. Paula. “We try to instill within each child, ‘Be yourself. You’re a gift!’”

All of St. Stephen’s ministries have felt the impact of events following August 29, 2021—the day Hurricane Ida, the second most destructive hurricane after Katrina, made landfall in the US. Ida hit the northeast on September 1st with record-braking rain. Overflow from the Rahway River, just three blocks from St. Stephen’s, sent over two feet of water violently surging over its property. The church’s heating system, which had recently been replaced at a cost of over $40,000, was destroyed, as were all the appliances, furniture, and supplies in the preschool. Dead fish, raw sewage, and endless amounts of debris littered the church property. The cost of the clean up was enormous.

While a claim of $230,000 was submitted to parish’s insurance company, St. Stephen’s was left with a 20% deductible representing a huge financial burden. The total damage was estimated at close to $300,000. Many church properties in our diocese suffered considerable damage from Ida, but the loss sustained by St. Stephen’s was especially serious. We hope that this, our fourth BCEF Call of 2021, will help to offset these expenses. I ask that you prayerfully consider the contributions of this vibrant parish and that you try to be especially generous in making a gift.

God's peace,

+Carlye J. Hughes

The Rt. Rev. Carlye J. Hughes
Bishop of Newark