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St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Hobart
St. Stephen's was officially organized as a mission on December 16, 1914, by the Rt. Rev. John Hazen White with the assistance of the Rev. Walter B. Williamson of Valparaiso. The congregation first met in members' homes and then in a small white frame building on East 4th Street that previously had been located in Gary and used by Christ Church. White described it in 1916 as "a very pretty chapel without debt for this mission."
Over the years several other area priests served the church, and from 1928 to 1939, St. Stephen's was a mission of Christ Church. Bishop Gray sought a better solution to the clergy shortage in the Calumet area, and after inviting a small group of Benedictine monks to open a priory in Valparaiso, he had them lead the services at St. Stephen's from 1939 to 1945. Among the earliest members of the congregation were Richard and Mary King (grandparents of current member Bob Mattix), William Devonshire, the Rev. L. W. Applegate (missionary priest), and wife Rebecca Applegate, Mrs. F.Y. Keator, Louise and Elbert Ripley, Mrs. Thomas Parker, B.B. and E. T Bale, Alfred Epps, F. Isabel, Doris, N.B., Isabel and G.B. White, Mrs. Earl Ramsey, Mr. and Mrs. William Glynn, and Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Ruchti (grandparents of current member Fritz Ruchti).
In 1948, two years after the monks had moved to Three Rivers, Michigan, the church building was moved to 3rd and Washington Street on land donated by a parishioner. A parish hall and rectory were built, and the church called its first full time priest, the Rev. Wilbur Dexter, in 1949. Subsequent resident clergy included the Hayward Crewe, W. Sumner Ferguson, Charles H. Sutton, John R. Smith, Karl E. Marsh, James W. Curtis and Leonard J. Brinkmoeller.
Needing more space, the congregation purchased land on 14th and State Street, and from 1960 to 1962, the rectory was moved to the east side of the street and the parish hall to the west side. The congregation built a new church to adjoin them with the hall bricked over to match.
A diocesan mission since 1939, St. Stephen's became again a parochial mission of Christ Church, Gary, in 1968. Following a period of rapid growth and stability, the mission received parish status at the diocesan convention on November 9, 1985. A new organ was dedicated on December 3, 1989, and a building fund was started.
In December 1993, Leonard Brinkmoeller was called to a parish in Michigan. For the next three years the parish was served by supply clergy, mainly the Rev. Ross Mack of Valparaiso and M. Richard Miller, a deacon (and since 2002, a priest) assigned to St. Andrews, Valparaiso. In January 1997, the Rev. John Blakslee was elected priest-in-charge on a part-time basis.
In 2000, several former members of the parish presented a stained glass window in memory of their mother, Stelle Hill Fetsch. Stelle was active in the parish until becoming disabled by illness, and her children no longer lived in the Hobart area. David Hill presented a design for the window and a working plan for its installation, and the vestry approved it as addition to the building. The window was presented formally by the Hill family and dedicated by the congregation on Sunday, May 14, 2000, the first Mother's Day of the new millennium.
In the summer of 2001, the parking lot was paved, a sidewalk from the parking lot to the church was added, and outdoor pole lights were installed. On All Saints Sunday, November 3, 2002, the following items were dedicated by the congregation: a new sanctuary light, a Paschal Candle holder, and altar and Eucharist linens all in memory of Michael Sandala. Also dedicated were American and Episcopal Church flags in memory of deceased members. In 2005 a garage for storage was constructed at the south edge of the parking lot. Renovations to the nave, parish hall, and rectory, including new windows, were completed during the first decade of the new millennium. The congregation used a gift from Alice M. Rogers to construct a hallway, bathroom, and meeting room at the west end of the narthex. It was dedicated by Bishop Ed Little on December 14, 2008, two days before the parish's 94th anniversary.
On November 2014, Father Blakslee retired his position as priest at St. Stephen's effective at the end of the year. Father Michael Dwyer from CEMP (Calumet Episcopal Ministry Partnership) offered assistance with supply priests until the congregation could decide the next step for the parish. On December 14, 2014, St. Stephen's observed its 100th anniversary with a Eucharist celebrated by Bishop Ed Little. On October 2016, the Vestry voted to become members of CEMP, sharing a priest among five altars.
Note that the parish register of Christ Church Gary dating after 1980 is located at located at St. Stephen's.
Walter Blake Williamson, 1914-1915
Clinton Bradshaw Cromwell, 1916-1920
George Taylor Griffith, 1920-1925
Arthur Worger-Slade, 1925-1927
Dom Paul Severance, 1939-1945
Harold McLemore, 1945-1946
Samuel Hanna Norman Elliott, 1946-1949
Wilbur B. Dexter, 1949-1952
Hayward Crewe, 1952-1953
Sumner Ferguson, 1953-1957
Charles Havling Sutton, 1957-1960
John Smith, 1960-1964
Karl E. Marsh, 1964-1967
James Wallace Curtis, 1968-1983
Leonard Joseph Brinkmoeller, 1984-1993
Ross Mack, 1993-1994
Monroe Richard Miller, 1994-1996
John Blakslee, 1997-2014
Michael Dwyer, 2014-2018 (CEMP)
Kristine Graunke, 2015-2020 (CEMP)
Michelle I. Walker, 2017-2020 (CEMP)
Pamela Thiede, 2020- (CEMP)
Cynthia Moore, 2020-2021 (CEMP)
Adapted from St. Stephen's website: http://www.calumetepiscopal.org/st-stephen/about.php
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Douglas Everett Sparks, Eighth Bishop
Bishop Douglas Everett Sparks, the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Northern Indiana, is the current incumbent. Born on 8 January 1956, he studied Philosophy at St. Mary's Seminary College, graduating with a Bachelor's degree in 1980. Subsequently, he received a Master's degree from De Andreis Institute of Theology in 1984. Ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church in 1984, he served parishes in Missouri, Colorado, and Illinois. In 1989 he was received as a priest into the Episcopal Church, serving as rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Whitewater, Wisconsin, from 1990 to 1995. He also married Dana Wirth and had three children: Christina, Graham, and Gavin.
Sparks later served at St. Matthias Church in Waukesha, Wisconsin, then went to New Zealand to become Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in Wellington. On returning to the United States, he became rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Rochester, Minnesota. From here he was elected bishop on 6 February 2016. He was consecrated at Trinity English Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, on 25 June 2016 by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
Bishop Sparks has adopted a five-point plan of mission that will guide his episcopate:
1. Tell the Good News of the Kingdom.
2. Teach, Baptize, and Nurture new believers.
3. Tend to human need with loving service.
4. Transform unjust structures of society.
5. Treasure God's Creation and renew the Earth.
Bishop Sparks has reversed previous diocesan policy and approved same-sex marriages being performed in the diocese with the consent of individual parishes. He was personally present for the wedding of South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg to Chasten Glezman on 16 June 2018 in a ceremony at the Cathedral of St. James in South Bend. He also permitted openly gay priests to be ordained and serve in the diocese. He has also formed a strong pastoral partnership with Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of the Diocese of Indianapolis, marching for social justice issues, against gun violence, and in favor of greater acceptance of all marginalized groups in the Church. He is an "activist bishop" and comfortable in that role, but he is always careful to ground that advocacy in his faith.
On a national level, the Episcopal Church began an initiative under Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to become a "Beloved Community" and to promote racial reconciliation and more loving, Christian relationships. The movement provided materials to individuals and congregations to "help us to understand and take up the long-term commitments necessary to form loving, liberating and life-giving relationships" with one other. "Together," promoters said, "we are growing as reconcilers, justice-makers, and healers in the name of Christ." This effort was also coined "the Jesus Movement" by the Presiding Bishop. Part of that process involved studying and apologizing for sins committed against minority groups throughout the Church's history. During his sabbatical in 2022, Bishop Sparks walked the Potawatomi Trail of Death, traveling on foot from Plymouth, Indiana, to Kansas. He left an account of his pilgrimage. It symbolized the work of the Diocese of Northern Indiana to account for acts of racism in its past.
For several years during Bishop Sparks's episcopate, from 2020 to 2022, the nation suffered under a devastating COVID-19 epidemic. In-personal worship was canceled, and services were conducted remotely online through Zoom, a computer meeting software. When vaccines became available and the virulence of the epidemic eased, congregations met in limited form with enforced masking and social distancing. Bishop Sparks was instrumental in developing protocols that had never been previously considered in diocesan history.
In 2023, the Diocese of Northern Indiana embarked on an exploratory path to discern the possibility of reuniting with the Diocese of Indianapolis. That process remains ongoing at this writing.
Episcopal News Service:
Consecration of Bishop Douglas Sparks, 25 June 2016, Trinity English Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne