20 August 2021
This week we celebrated 150 years since St Stephen’s Church was opened. We enjoyed a barbecue, we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ and we shared a birthday cake which featured a model of the church. And we sang the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness, grateful to God for his faithfulness to the church in this place for many generations.
St Stephen’s was opened on Friday 18th August 1871, with three services. The area needed a church, as the nearest was a mile and a half away. It was also felt that a church would make the area more desirable. The building cost the princely sum of £3700.
The opening was reported in the Birmingham Morning News: “yesterday, the beautiful new district church of Selly Hill was opened and consecrated for divine worship by the Lord Bishop of the diocese, in the presence of a considerable gathering of clergy, and a highly influential congregation of residents of the neighbourhood.”
St Stephen’s was originally in the diocese of Worcester, as the diocese of Birmingham did not yet exist. And it was originally in the parish of St Mary’s, Selly Oak – and so a kind of church plant – becoming a separate parish in 1892.
Much has changed over the years. The pews and gas lighting have gone. So too the robes and the choir, and we have moved on from Hymns Ancient and Modern. The first curate-in-charge, who was married with three children, arrived with a cook, a nurse and an under-nurse. But one thing has not changed since that day: there has always been a Christian witness in this place, and for that we thank God.
Paul begins his first letter to the Christians in Thessalonica with these words: “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In similar vein, we thank God for what he has done here in Selly Park:
Our God and Father, we thank you for your faithfulness to the church in this place over many generations,
for the faithful witness of those who have gone before us,
for their work, labour and endurance,
and we pray that you will keep us faithful, and those who come after us, so that the Lord’s message will continue to ring out from this place
for many generations to come, even until Jesus comes. Amen.
Chris Hobbs, Senior Minister