Feeling a need to begin a mission in suburban Louisville, the pastor and congregation of Trinity Lutheran Church asked the Synod to develop such a mission in Fern Creek. When the synod reported that it would be some time before a man could be put in the field, the Rev. Tillman B. Williams and the congregation of Trinity established the “Trinity Chapel” in the Fern Creek Community Center in September 1956.
By 1958 it was quite evident that the congregation was able to get along on their own as a mission, so they applied to the synod for a mission developer. Pr.Robert L. Hauss, was called by the ULCA Board of American Missions as the developer in January 1959. Also, in 1959, the congregation purchased a seven-acre site on Bardstown Road for $25,000. The site had a home on it, which was to serve as a temporary parsonage. In February 1960, St. Stephen Lutheran Church was organized with 73 Charter Members.
There was a rapid turnover in St. Stephen’s leadership in the church’s early years. Pr.Robert L. Hauss, the first pastor, served for less than two years. His successor, Pr. Albert F. Nyland III, guided the congregation from early 1962 until the autumn of 1964. The third pastor, Pr.Henry Cole Reasin, served for about the same length of time before resigning in October 1967. In January 1968, Pr. Ralph A. Kempski was called to lead St. Stephen.
In 1980, a banquet celebrated the congregation’s 20th anniversary. It also began a campaign to retire the remaining $28,000 second mortgage debt on the building. Successful in one year, the mortgage was burned in February 1981 and a building fund was established. In 1985 plans were begun for an expanded building. In July 1986, ground was broken for a $130,000 addition, including an enlarged Narthex and Fellowship Hall, classrooms and offices. Dedicated in February 1987, the new building was debt free at the end of a three-year pledge period.
In 1992 the congregation purchased the house and ½ acre of property, to the north of the church, for a price of $65,000. Rental monies from the property are expected to retire the indebtedness in approximately 10 years. In 1998 a designated building fund was established with the dream of a new, larger Sanctuary and expanded educational facilities. Also, in 1998, the congregation celebrated Pr. Swasko’s 25th year as pastor of St. Stephen. In 2000 the congregation celebrated its 40th anniversary with a special worship service and catered luncheon.
Plans to construct a new sanctuary and renovate various parts of the current building were discussed beginning as early as the formation of the designated building fund in 1998. With the assistance of Gil Stein, architect, a construction and renovation plan was finally approved in 2005. The plan called for a 250 seat sanctuary, renovation of the current sanctuary into classroom space and a dedicated nursery, a major renovation of the kitchen, and enclosure of the grassy courtyard area between the sanctuary and fellowship hall to be used as classroom/meeting space. A construction price of $850,000.00 was approved and a capital appeals campaign was initiated with a kick-off luncheon held at Sullivan University. The approximately 4 acres of unused land at the rear of the property was sold to add cash to the building fund. With over $350,000.00 pledged, cash from the property sale, long term building fund savings, plus a mortgage loan, the congregation gave approval for construction to begin. A local contractor, ConArc, was chosen to be the general contractor for the project. Ground was broken at a special service in August of 2006, and construction began in early November of 2006. The completed sanctuary and all renovations were dedicated on August 19, 2007 during a special service attended by many current and past congregation members, Bishop Stuck ,and other representatives from the SYNOD. The first Christmas service was held in the new sanctuary on Christmas Eve 2007.
In this same period, the congregation took some important steps. Groundbreaking ceremonies for an $80,000 first church were held in December 1962, and the dedication of the completed building took place the following July. Early in 1968, the parish decided to become independent of salary aid from the LCA’s Board of American Missions. Soon afterwards the parsonage was sold, and a housing allowance was established for the pastor.
Pastor Kempski’s resignation in 1971, led to the call of Pr.William R. Powlen. However, serious illness forced Pr. Powlen to resign after only eight months of service. In 1973, the Rev. Thomas D. Swasko was called from seminary as the congregation’s sixth pastor in thirteen years.
After serving St. Stephen for 34 years, PastorThomas D. Swasko retired in January of 2008. The congregation honored his retirement with a special service followed by a community reception attended by many members of the Fern Creek clergy, past and current members, family, friends, and SYNOD representatives. Pr. Swasko’s retirement set in motion a series of events the congregation had not faced in many years.
The SYNOD sent our interim minister, Pastor Laura Meier, to lead St. Stephen through the transition period following the retirement of Pastor Swasko. Pastor Meier led the congregation through the process of historical reflection, mission/vision of the church, strengths and possible areas for growth of members, and exploration of what St. Stephen hoped to become in the future. The Call Committee began the search for a new pastor for St. Stephen in June, 2009.
On February 7, 2010, the congregation celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding. A golden anniversary is a significant milestone in the life of any organization, relationship, or community. It signals successful long term commitment to a mission and dedicated service of many members to the work of the church. St. Stephen Lutheran Church has played an important role in the spiritual growth of the Fern Creek community in the last fifty years. As the congregation, we pledge our continued service to the work of our savior Jesus Christ.
In October of 2010, the official call to St. Stephen was extended and accepted by Pastor Kerri McFarland. Pastor Kerri conducted her first worship services the weekend of January 22-23, 2011 and is currently serving as full-time pastor at St. Stephen.