This Sunday we will observe the Feast of St. Stephen – yes, the feast made famous in the Good Wenceslaus song.
For those who pay attention to these things, you'll know we're a little late with this. The Feast of St. Stephen is on December 26, so it tends to get buried under the busyness of Christmas.
But he is our namesake. We'll probably never know why 130+ years ago our founding members chose to name this new congregation after St. Stephen.
I’m sure 130+ years ago, no one anticipated how Wilmington would have changed, and how interactions with St. Stephen’s would have changed.
Then, people went to St. Stephen’s on Sunday morning for worship, and during the week for various church-related activities.
Now, people by the hundreds come to St. Stephen’s for assistance, primarily from the food pantry.
We have proudly grown into our name.
St. Stephen is known as the first martyr of the new church. He was young. He may have been about 29 when he died.
Stephen was one of seven chosen to serve as deacons in the newly forming Christian church in Jerusalem. In fact, as the oldest of the seven, he was the archdeacon.
At the time there was discord between the Hellenistic Jews (Greek-speaking) and Hebraic Jews (Hebrew speaking). The Hellenists felt their widows were getting short shrift of assistance. The deacons were tasked with making sure that aid and food were distributed to all those in need.
There is no indication that the deacons, under the leadership of Stephen, did anything other than a fine job of distributing assistance fairly.
Stephen: distributor of assistance. That is the name we have grown into.
While there appears to be a patron saint of starvation or prevention against starving (Anthony of Padua), there doesn’t seem to be a patron saint of hunger or prevention of hunger.
But for hundreds of hungry in Wilmington, St. Stephen’s is the place to go.
And just as Stephen needed the help of other deacons to complete the job, we need the help of others to accomplish ours.
The following is a short list of those who have assisted the pantry just in the last few months:
Delaware Sportsmen Against Hunger
Wilmington Friends School
Shepherd's Garden at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd
St. Philips Lutheran Church
Grace Cafe Wilmington
St. Barnabas' Episcopal Church
Ebenezer UMC Newark
Christ Church Christian Hundred
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox
neighbors and St. Stephen's members
hundreds of volunteers
All those who support the pantry can be proud of helping us grow into our name. And we can be proud of the small part we take in providing a service of value and need to the people of Wilmington.
Join us this Sunday (weather permitting) for a celebration of this man who inspires us to serve the community.
- Ann Warner