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St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church commemorates its 200th anniversary by looking back and leaving something for the future



Forest, Virginia – On Saturday, St. Stephen’s Episcopal honored its anniversary by honoring worship, history, and an achievement that not many churches reach.

“The fact that we came to 200 is a miracle in itself,” said St. Stephen’s Rector Matt Rhodes.

Nicholas Hamner Cobbs founded the church in 1824, and it was constructed the following year. Cobbs set the stage for a priesthood that has commemorated religion for two centuries.

“We had generations of clergy and lay leaders who came after him, who were just as interested in seeing to the continuation and the existence of this. It’s just been a thriving worship community,” said Rhodes.

From the age of 13 to 22, Rhodes attended the congregation. Years after he graduated from seminary, he returned to Forest as a clergy member.

He claimed that the church’s strong sense of community within its walls had contributed to its 200-year history.

“That’s the hallmark of their entire existence, the entire existence of this church,” said Rhodes. “Its place in the community is just doing the hard work and doing the joyful worship and the fellowship.”

The current congregation opened a time capsule left for them in 1955 to commemorate the accomplishment. Little booklets from 1955, a list of the founders, newspaper clippings, a cross, and a wooden cent from Peaks of Otter were among the items they discovered within.

“I think the biggest surprise to me was the complete list of donors for the building of the parish house in 1955 . . . It’s nice to see just how much of the congregation was invested in the construction of this building,” said Rhodes.

They sealed a fresh time capsule to be opened in 2124 in order to continue the tradition. A two-dollar bill (for good luck, of course!), a handcrafted prayer shawl, and several photos of the present congregation will be unveiled by the following generation.

“Just as we’ve inherited the legacy of those generations past, we’re adding to that and leaving a legacy for future generations,” said Rhodes.

Members of the church will come and depart throughout time. However, St. Stephen’s Episcopal tradition and beliefs will endure, transmitted through a portion of history that will open in the upcoming century.


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