From the Archives: In the Beginning…

Chris Withrow   -  

Imagine a time many of us have likely experienced. You may have been in your grandmother’s attic, plundering through dusty boxes or overfilled drawers. Suddenly you discover a collection of old family pictures, report cards, school art projects, love letters between your grandparents, and faded articles marking major family and historical events. You can almost feel the fragile crumbling paper edges, see the yellowed letters and faded photographs, and smell the musty storage treasure trove boxes. These items document family history and provide precious insight into those we love.

A little over two years ago, I was privileged to assume the position of St. Stephen’s Historian. Our beloved charter member and prior historian, Karen Irwin, met with Pam Smith and me providing us St. Stephen’s story… from the very beginning. Like the treasure hunt of looking through family history, I left with many boxes containing albums, pictures, letters, architectural plans, newspaper articles, old capital campaign documents, early church directories, orders of worship and much more. These boxes preserve items that paved the road to what St. Stephen has become since we began our mission nearly 56 years ago. We have been blessed by historians including Karen, Sonia Walker, and others, who painstakingly invested time saving, clipping, organizing, and documenting important St. Stephen moments along the way.

Karen, Pam, and I decided it was unfortunate for our historical items to remain stored and unseen. Therefore, we mutually decided it made sense to create displays and website posts containing items helping us to look back and to help us better appreciate how our church has become the Hands, Feet & Heart of Jesus Christ in our neighborhood, in Charlotte, and in the world.

Please take a moment to stop by our resource center and check out our new curio display-style coffee table. Items from St. Stephen’s archives will be coordinated by theme and rotated quarterly. Our first theme: “In the beginning…” is out now. And, although our history is not as far reaching as the Book of Genesis, it takes us back to the church’s first meeting on July 8, 1968 (on Owenby Court in Lansdowne where our first pastor, Jim Armstrong, lived). This initial display follows us from Owenby Court to meetings at Lansdowne Elementary School to Sardis Presbyterian’s old chapel. My hope is for all to enjoy these journeys back in time. You can also view these same materials below.

Keep a lookout in July for the second themed display: “Groundbreaking News.”

On a final note, we are each part of this faith community’s history. I invite you to forward me information, documents, and photos of major church life events so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Remembering who we are,

Chris Withrow

Letters and Documents

A brief historical overview of the first four meetings of St. Stephen, June-August 1968 (PDF)

District superintendent letter, July 1968 (PDF)

Jim Armstrong letter to Lansdowne neighbors, August 1968 (PDF)

1968 clippings on Armstrong and church formation, The Charlotte News (PDF)

“3 Breeds But Same Old Church,” The Charlotte Observer, c. 1969 (PDF)


Brochure/card introducing new church to Lansdowne neighbors

Charter Members, Bishop Hunt’s Class, St. Stephen United Methodist Church, Sept. 8, 1968.

Diagram identifying those pictured among charter members.

Pastor Jim Armstrong greeting members outside the old Sardis Presbyterian chapel.

The old Sardis Presbyterian sanctuary/chapel, now demolished.