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Marilyn Cloran has worshipped at St. Stephen’s Memorial Episcopal Church her entire life and the Lynn native will welcome visitors to the South Common Street church Saturday to celebrate its 175th anniversary.
The towering reddish-brown stone building endures thanks to dedicated volunteer work by Cloran and fellow St. Stephen’s faithful who said they face a task almost as tall as their church to keep the massive building from deteriorating.
Their initial focus is on restoring the 13-foot by 25-foot stained-glass window facing Lynn Common. Properly restoring the window means rebuilding the deteriorating wall surrounding it. Cloran and fellow congregation members Irene Axelrod and Virginia Fuller are no strangers to expensive repairs to the church: Extensive exterior work on St. Stephen’s Blossom Street cost almost $1 million.
For Cloran, the challenge is a labor of love. Her grandparents and parents were married in St. Stephen’s.
“It’s my whole life. It is part of me,” she said.
Saturday’s free church tour, complete with a brief history of St. Stephen’s, starts at 10 a.m. and runs through 2 p.m. The tour includes the opportunity to view the almost 50 stained-glass windows, including the four largest ones designed by famed sculptor Augustus Saint Gaudens and artist Francis Davis Millet and crafted by Louis B. Tiffany.
Visitors will also see the central courtyard where 19th century Lynn industrial Enoch Redington Mudge and his wife, daughter and son, Charles, are buried. Colonel Charles Redington Mudge died on the battle of Gettysburg’s final day.
Built between 1879 and 1881, St. Stephen’s was the much larger and grander successor to the original St. Stephen’s built across the Common in 1844. Initially a worship house for wealthy Bostonians summering along the North Shore, the church’s congregation expanded as immigrants moved into Lynn and Mudge built the existing church to honor his son’s memory.
It can seat 600 worshippers and Virginia Fuller remembers when overflow crowds converged on St. Stephen’s for Easter services. Today, Fuller estimates about 80 people attend Sunday services.
St. Stephen’s was among the founding churches that launched the Essex County Community Organization (ECCO) almost 30 years ago and the church continues to host ECCO meetings and organizing. It also supports a food pantry.
Cloran and Fuller organized St. Stephen’s 175th anniversary celebrations with Christopher Trahan, Lucinda Dennis-McClain, Pamela Alleyne, Charlelle Breckenridge, Carolyn Hoy, Harry Jackson, Paul Stonkus and Irene Axelrod