Saint Stephens began in 1883 ...

Saint Stephens owes its beginnings to a group of German settlers in the Merrill area who were determined to have a church similar to one they had known in Germany. A family of brothers attended one of their brothers' funeral at another church. When the pastor passed judgment rather than grace during that service, they walked out. They vowed to create their own church, a place of grace. And Saint Stephens was that church.


In 1883, Edward Kluetz, acting on behalf of the organizing body, contacted the Rev. Karl Freitag of Newark, New Jersey, to ask if he would be interested in serving as pastor of a newly formed congregation in Merrill. He accepted the call and preached his first sermon on Friday, August 3, 1883 at the local English Methodist Episcopal Church. Two days later, the organization of St. Stephens Evangelical Congregation took place at the old school house of Merrill.


The name “St. Stephens” was adopted in honor of the former congregation served by the first pastor. The congregation became a member of the Evangelical Synod of North America. The first year, the congregation met in John Boettcher’s Hall at the corner of River and Stuyvesant Streets. On October 12, 1883, the first church was dedicated. Within the first year, property was purchased at the corner of Mill and Second Streets for the construction of a new church. A day school was also begun and served the congregation until it was discontinued in 1922.

A disastrous fire on December 16, 1919, destroyed the church building. The total loss was a heavy blow. Under the direction of the Rev. M. M. Schmidt, the congregation erected a much larger and more beautiful sanctuary. The tragedy inspired the congregation to expand its vision in preparation for the future.

We've Been Growing Ever Since ...

The present sanctuary, dedicated on September 11, 1921, represented a cost in excess of seventy-five thousand dollars. That same spirit of dedication prompted the congregation to build the Memorial Hall in 1939, providing facilities for Christian Education. 


Another building phase was completed in 1958, providing a central office, lounge and music center.


A building renovation project in 1992-93 provided new office space, handicapped restrooms, an elevator, a coffee lounge, and expanded space for choirs. In 1996, land was purchased for the development of a much needed church parking lot.


In 2016, we redecorated the coffee lounge and common areas to give them a more modern flair; relocated the youth to a larger, more open and redecorated room on the third floor; and redecorated the nursery and Sunday School spaces.


We will soon embark on a capital campaign to make more extensive improvements to include a new roof on the church building, and to address other issues to bring our church building into the twenty-first century.


Recently we've begun saying, "No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here." This is in keeping with the vision of our founding family. We invite you to join us and be a part of the grace Jesus offers to each of us ... this is what it means to be a part of Saint Stephens United Church of Christ.