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Changes are unfolding in Episcopal Church ministry along the north Orange County - L.A. County border in the neighboring communities of East Whittier, La Habra, and Buena Park. In recent years, St. Joseph’s, Buena Park, and St. Stephen’s, Whittier, have participated in a shared ministry with the Rev. Mary Trainor as priest for both churches.

Recently, after a period of discernment, the leadership of St. Stephen’s determined that it is no longer financially viable despite the vitality of its ministries, and has decided to close after more than six decades of service. This decision was announced at services Feb. 7 during the visitation of Bishop Suffragan Diane Jardine Bruce on behalf of Bishop J. Jon Bruno. The last day of worship at St. Stephen’s will be Sunday, March 13.

“We give thanks for the faithfulness of the people of both congregations, and look forward to new ways of coming together in service to God in Christ,” Bishop Bruno noted.

Trainor praised the bishop’s office for its support of St. Stephen’s as the community struggled to carry out ministry while facing an uphill financial struggle.

“Bishop Bruno has given us every opportunity to continue our ministry here in Whittier,” Trainor added. “However, in more recent discussions, and in the face of a couple of financial reversals, it became obvious that we no longer are financially viable, despite the vitality of the ministry actually done here.”

St. Stephen’s ministry in recent years has been focused on environmental stewardship under the theme “Reclaiming Eden.” It began a community garden in 2008, has an active recycling program, and a pet food pantry with distribution through six community agencies.
Trainor said she now will devote more of her time to ministries in Buena Park, “where hopefully current St. Stephen’s parishioners will transfer. It makes so much sense for people to continue their ministry at Buena Park, given how much overlap there has been already, and how closely people from the two communities have worked together.”