There's a place for you here.

New to Richmond? Unfamiliar with the Episcopal Church, or with Christianity? Welcome.

Whoever you are, wherever you are in your spiritual journey, the people of St. Stephen's Church hope that your experience with this church will encourage and strengthen you.

As you browse our Web site, you might consider: 


  • visiting St. Stephen's for a worship service 
  • coming to an informal supper
  • stopping by the Farmers Market on Saturday morning
  • attending one of our receptions or lunches for visitors and newcomers (info here
  • signing up for an Inquirers Class
  • subscribing to St. Stephen's weekly email, the eSpirit; there is no cost, no obligation, and we will not share your email address with any outside group
  • attending a retreat, workshop or group, or participating in any of the other offerings you'll see on these pages. 


Do as much or as little as you like. There are no "requirements" for being a part of this community of faith. If you wish to be baptized or confirmed, or to transfer your membership from another Episcopal parish, we'd love for you to do so. But it's not required. Everything we do, everything we offer, is open to all, regardless of whether you are a "member" of this church. If you're here, you belong.

Here's an online visitor card: it's not required--it just helps us to be more responsive to you!

Our Services

St. Stephen's is a vibrant parish that offers worship, prayer and more seven days a week. Sunday, of course, is our big day. You are most welcome at any of the services held here.

Sunday Worship 

  • 8:00 a.m., Holy Eucharist: Rite One
  • 9:00 a.m., Holy Eucharist: Rite Two*
  • 11:15 a.m., Holy Eucharist, Rite Two*
  • 5:30 p.m., Celtic Evensong and Communion*
  • 6:30 p.m., Sunday Community Supper
  • 8:00 p.m., Compline
*indicates child care available through age 4

Weekday worship 

  • 8:10 a.m., Morning Prayer with Communion
  • 5:30 p.m., Evensong (Sung Evening Prayer) 

Saturday worship

  • 5:30 p.m., Holy Eucharist: Rite Two

Nursery - Senior High

St. Stephen's Church has an active ministry for children and youth, staffed by an energetic and talented family ministries staff and dedicated, well-trained volunteers. Michael Sweeney, the director of family ministries, sends a regular email newsletter to parents for which you may sign up.


At St. Stephen's, young people who desire to be confirmed in the Episcopal Church may do so in the ninth grade or later. They are prepared in a year-long course called "Philip's Way," and confirmation takes place when one of our bishops visits St. Stephen's, usually in May.

Are you in your 20-30s?

Young adults are part of every facet of parish life at St. Stephen's, and you are always welcome at any worship service, adult education opportunity or social event—membership is NOT required. You (and your friends and family) are always welcome here. Single or married, with children or not, in school or not--all are welcome.

Get Connected

Some activities and ministries at St. Stephen's are designed especially for young adults, including a young adult Bible study group, social gatherings, retreats, and outreach and volunteer opportunities. The best way to keep up with what young adults are doing at St. Stephen's is to sign up for our e-newsletter.

A Fellowship

One of the distinctive things about being an Episcopalian is the sense of connection and fellowship one has with other Episcopalian Christians. St. Stephen's Episcopal Church is part of the Diocese of Virginia, one of the oldest and largest dioceses in the Episcopal Church.

Our diocese includes 80,000 people who worship God and reach out to others in 181 parishes in 38 counties in central, northern and northwestern Virginia. It is one of three Episcopal dioceses in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the others being the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia (based in Roanoke) and the Diocese of Southern Virginia (based in Norfolk). You can read more about the Diocese of Virginia at


Sunday Schedule

Holy Eucharist: 8:00, 9:00, 11:15

Christian Education for all ages: 10:10 (returning September)


6000 Grove Avenue Richmond, VA 23226

Weekly Bible Study Guide

Preparing for October 1, 2017 // Proper 21, Year A
This week's guide in printer-friendly format  //
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The Gospel

Matthew 21:23-32 // When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.”              

Background and general observations

Although early church tradition has it that the author of this Gospel was Matthew, the tax collector, who was a disciple of Jesus, most scholars today believe that this Gospel was written between 80 and 90 AD by an Israelite man. The Gospel According to Matthew seems to have been written for a Jewish audience. Jesus is the authoritative interpreter of Moses and the promised messianic king of Israel.

In this passage, Jesus has already entered Jerusalem in triumph, with a very large crowd spreading cloaks and branches on the road as they shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David….” (21:1-11) Then, in verses 12-17, Jesus cleanses the temple and then cures the blind and the lame who were brought to him. After a brief confrontation with authorities, Jesus spends the night outside the city. The next morning (verses 18-22), Jesus was hungry and approached a fig tree that turned out to be barren of fruit. Jesus cursed the tree, and it withered. The disciples are amazed, and Jesus takes the opportunity to teach them about the power of prayerful faith. Our lesson follows that episode and raises questions about ways in which Jesus’ ministry of transformation and reclamation might disturb—if not offend—those with a vested interest in maintaining power, or those who find relinquishing control to be difficult. The parable of the two sons is one that illuminates the struggle to manage human authority with divine authority. Jesus rebukes those who claim to be virtuous and defends those that others considered to be unrighteous—the tax collectors and the prostitutes; it is the believers who are given entry to the kingdom of heaven.                               

Ideas for discussing the application of this lesson to our daily lives

1. One theme throughout Matthew’s narrative concerns the tension between traditional leadership and divine leadership. It is possible that the Jerusalem leaders question Jesus’ authority because they are simply struggling to understand Jesus’ actions. Perhaps when they ask Jesus, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” they are expecting him to name a teacher, or to offer some human association that will help them understand Jesus’s demonstrations—his curing of the sick, his cursing of the fig tree. They seem to be prepared to counter, refute, or dismiss all claims to human authority with their own authority since they, after all, are the leaders. One response they might be less prepared to entertain is the possibility that Jesus wields authority from God.

What is it about divine authority that threatens human authority? Why might we be more willing to rebel against a human leader than a divine leader? What about our essential human character is being tested?

2. All kinds of questions are asked of Jesus: about his identity, about signs and proof, about divorce, the commandments, the resurrection, eternal life, etc. But here it’s as if religious officials seek to entrap Jesus. Rather than answering their question, Jesus responds with a question of his own in the form of a parable. Whether he is being indirect or downright evasive, Jesus offers this parable as a counter-question that serves as yet another way of confronting the conflict between divine authority and our own sense of power and control. The essential tension: how do we reconcile human power with the power of God? What possible answers could Jesus have given, and how would those have entrapped him?

Rather than pointing fingers at these officials, how does it feel to place yourself in the shoes of Jesus’ opponents? Perhaps it is wise to realize that even the most spiritual among us are prone to reducing divine authority to human terms and reinforcing the kind of power structure Jesus seeks to transform.

3. The parable Jesus tells compares two sons: one who says he will not do what is asked of him but then changes his mind, and another who says he will indeed do what is asked, but doesn’t. As with the other parables, we are led to reflection, some bewilderment, and in this case particularly, self-reflection: which am I? Some might sense an accusation in the parable—after all, many who claim to be virtuous or who appear to obey God and observe God’s law fail to do so and we all know that we have a human tendency to be hypocritical, to judge, to criticize,to project onto others what we despise in ourselves.

It seems we are being asked to ponder what it means to reconsider and what’s at stake when we change our mind. What links the parable of the two sons to Jesus’ encounter with the religious officials? With which son do you most closely identify?

The parable concludes with might be seen as a reversal of expectations; Jesus tells us that “the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.” In other words, those who are seen as less than righteous but who believe in God’s will and authority will not only be given entry into heaven, but will be given entry first. How do you respond to this reversal?

4. Later on in Matthew’s gospel we read the Great Commission, which includes yet another mention of authority. Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Where does your authority come from? Who or what has given it to you? What has given you a sense of power and control? Your education? Wealth? Leadership position? Perhaps your sense of authority comes from your faithfulness, your gentleness, your kindness, your service to community.What sort of authority is valued most in the world today? What sort of authority is it most important for you to have? What power might need relinquishing? What role and responsibility do you think the Church has in reconciling human authority and divine authority?        


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