Our church, the St. Stephen's Church of God in Christ (COGIC) is the oldest predominantly African-American church in the Seatack area of Virginia Beach, Virginia. The church was founded by Reverend J. Rome Spence in 1927. At the time, the church was non-denominational, yet the congregation adhered to the doctrines of the Church of God in Christ. In 1914, when the first COGIC church in Virginia was founded in Suffolk, Rev. Spence adopted the doctrines and the beliefs of the Church of God in Christ and founded St. Stephen's on those doctrines and beliefs later in 1927. Because the church was a non-denominational holiness church, the statewide Jurisdiction of Virginia did not recognize St. Stephen's as one of its own, and neither did the Church of God in Christ denomination. Rev. Spence and the congregation of St. Stephen's attended the state meetings for the Virginia Jurisdiction as guests and visitors. In the 1930's and 1940's, the St. Stephen's congregation grew larger and larger until Rev. Spence had to expand the building. The congregation grew from less than 20 people to over 60 people. In the 1950's and 60's, St. Stephen's served as a landmark for the Civil Rights Movement chapter in Virginia Beach. The 1960's though, was an especially challenging decade for the congregation because of the demise of Rev. J. Rome Spence and the disagreement over who should succeed him as the pastor. Because of the disagreement, some people left the church, but most of the congregation decided to endure through the disagreement until everyone was able to come together and find a new pastor for the church. Finally, the congregation turned over to and joined the Church of God in Christ denomination to seek help from them to find a new pastor. After becoming an official COGIC church, the bishop of the original Jurisdiction of Virginia, the late Bishop David C. Love, appointed the Holy Ghost-filled, Pentecostal minister, Pastor Thurlian Burden, as the senior pastor of St. Stephen's. Under his leadership, St. Stephen's became an officially recognized COGIC church. Sadly, years later in 1990, Pastor Thurlian Burden passed away. Unfortunately, the congregation had to go through almost the same thing they went through after the death of Rev. Spence. Again, more people left the church because of the disagreement over who should succeed Pastor Burden as pastor, but most of the congregation stayed. The next year, in 1991, after months of conflicts in the church over who should be the next pastor, the newly appointed Bishop of the First Jurisdiction of Virginia, Bishop Ted Thomas, Sr. became the Interim Pastor. For many months, he served as Interim Pastor until the congregation came together and decided to make him the official senior pastor of St. Stephen's Church of God in Christ. Since then, Bishop Thomas has been a blessing to our church and under his leadership, in 2000, after the congregation grew to almost 150 people, Bishop Thomas decided to not only expand the church, but completely renovate it. After the renovations were completed in 2001, St. Stephen's was rededicated as a COGIC church in the First Jurisdiction of Virginia. Every since then, God has blessed our church congregation to multiply. We hope and continue to ask God to bless our church all the more for the rest of time. Amen.