Following its victory in the Spanish-American War and after the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1899, the United States assumed control over the Philippine Islands. At that time, the various Protestant denominations sought to extend missionary work towards this new colony. In 1901, the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America passed the resolution to establish a Missionary District in the Philippines. The House of Bishops appointed the Reverend Charles Henry Brent as the first bishop. After a series of fund raising activities, Bishop Brent left for the Philippines in 1902. Under his leadership, missionary efforts of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines were targeted at the native non-Christian ethnic minorities.
The First church of the new diocese was called St. Stephen's Church where American civilian and military personnel and their families worshipped. In the congregation were some Chinese believers, who attracted the attention of Bishop Brent. The bishop immediately recognized the need for missionary work in the Chinese Community of Manila.
Bishop Brent recruited Mr. Hobart Studley, a reformed church missionary who had worked in the army for six years. He and his wife, Mrs. Edith Studley both fluent in the Amoy dialect, arrived in Manila in September 1903. He was subsequently ordained as priest according to the canons of the Episcopal Church. Rev. Studley began work by visiting the families of Chinese believers. On November 8, 1903, the first ever Amoy dialect worship service took place in rented quarters along San Fernando Street with ten people in attendance. They were all males who had been baptized in various denominations. A few months after, the place of worship was moved to 64 Nueva Street. Meanwhile, the bishop's seat of office and worship was officially named "The Cathedral of St. Mary and St. John". The name "St. Stephen's" remained attached to the Chinese Congregation.
Between 1905 and 1906 the church opened a night school. The number of students grew from six to seventy during this period.
The year 1907 saw the Methodist Church transfer its Chinese ministry to the Episcopal Church. With this development, Mr. Ben Ga Pay also transferred to serve as teacher and missionary at St. Stephen's Church. He was ordained deacon in 1908 and served as assistant priest to Rev. Studley. Rev. Pay rendered loyal and dedicated service to our church until his demise in 1923.
In 1911, our church utilized the amount of 5,650 pesos to purchase a 839 square meter lot along Reina Regente Street. A rectory and a two storey church building were subsequently built. The ground floor was used for worship services. On the second floor were living quarters for the pastoral staff and three big classrooms. The buildings were inaugurated on Palm Sunday the following year.
Seeing the need of Chinese women for formal education, the church organized a Board of Trustees and planned the opening of a girl's school. The "St. Stephen's Girls School" was formally established on July 22, 1917. The first classes were held in the living room of the rectory. Mrs. Studley served as the first principal of the school which had only 18 students in the beginning. The school turned coeducational in the 1950's and with God's grace the total student population has increased over the years to reach more than 3,500 in 1993. Today, St. Stephen's High School continues to serve as an important missionary field to our church.
With the number of church members increasing, the need for better organized fellowships became apparent. The Churchwomen's fellowship was established in 1918. The church choir was started with members coming mainly from the ranks of faculty and students of the school. The Churchmen's fellowship on the other hand, was established in 1928 although it initially remained active for just a short time.
in 1922, the church started conducting separate services in Amoy and Cantonese. In 1923, Mr. Sia Chi Ken came to serve as pastoral worker. He left in 1929, bringing with him a group of church members to set up a new church. This contributed in part to the establishment of two new Chinese churches, namely, the United Evangelical Church of the Philippines and the Christian Gospel Church. In the same year, Rev. Henry Mattocks, a deacon, was sent by the Church Mission in the United States to assist in the work at our church.
Meanwhile, Rev. Studley ended 26 years of service in our church in 1931. He went on to serve the newly established Cantonese speaking St. Peter's Church for two years before finally retiring in the US in 1933.
Rev. Mattocks oversaw the church affairs from 1931 to 1938. In 1933, Rev. Ty Tui Liok came to serve but had to return home to Amoy because of illness. During this time, Messrs. Yap Jit Ching and Go Beng Un served as pastoral workers. In 1937, Rev. Mattocks attended the general Convention of the Chinese Episcopal Church held in Fuzhou. It was then that he met and invited Rev. Wei Hsi Jin to come to serve in our church.
Rev. Wei, a native of Ningteh, Fujian, was a teacher in church schools in Xian, and Kaifeng. He was ordained deacon in 1922 and graduated from the seminary of St. John University of Shanghai in 1924. He was ordained priest that year and served at the Trinity church in Kaifeng. He took up further studies in Canada at the Wycliffe College, University of Toronto in 1930. In 1936, he was appointed priest-in-charge of the Xinghua Church in Fujian. He then accepted the invitation of Rev. Mattocks to serve as assistant priest in our church and in 1938 moved to the Philippines together with his family. His wife Mrs. Wei Chi Sui An was a kindergarten school teacher. In 1939, Rev. Mattocks went on furlough in the United States. This paved the way for Rev. Wei to formally take over the church responsibilities.
During the first few years of the term of Rev. Wei, Messrs. Tan Hi Bi, Ting King Po and Miss Ong Eng Khieng served as pastoral workers. The church decided to use the Amoy dialect hymnal and published the Amoy dialect Book of Common Prayer for use in the worship services. Rev. Wei was also very enthusiastic about having our church attain the status of a parish. A trial period of one year was taken to determine our capability to be self reliant. In the 1940 annual meeting, the majority of the members voted to pass the resolution which was later accepted by the diocese. Thus St. Stephen's Church formally became a parish on February 23, 1941 with Rev. Wei as the first Rector.
In the same year that we became a parish, the Pacific War broke out followed subsequently by the occupation of the Philippines by the Japanese forces. During this time of hardship and danger, God's provident grace and guidance were always evident. Church services were regular. Rev. and Mrs. Wei and various members helped in raising funds to support the American missionaries interred in the concentration camp. Bishop Norman Binsted appointed Rev. Wei as chairman of a four man committee to oversee the properties of the Episcopal Church in Manila that included four church buildings.
Following the liberation of Manila from the Japanese forces in 1945, the Reina Regente property was badly damaged along with various church records. Only St. Luke's Pro-Cathedral along Magdalena St. (now Masangkay St.) was not destroyed. Worship services of our parish, therefore had to be held in this church where we had to take turns with the other Episcopalian congregations. A church rebuilding project was initiated and a total of 53,600 pesos was collected. In 1947, upon the suggestion of Bishop Binsted and with the agreement of our church Vestry, and upon final approval of the Church Mission, our church was given the title and land and buildings of St. Luke's Hospital and St. Luke's Pro-Cathedral. Two conditions were set to effect the final turnover of the properties of St. Luke's Hospital to us. These were: (1) when the hospital shall have moved from Magdalena St. to its new address in Quezon City. (2) when the amount of 20,000 pesos from the church building fund shall have been paid for use in the diocese. The church project was then put to rest.
Our church used the St. Luke's Pro-Cathedral building in Magdalena St. as the venue for our Sunday Worship services until 1964. From 1964 to 1993 it was used exclusively by the Children's Worship services. The property in Reina Regente St. was subsequently used by St. Peter's Church. In 1959, St. Luke's Hospital finally moved to Quezon City, and in the following year our church and the school agreed on the respective boundaries drawn up upon the mediation of Bishop Lylman Ogilby.
Miss Ong Eng Khieng resigned and returned to China in 1946. In order to expand its ministry, our church decided to recruit new pastoral workers from China. In 1947, Ms. Lim Ching Bee, Messrs. John C. H. Pan and Tan Tiao Lin arrived. Mr. Tan served on a voluntary basis. This was the time since the establishment of the church when we had the biggest number of church workers. The number of worshippers reached 240. The church activities included a revision of the Parish constitution and the publication of the "The Light" monthly church magazine which was launched in 1948. The five year plan which started in 1944 ended and the three year Development and Growth Movement was carried out in 1950 to 1953.
Home visitations were strengthened; Bible study was encouraged; Catechism books for baptism and confirmation were published, and scholarships for theological training were established. During this time, the active fellowships included the Churchwomen, Church Choir, Young People's Fellowship, Junior Youth Fellowship, Children's Worship, New Hearts' Fellowship and the Cherith Fellowship for couples. Our church celebrated its 50th Anniversary in November 1953 with the publication of a Golden Jubilee Souvenir Book.
In 1955, Rev. Sammuel Wu was ordained priest, appointed school chaplain and assistant priest of our church. He served our church for eight years before migrating to Hong Kong in 1962. He has been serving in the Diocese of Hong Kong and Macao ever since.
In order to expand the evangelization ministry of the church, a mission station was established in Siain, Quezon in 1961. The affairs of the station were administered by Vestry member Ong Bi Gim who was succeeded by the pastoral workers Ms. Lui Sui Ngo and Ms. Kitty Go in 1964. Ms. Go stayed on with the parish and has been serving in our church ever since.
Ground breaking ceremonies for a new and bigger church building were undertaken in 1963 and it was finished in the following year. Blessing of the new church building was officiated by Bishop Ogilby on Thanksgiving Sunday that year. The spacious new building had a 1,000 seat capacity. A few years later, a newly acquired pipe organ system was installed inside the church to enhance worship.
Rev. Wei retired in 1963. The vestry in order to express the Parish's appreciation and gratitude for his 25 years of fruitful stewardship and loyal services, bestowed on him the title of "Rector Emeritus". Rev. and Mrs. Wei migrated to the Us in 1975 to join his son Dr. Wellington Wei and his family.
In 1964 Rev. William Norton was appointed acting rector of the Parish. Rev. Norton was ordained in England as deacon in 1948, and as priest the next year. He had a bachelor and a master's degree from Cambridge University and underwent theological training in the seminary of Oxford University. He also studied Chinese at the University of London. His wife, Mrs. Toc Siu Hwa Norton, a native of Amoy, was a graduate from Hong Kong. Rev. Norton's ministry had brought him to Singapore and Malaysia in the 1950's. During his term in our parish, emphasis was placed on evangelization. The Children's Choir was expanded and the Junior Youth Fellowship was renamed Joy Fellowship. Mr. Go Eng Bu served as pastoral worker for a short time. In 1966, after having completed the three year term, Rev. Norton left for England. Retired Rev. Wei temporarily took over running the affairs of the church.
In 1967, Rev. John C. H. Pan was appointed to serve as rector for the parish. Rev. Pan, a native of Lungxi, Fujian, finished his Bachelor in Divinity at St. John's University in Shanghai in 1943. During the war period, he served as high school teacher and supervisor of religious instruction, pastoral worker and conductor of various church choirs. After the war, he served briefly as pastoral worker in his hometown before coming to serve as pastoral worker in our church in 1947. He has resigned in 1950 and left for Bacolod to undertake pioneering missionary work there. He was ordained priest by the United Churches of Christ of the Philippines. His 17 years of service in Bacolod was interrupted by a three year sojourn serving at a church in Malaysia with his family. In 1967 in accordance with the canons of the Episcopal Church, Rev. Pan was first ordained deacon by Bishop Ogilby and later simultaneously priest and installed as second rector of our Parish by Bishop Benito Cabanban. His wife Mrs. Vera Tao Ning Hsu Pan was a physician who was trained in Shanghai. She practiced medicine in China and Bacolod. Rev. and Mrs. Pan have three children, Aaron, Maria and Moses.
In the same year, Mr. Yu Eng Kiong joined the parish as pastoral worker. Family worship meetings were emphasized. The Carmel Fellowship was established in 1968. Pastoral worker Mr. Tan Tiao Lin retired. In the following year, the parish undertook a major fund raising campaign and began the construction of the current activity building and rectory. These were completed the following year. The new buildings were later named as the H. J. Wei Activity Building in 1975 and John Pan Rectory, respectively in honor of the first and second rectors of the parish. Musical events were held in 1970 featuring the Church Choir and the newly formed Chancel Choir in its debut. The January concert highlighted the cantata "The Holy City" while the Christmas concert featured the Cantata entitled "The Night of the Miracles".
The parish extended aid to the rehabilitation efforts benefitting the flood and typhoon victims of the natural disasters in 1970. The church opened its medical clinics to provide free medical services and medicine in 1971. In November 1972, because the Chancel Choir wanted to have a choreographed presentation of the cantata "No Greater Love", the Vestry decided to suspend the activities of the choir indefinitely. This brought about the departure of the majority of the choir members. The choir was reorganized and resumed activities in 1973. Mr. Ko Kun Hay, another pastoral worker, joined the church staff in 1973. In the same year the church celebrated its 70th Anniversary with the theme "Church Growth".
The Gospel Mission was established in 1970 to actively pursue the evangelization efforts of the church. In 1971, Mr. Ren To Sieng joined the church as missionary and with the gospel teams started work by visiting families living around the vicinity of the church. The mission work in Siain had since been discontinued because many of its members have migrated to other places. The Gospel Mission started its work in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija in 1972 and subsequently expanded missionary work to Benquet, Apayao, Sulu, Palawan and around Metro Manila. The musical evangelistic team "Dawnsong" was organized in 1975. In 1979 the Parish started missionary work among the Indo-Chinese refugees who were first settled in Mandaluyong and later in the refugees center in Bataan. In 1983 the Marikina Mission station was established.
In 1978, Mr. Patrick Tanhuanco, after obtaining his Master of Divinity degree from Wycliffe College of University of Toronto in Canada, joined the Parish as pastoral worker. After having passed the examinations in the Episcopal diocese, he was ordained first as deacon on 1981 and subsequently as priest in 1983. Patrick's brother Paul Tanhuanco who graduated from the same school in 1981, first worked as pastoral worker in our parish before he was ordained as deacon in 1983. In 1983, the Churchmen's fellowship was revived. The rector, Rev. Pan was appointed Canon. This was also the period that the Parish had the largest number of clergy. It was also the year marking the 80th Anniversary of our Parish. The theme for the celebration was "Love the Lord Dearly, Serve Him Diligently."
(Materials for historical account were taken from the 50th, 60th, 70th and 80th Anniversary Souvenir Books of the Parish; the 70th Anniversary Souvenir Book of St. Stephen's High School. The early accounts of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines were derived from Halsema, J.J. 1988. Bishop Brent's Baguio School: The First 75 years. Brent School Inc. Baguio, 245 pp.)