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St. Stephen’s adds rector-elect

After year-long search, church celebrates its new full-time reverend

Posted: July 27, 2012 7:24 p.m.
Updated: July 27, 2012 7:24 p.m.

Rector-elect Rev. Kelly O'Connell, originally from an Ohio parish, chats with congregation member during the ice cream social held following Sunday worship on July 1, O'Connell's first day.

After a yearlong search, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Newhall finally adds Rev. Kelly O’Connell to the church as rector-elect. The congregation celebrated its addition with an ice cream social after O’Connell’s first Sunday with the parish on July 1.

O’Connell comes to St. Stephen’s after serving St. Marks Episcopal Church in Ohio for seven years. The Toledo-area church closed its doors after merging with another parish.

She began her search, mostly looking in Ohio and the Northeast area. Her partner Christina, who was familiar with the greater Los Angeles area after completing her graduate degree at University of Southern California, suggested looking in L.A.

“I knew I needed to trust God,” O’Connell said. “I needed to be open to where he may be calling me to serve.”

A spark
During that time St. Stephen’s was undergoing its own search after Rev. Lynn Jay retired July 31 of last year. Rev. Susan Bek, associate rector, was named priest-in-charge during the interim period while the discernment committee began its search for a full-time priest.

St. Stephen’s initially searched only in the western U.S., but eventually opened up the search countrywide. The team worked tirelessly for months interviewing and visiting candidates, finally narrowing the search to include O’Connell.

“When I met her, I could see she had a spark to her,” said Heather Ippolito, director of Youth and Children’s Ministries and member of the 12-person discernment committee, about the first meeting with O’Connell. “We were all abuzz with excitement of what our church could be if she was our leader.”

“We were overwhelmed with emotion,” Dave Melton, senior warden and vestry member, said. “It became more and more clear that she fits what we want to do and who we are.”

Looking to the future
They selected Rev. O’Connell in mid-May.

“We always believed the Holy Spirit would come to guide us,” Ippolito said. “He really did come. Rev. Kelly has a passion for ministry and all aspects of church life. Everyone is looking forward to the next chapter.”

Despite the major transition and adjustment to moving cross country O’Connell is excited to leave the long, cold winters of Ohio in exchange for warmer weather so she can ride her bike year round. She said that she hopes to help the parish grow further with outreach.

When discussing her journey to St. Stephen’s during her first message to the congregation, she said, “In the midst of the entire country we found each other.

“God moves in our lives in ways we can’t anticipate.”

For more information about St. Stephen’s visit


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