Charter member of St. Stephen’s – now an Episcopal priest at ground zero parish – to preach in Wichita

When St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church celebrates a milestone in its history this Sunday, a former member who is making history will be there to preach.

Anne Mallonee grew up in Wichita going to St. Stephen’s. When she was in high school at Southeast, in 1974, she heard of the first women to be ordained priests in the Episcopal Church. She went on to be ordained herself in 1987, and now serves as vicar of a landmark church in the United States and all of the Anglican Communion, part of it at ground zero – Trinity Wall Street in New York City.

Mallonee (pronounced MAL-uh-nee) is the first woman to serve in that position in Trinity’s 315-year history. In her seven-year tenure there she has helped set up a multifaceted neighborhood center to serve the congregation, the parish’s 3 million annual visitors, and, lately, Occupy Wall Street protesters. The parish also includes St. Paul’s Chapel, a survivor of the 9/11 attacks that sits unscathed on the edge of ground zero.

So Mallonee’s coming back home to St. Stephen’s for its comparatively young 50th anniversary will be a big deal, said the church’s rector, Steve Mues.

“As a 4-year-old she signed the original charter that started the church, so it’s really neat,” Mues said. “She couldn’t even be an acolyte in that day, and now she’s rector of one of the largest Episcopal churches in the United States and she’s going to preach. Just to show that transition is awesome.”

Mallonee, 54, is married to Tony Furnivall, who is from England, and she hasn’t been back to Wichita since her mother moved from here to Maine six years ago. Her mother will join her this weekend for the visit.

“I do have such fond memories of St. Stephen’s, and I received the very important faith, church foundation” there, Mallonee said. “My family was very active there. It’s wonderful to be with my mother on Mother’s Day in Wichita in a place that was so important to my childhood.”

At Trinity, Mallonee is the second priest behind a senior priest, who is the rector. She oversees the worship, pastoral care, faith formation and outreach of the parish.

The rector of Trinity has a unique role overseeing major real estate holdings in New York – the Hudson Square district – dating from a grant of land from Queen Anne to the church in 1705. No other Episcopal or Anglican church has “the kind of resources we do,” Mallonee said, and the income from the tenants of the church’s buildings goes to ministries around the world. The ministries include “a phenomenal music program” at the church and music education in New York City public schools, because “we believe music is very important for people to be whole,” Mallonee said.

While Mallonee was not at Trinity at the time of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 — when an unscathed St. Paul’s Chapel offered around-the-clock care for rescue workers — she was there for the 10th anniversary last year.

“We did a whole weeklong observance of 9/11,” she said. “It will forever be part of the identity of this parish.”

More recently, Trinity has supported the Occupy Wall Street protesters while not giving in to one of Occupy’s related groups that thought it should be able to occupy part of Trinity’s property, Mallonee said.

“We have been supportive of the economic justice issues that Occupy has raised,” she said. “We’re concerned about the disparity in wealth and opportunity.”

The most important thing Trinity probably does, she said, is “having this oasis of quiet, beautiful space” in Lower Manhattan.

Mallonee said her time at Trinity has been fascinating.

“It’s quite an opportunity to be able to serve here, to be part of this history.”

But she doesn’t like to stress the unusual Episcopal roles she’s held, she said. “The ministries of the church are not limited to the ordained ministries. The church needs all of the different activities to be done.”

Back in Wichita, St. Stephen’s, at 7404 E. Killarney Place, has its own interesting history.

It started with 60 families forming a mission of St. James Episcopal Church, said one of the original members, Al Higdon. Ten members bought 39 acres of undeveloped land northwest of Central and Rock Road, Higdon said, with 8 1/2 acres retained for the church and the remaining divided into 35 residential lots. Those lots were sold, enabling the church to own its land, free of debt, in 1963.

Seventy-five parishioners and others purchased bonds to build the church, Higdon said. Ground was broken in 1964, and the church was opened in 1965. Most of the bonds were given back to the church on maturity, he said.

“The people who founded the church really sacrificed,” Mues said. “They really stepped out.”

The church’s anniversary celebration Sunday will feature a breakfast at 8:30 a.m. followed by a service at 10:30 and a coffee hour where people can socialize.