St. Stephen Lutheran Church - East San Francisco & Central Valley California

A Brief History of St. Stephen Lutheran Church of the East Bay and Central Valley

Luther at Worms

In the fall of 1968, an individual from Castro Valley, CA, led by God the Holy Spirit, contacted the Rev. Rollin A. Reim, pastor of St. Stephen Lutheran Church of San Francisco Peninsula, suggesting the exploration of a permanent church outreach in southern Alameda County in the East Bay.

Without hesitation, the Rev. Reim offered to assist in such an endeavor. After several months of dialogue, plans were made to hold exploratory Lenten services on each Sunday afternoon of the 1969 Lenten season in a rented hall in nearby San Lorenzo. The response to this outreach was far beyond expectations and a Good Friday evening service was held in a vacated church in Castro Valley, which would eventually become the congregation’s first church home.

In early 1970, a much more suitable, recently vacated church was found several blocks away and this proved to be an effective move in God’s plan to increase the number of confessionally minded Lutherans and others who were aware of the compromise and lack of orthodox practices in some Lutheran churches.

Pastor Reim continued serving St. Stephen Lutheran Church of the West Bay (official name) until 1972. A new ILC graduate, Paul Schaller, became the first resident pastor. In the fall of 1970, a move in church location was needed because of the sale of the Castro Valley property. A suitable worship site, Pioneer Chapel, was found in adjacent Hayward where the congregation worshiped until 2010.  The congregation currently uses the sanctuary of Grace Lutheran Church in Hayward.

After meeting in the homes of members, in June 1991, Roy Cameron negotiated a rental agreement for a room at the University of the Pacific in Stockton and services began in the Central Valley, at first at 8:30 a.m., but eventually switched to 2:30 p.m. after the arrival of Pastor Pfeiffer. In July 2004, after Pastor Emeritus Norbert Reim and his wife Celeste moved from Phoenix to the Bethel Retirement Community in Modesto, services were moved from Stockton to Modesto. In 2012, after Norbert, Celeste and other regular visitors from Modesto passed away, services were moved back to Stockton where they continue to the present.

Pastors serving St. Stephen Lutheran Church of the East Bay and Central Valley:

Rollin Reim, April 1969-June 1972
Paul Schaller, June 1972-May 1980
Greg Kesterson, May 1980-March 1981
Mark Weis, March 1981-July 1987
Jerome Barthels, July 1987-October 1995
Michael Sprengler November 1995-August 2000
Rollin Reim, August 2000-January 2001, Interim
Nathan Pfeiffer, June 2002-July 2005
Steven Karp, May 2006 -Jan 2017
Luke Bernthal, Jan 2017- present

East San Francisco Bay Area
St. Stephen East San Francisco Bay
Central Valley California
St. Stephen Central Valley
Mountain View Sister Congregation
St. Stephen Mountain View

St. Stephen is a member congregation of the Church of the Lutheran Confession  (CLC)