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St. Stephen's hits gold and silver

Posted: March 8, 2008 9:56 a.m.
Updated: May 9, 2008 5:03 a.m.
St. Stephen's Episcopal Church's Rev. Richard Belliss recently celebrated 50 years of ordination. He now gives sermons once a month at the Newhall church. St. Stephen's Episcopal Church's Rev. Richard Belliss recently celebrated 50 years of ordination. He now gives sermons once a month at the Newhall church.
St. Stephen's Episcopal Church's Rev. Richard Belliss recently celebrated 50 years of ordination. He now gives sermons once a month at the Newhall church.
Rev. Belliss celebrates 50th anniversary of ordination: For the Rev. Richard Belliss, becoming a priest felt like something natural.

Maybe it's because his great grandfather, grandfather and father all served as reverends for the Episcopal Church.

"It seemed to be the door that was open and I went through it," Belliss said as his voice echoed inside of St. Stephen's church.

Now that Belliss has achieved his 50th anniversary of ordination - calmly calling it something that "just happened" - the reverend of St. Stephen's in Newhall is reflecting on his experiences over the last five decades.

The history
Belliss started schooling early, graduating from Whittier College at the age of 20.

Between studying economics and political science at Whittier, Belliss met his future wife, Joan, on a blind date.

He credits Joan with encouraging him to attend church again during college, something that he lost sight of during his rebellious teen years.

After graduating, Belliss went to seminary in Berkeley. In 1956, he completed his studies, officially becoming an ordained minister.

Since then, he has held positions at churches all over Southern California. He worked at a fast-growing Garden Grove church for 11 years before spending 25 years with a Riverside congregation.

Move to St. Stephen's
In 1994, Belliss and his wife of more than 50 years moved to Valencia, desiring to retire.

But that same year he took on a position at St. Stephen's after meeting the Rev. Lynn Jay and getting a tour of the local community.

Since then, the two have enjoyed working with each other.

Jay considers Belliss to be "terrific."

"He's a wonderful addition to the community," she said.

Between herself, Belliss, and the Rev. Lawrence Brown, who works part-time at St. Stephen's, the congregation is able to hear different voices that range in thoughts and perspectives.

"It's a wonderful match," she said. "We agree on so much."

But at the same time, she points out that there is enough difference between the three reverends to give a "great variety" for the church.

Hope and message
Through his services, Belliss hopes his listeners are able to build a relationship with God while growing in a community that he considers a healthy and supportive place.

"This is where you can be yourself," he said. "And get your ethical background to be a good person."

Staying busy
Despite being 75 years old, Belliss continues to be involved at the Newhall church with the Sunday morning Bible study and Thursday morning church services.

He also preaches once a month.

Aside from the role at St. Stephen's, Belliss remains active by walking for an hour every day.

At one time he was an accomplished long-distance runner, competing in 30 marathons.

He also remains an active reader, making weekly trips to the local library to pick up books.

As for his goal for the next 50 years, Belliss says: "We hope to live happily and healthfully."

Among first women ordained, Rev. Lynn Jay marks 25th year as priest: The Rev. Richard Belliss isn't the only one at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church to celebrate a major anniversary recently.

The Rev. Lynn Jay marked her 25th year of ordination earlier this year.

"It just sort of snuck up," Jay said. "I've been married for 45 years. That's hard to imagine as well."

Perhaps it snuck by because Jay, the vicar of the Newhall congregation, considers her ministry to be part of her.

"It's become part of who I am," she explained. "I can't imagine doing anything else."

Jay, a native of Southern California, initially studied at California State University, Northridge.

But before heading to the School of Theology, Claremont, Jay spent five years as a teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District on top of her duties as a mother.

Once at seminary, Jay, 65, spent five years studying until becoming an ordained minister in 1983 at the age of 41. She spent two years at St. Andrews and St. Charles in Granada Hills before moving to St. Stephen's, where she has spent the last 23 years.

The Episcopal Church had just decided to ordain women about the time Jay began seminary.

"I was ordained with one other woman," she noted.

As for being a female minister, Jay just considers her womanhood a contribution to her entire priesthood.

"We don't get to pick and choose the parts we show to God," she said, noting she is married with children and grandchildren. "We come as a package. That's part of who I am and obviously those things contribute to my ordained ministry."

At St. Stephen's, Jay hopes to communicate the message that the kingdom of God is inclusive.

"Everyone is welcome at the table," she said.

She then added, "What we try to stress is that what we do must be for the benefit of God's people and for the glory of God's name and the extension of God's name."


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