On Jan. 17, 1941, almost 11 months before the U.S. entered World War II, the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations asked the Commandant of the 13th Naval District to find a location for the re-arming and refueling of Navy patrol planes operating in defense of Puget Sound, should such defense be necessary. Though initially rejected as a suitable site, within 10 days of the rejection the commanding officer of Naval Air Station Seattle recommended the site of Saratoga Passage on the shores of Crescent Harbor and Forbes Point as a base suitable for seaplane takeoffs and landings under instrument conditions. A narrow strip of land tied Oak Harbor to what is now Maylor’s Capehart Housing. Dredging, filling, and running water and power lines to the city was under way when at the end of November came the word to find a land plane site.
Clover Valley – level, well drained and accessible from any approach – was tailor-made for a landing field. The strategic location, commanding the eastern end of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, guarded the entrance to Puget Sound. It was far enough from populated areas to carry on operational training flights with live loads. The area experienced visual flying conditions about 89 percent of the time and there was plenty of room to grow.
Actual construction of Ault Field started on March 1, 1942, and on Sept. 21, 1942, from the steps of Building 12, Commanding Officer Capt Cyril Thomas Simard read the orders and the watch was set. U.S. Naval Air Station Whidbey Island was duly commissioned.
Eleven years later, in September, 1952 several Navy couples united to form the first Episcopal congregation in Oak Harbor and within four months a layreader conducted the first service. December, 1953 saw the construction of the first official church building with official mission status granted to the Parish the next month. Six years later (Spring, 1960) a larger building was constructed on the same property to provide suitable space for the growing congregation. Parish status was achieved in November, 1976 and the mortgage to the new building paid off and burned in July, 1977.
The Parish continued to be blessed with growth and so it became necessary to commence construction of an addition to the 1960 building in September, 1981 which was dedicated and debt-free upon completion one year later.
On January 13, 1998, the Parish voted to join the American Anglican Council [AAC], “a network of individuals, parishes, dioceses and ministries who affirm biblical authority and Christian orthodoxy within the Anglican Communion.”
Although 50 years of faithful mission and ministry were celebrated in January, 2004, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, held the previous summer, had made decisions and took actions that many parishioners of this Parish interpreted as a significant break with Biblical faith, thereby placing our relationship with the Anglican Communion in jeopardy. We were not alone in this interpretation. So also in January, 2004, and in response to suggestions by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Rowan Williams, concerning growing theological controversy within the Communion [especially in the United States and Canada], the Anglican Communion Network [ACN] was formed to be a united missionary movement of Anglicans in fellowship with global Anglicanism. Then known as St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, we formally joined the ACN on May 10, 2004.
Our Parish is not unlike most other churches: a wonderful gathering of faithful Christians who seek to live out their lives in the service of the Lord Who has done so much for them. We are no more, no less, fellow journeyers on the walk of faith, fellow workers called to the harvest, we are long time friends and newly arrived acquaintances. Like every Parish made up of so many different folks with different personalities we have had to learn to forebear with one another for the sake of the Gospel. We were then, and remain now, united in our commitment to the Lord Jesus and how that is to be expressed, especially within the Anglican Communion with whom we identify and with whom we are full members.
We truly stand on the shoulders of dedicated and faithful priests who, each in their own unique way, have pastored us, taught us, and fed us with sacramental food – we are very much a product of our past, even while embracing our future. We give thanks to the Lord for those who have ministered the Gospel among us:
1952-1954 Charles Forbes
1954-1956 James Carroll
1956-1957 John G. Schaeffer
1957-1960 Richard Wakefield
1960-1970 Chester Hults
1970-1980 Hugh Miller
1980-1981 William Riker [interim]
1981-1991 Jack Tench
1991-1992 Norm Johns [interim]
1992-1998 Scot Wright
1998-2000 Dean Scovell [interim]
2000-2006 Carol Harlacher
2006- C. Paul Orritt
Our understanding of the Gospel we received, however, did eventually lead to a crisis and moment of decision as well as purposeful affiliation with others who were taking a strong stand for Biblical orthodoxy especially in light of what a significant majority of members in the Parish considered to be ongoing theological innovation within the Episcopal Church. These affiliations were the logical result of the understanding we have of the Gospel, the mission of the Church and the mutual inter-dependence we continue to believe defines the essential character of world-wide Anglicanism.
On October 1, 2004 our Vestry unanimously voted to dissociate completely from the Episcopal Church. This decision was subsequently ratified in two Parish meetings [October 10 and 17], formal association with the Diocese of Recife was established and on October 19, 2004, and the Bishop of Olympia, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner was advised of our decision. We subsequently, filed for a new name: St. Stephen’s Anglican Church. Our association with the Diocese of Olympia continued solely by means of a Covenant agreement that was signed in July, 2006 allowing uncontested use of the original campus through June, 2014.
In June, 2009, our Parish formally affiliated with the newly constituted Anglican Church in North America [ACNA] as a founding parish in the Diocese of Cascadia (in formation). Because our Diocese attained full diocesan status in June, 2011 we were then allowed to elect, consecrate and install The Rt. Rev. Kevin Bond Allen as our first Bishop (September, 2011).
In January, 2012, St. Stephen’s Anglican Church adopted the new name “Grace by the Sea”.
As we approached the end of the Covenant agreement with the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, Grace by the Sea [and her sister Parish of St. Charles, Poulsbo] unanimously agreed to relinquish all rights to property thereby preventing the possibility of litigation. On Pentecost Sunday, June 8, 2014 the congregation met for the last time on the site that had been their home for sixty-one years and, following a Eucharistic Celebration during which many memories were shared, we processed out as a united family. A milestone event, we reached an amicable settlement with the Diocese of Olympia returning all property to the Diocese on June 23, 2014 in such a way as to make possible the continuing ministries of all parties.
Because of the gracious reception we were given by the Roman Catholic Parish of St. Augustine and St. Mary, we met for worship in the facility of St. Mary’s RC Church, Coupeville the Sunday after leaving the Regatta property. Our offices were temporarily relocated to the St. Augustine campus, Oak Harbor and many of our weekday activities, and an additional mid-week Eucharist were hosted there as well.
The Lord has been good to us and His people have proven faithful throughout our “exodus” period.Six months after vacating our original campus, the congregation purchased the building at 540 Pioneer Way in which the former Armed Forces Y.M.C.A. was located. We held our first service in what was to be our new home on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 21, 2014.