Church of the Epiphany began serving the northwestern suburbs of Minneapolis nearly 60 years ago, just as subdivisions began replacing the area’s cornfields. Epiphany’s first service was held on January 12, 1958 in the gymnasium of Forest Elementary School in Crystal.
Our journey: 1958-1983
Epiphany began as a mission church of St. Andrew’s, Minneapolis. Three years after its formation, the church took up residence in its first new church building in New Hope on Boone Avenue and grew as steadily as the surrounding neighborhoods. While the church was granted mission status by the diocese in 1959, it wasn’t until 1974 that Epiphany was granted parish status at the diocesan convention – ours was the first new parish in Minnesota in almost two decades. Growth came quickly. In 1961, a class of 20 was confirmed.
This period saw the beginnings of great traditions in church leadership. The Rev. Cathy McDonald was raised up out of our congregation as the fifth female priest in the Diocese of Minnesota and one of the first 100 in the country. The first female senior warden in Minnesota, and among the first in the nation, was Epiphany’s Sue Wolf. The Diocese of Nevada selected the Rev. Stewart Zabriskie (rector from 1977 to 1986) to be its Bishop. This tradition set the tone for a significant number of parishioners who have been discerned for ministries as spiritual directors, deacons and priests.
Members of Epiphany continually search for new ways to experience spiritual growth and development. Some are long-standing; a Bible study has been held each Thursday morning since 1974. Some ebb and flow; Cursillo, a weekend renewal retreat, thrived in the community from the mid 70’s to the 90’s. Leadership opportunities for women in the church began with “circle” ministries, with five focus areas of inreach or outreach. One group of women continues to meet to this day as a book club.
The early years defined Epiphany’s culture of overcoming challenges with ingenuity. For example, in 1965, a group of parishioners spent hundreds of hours building a Schober electronic organ, the first organ in the church, from a kit. Much of the maintenance and renovation of the church’s facilities is done to this day by the people of Epiphany.
By 1970 the new building was beginning to become crowded and in need of repair, but it wasn’t until 1980 that a committee was formed to explore renovation and expansion options. The plan was rejected by the congregation, but from the disappointment of this challenging experience arose an incredible opportunity. We felt the Holy Spirit move among us when the neighboring North Ridge Care Center needed to expand; it purchased Epiphany’s 4.5 acres of property for $1 million. In the middle of the night, we watched a neighboring church community move our first building two miles to the north. Epiphany’s congregation moved back into a school and the building committee was back in business. The committee selected the 10 acre site in Plymouth, completed building plans and built a new facility where Epiphany has thrived since 1983.
Our journey: 1983-today
If the first 25 years of Epiphany reflected the planting of the seeds of leadership and spiritual growth, the last 35 have been characterized by Epiphany embracing the needs of the changing surrounding community and beyond.
The surrounding communities became fully developed, children graduated and moved on and immigrant families moved to our area. Epiphany’s community has changed as well. It has aged and become more diverse, as we welcomed families from every populated continent including countries such as Liberia, the Philippines and Malaysia.
During the 1980s and ‘90s, children and young adults at Epiphany attended many regularly scheduled organized church activities for youth, began participating in the Teens Encounter Christ weekend spiritual retreat and in a variety of Diocesan Youth Events.
Epiphany experienced a period of sustained growth during this time. We adapted to the needs of a larger congregation by experimenting with additional services, changing the time of services and moving the education hour to different times.
This era has continued the tradition of do-it-yourself ministry, as a Memorial Garden was installed and gradually expanded to include a labyrinth. A parishioner designed the stained glass windows in the church, including the sprawling rainbow at the back of the sanctuary. Using the artistic talents of parishioners, this do-it-yourself ministry expanded from facilities to programs and events. The sanctuary has hosted plays, concerts and variety shows. The fellowship hall has hosted art auctions, dinners, social justice discussions and dances.
(This historical narrative of the Church of the Epiphany is adapted from the Parish Profile, December 2010.)