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A Brief History Of Epiphany Episcopal Church

The Church of the Epiphany, the older of Danville’s two Episcopal churches, is a significant landmark located in the center of Danville’s Historic District at the corner of Main Street and Jefferson Avenue, a spot which the church has occupied since its founding. Epiphany’s history reflects service to the needs of the community, respect for the beauty of a place to worship, a love of music and a need to enjoy and respect diversity in multiple areas.

The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany was founded in 1840 by Dr. George Washington Dame, who came to town to serve as principal of the Danville Female Academy. Four years later the church erected a wooden structure of Gothic design, on the corner of Main Street and Jefferson Avenue. By the time of the Civil War, Dr. Dame’s original congregation of four women had grown to 265 communicants. In the 1860s Dr. Dame gave Epiphany’s first church bell to the Southern Army (CSA) and served as the chaplain for the Danville Post of the CSA. He took communion to, and served in many capacities, the Northern Army’s (USA) prisoners of war being held in nearby tobacco warehouses which served as prisons. Jefferson Davis worshiped at Epiphany before fleeing the south at the end of the war. A new church bell, which remains in service to this day, was donated in 1867, by local citizens impressed by Dr. Dame’s wartime contributions.

The original frame building was demolished to make way for the present structure, which was completed and consecrated in 1880. The last council for the Diocese of Virginia was held at Epiphany in 1881, and the first council for the Diocese of Southern Virginia was held a year later. In April 1895, Dr. Dame gave his farewell sermon at Epiphany, and his assistant, The Reverend Dr. J. Cleveland Hall became Rector. Shortly thereafter Professor Robert S. Phifer, an accomplished musician who was a friend and benefactor of the British composer, Frederick Delius, was hired as organist cementing Epiphany’s ongoing reputation for excellent music. Dr. Hall served Epiphany for twenty-five prosperous years. By 1914, Epiphany’s membership reached 594, new parishes in the area had been formed and Epiphany began sponsoring young men for ordination in the Episcopal Church, a tradition which continues today for the benefit of all.

Under The Reverend George R. MacClintock's twenty-seven year tenure as rector from 1944 to 1971, a new parish hall was built and the "Budget Box", a store for lightly used apparel, was started and became important to the church and community. The Reverend James Mathieson was called to Epiphany in 1993, and the Free Clinic of Danville was established with initial financial support from Epiphany. This was housed within the church initially and served those in the community who were employed, but could not afford health care.  During Father Mathieson’s tenure, the Parish Hall was renovated, an elevator was installed for our multi-level parish house, a new sacristy was built as well as a new parking lot, and the Columbarium was added to the Memorial Garden. 

In his autobiography, Dr. Dame spoke of his belief that God called him to ministry and later to Danville. He wrote, "I could never understand what made me leave my home and make the heavy sacrifice unless it was the moving of Him who by His Spirit leads the blind by ways they know not..." In Dr. Dame, God called a new church into being. 178 years later, we strive to live into that early call. Throughout its history, the people of the Church of the Epiphany have followed a call to be a church whose heart is centered in revealing and manifesting God's love to the world. Over and over we have sought to be a place whose arms open wide for the work of God's kingdom.

stained glass

Most of the stained glass memorial windows, installed during the first quarter of the 20th century, were designed and executed by the J.R. Lamb Company of New York. The chancel “Christ as Shepherd” window honors the lifework of Epiphany’s first rector, who retired in 1895.  

In the Episcopal tradition, we value worship in beautiful spaces as a way to honor God and to help us to connect with God. This is a gift from our Catholic heritage. Stained glass windows are not only a teaching element, but also "lift our hearts." We worship in beautiful spaces, giving our best to God. Our worship space gives a sense of worship as beauty and wonder invites us to mark time differently - sacramentally, eternally.

100 years

In celebration of Epiphany’s centennial in 1979 of the current structure, the balcony at the rear of the nave was enlarged to accommodate an Andover tracker organ. The installation of this instrument was one of the early projects made possible by the Schoolfield Trust. About the same time the church received two more significant gifts. Longtime member E. Stuart James Grant, purchased and donated to Epiphany, the Main Street property immediately adjacent to the church. In 1980 a beautiful garden was created on this land in memory of Mrs. John G. Boatwright. 2015 MARKED OUR 175TH ANNIVERSARY AS A PARISH!

The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia

The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany is part of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia, which is headquartered in Newport News. The diocese is home to 103 Episcopal congre-gations stretching over 200 miles from the Virginia/ Maryland border on the Eastern Shore, west to Danville and Chatham, and northwest to the portion of the Richmond metropolitan area located on the south side of the James River. Altogether, about 30,000 persons worship in the diocese.

Originally carved out of the Diocese of Virginia in 1892, the Diocese of Southern Virginia is now one of three Episcopal dioceses in the state. The diocese has roots in the earliest decades of American history, going back four centuries to the English settlement of Jamestown. In 1607, the Rev. Robert Hunt, chaplain to the Jamestown settlers, celebrated the first Anglican Holy Communion on these shores. The Church of England, the forerunner of the Episcopal Church in America, was the established church in Virginia for the next 173 years.

While proud of its heritage, the diocese looks forward. Under the leadership of the Rt. Rev. Herman “Holly” Hollerith, who was consecrated tenth Bishop of Southern Virginia in February of 2009, the diocese is pursuing a bold vision for the future. Congregational development, the raising up of new generations of leaders, ordination reform, creative approaches to stewardship, clergy wellness, the planting of emerging congregations, and the development of bold mission endeavors comprise but a portion of the vision for the diocese. Perhaps you will have a part in bringing forth this vision!

 

History of The Episcopal Church

The beginnings of the Church of England, from which The Episcopal Church derives, date to at least the second century AD, when merchants and other travelers first brought Christianity to England. It is customary to regard St. Augustine of Canterbury's mission to England in 597 AD as marking the formal beginning of the church under papal authority, as it was to be throughout the Middle Ages. In its modern form, the church dates from the English Reformation of the 16th century AD, when royal supremacy was established and the authority of the papacy was repudiated. With the advent of British colonization, the Church of England was established on every continent. In time, these churches gained their independence, but retained connections with the mother church in the Anglican Communion.

History of the American Church

EARLY PERIOD
Establishment of parishes on the North American continent began to spread steadily following the first recorded celebration of Holy Communion in New World in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia. This conformed to the typical colonial expansion pattern of the English Church in other parts of the world at the time. During the American Revolution, northern clergy tried to maintain ties with the English Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) and to support England, while those in the South tended to be more sympathetic to the Revolution. The "American Revolution left the Anglican parishes shattered, stripped of most of their financial support, weakened by the flight of many clergy and thousands of members, with a number of buildings destroyed and property lost," wrote Powell Mills Dawley in Our Christian Heritage (Morehouse-Gorham, 1959). After the war, support for the  Society for the Propagation of the Gospel was cut off, and public support of churches was withdrawn because of newly accepted principle of separation of church and state.

ESTABLISHMENT PERIOD
By 1784, most states agreed on the need to (1) draft a binding constitution for the whole church; (2) revise the English Book of Common Prayer  to make it appropriate for use in the American church; and (3) obtain consecration of bishops in Apostolic Succession to give the American Church proper episcopal oversight and ministry. However, church leaders were split on the position that organization of the American Church could proceed without bishops in Apostolic Succession. Charles Inglis of New York left for England to seek ordination and later returned as the first Bishop of Nova Scotia. Many New England Episcopalians agreed with Inglis' approach to the argument, but southerners balked. On March 25, 1783, ten Connecticut clergy elected Samuel Seabury as their bishop. Seabury traveled to England, but English canon law prevented the consecration of any clergyman who would not take the Oath of Allegiance to the English Crown. Seabury then sought consecration in the Scottish Episcopal Church, where he was ordained on Nov. 14, 1784 in Aberdeen. Thus, Seabury became the first bishop of the American Episcopal Church. By 1786, English churchmen had helped change the law so the Church of England could offer episcopal consecration to those churches outside England. On Feb. 4, 1787, the Archbishop of Canterbury and three other English bishops consecrated William White as Bishop of Pennsylvania and Samuel Provoost as Bishop of New York. Soon after, James Madison was consecrated in England as the Bishop of Virginia and President of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. When Seabury, White, Provoost, and Madison joined to consecrate Thomas Claggett in Trinity Church in New York in 1790, the episcopate in the American Church could declare its independence from Great Britain. An assembly of the American Church met in Philadelphia in 1789 to unify all Episcopalians in the United States into a single national church. A constitution was adopted along with a set of canon laws. The English Book of Common Prayer  was revised (principally in removing the prayer for the English monarch). This first American Book of Common Prayer was based mostly on the English Book of Common Prayer of 1662. Its consecration prayer was based on the Scottish Book of Common Prayer of 1764. The new constitution provided for annual diocesan conventions with the bishop of the diocese as presiding officer. A national General Convention was established, composed of two legislative houses, modeled after the United States Congress. A system of checks and balances similar to that of the new federal system was incorporated into the Church's constitution. As the United States began its westward expansion, the church followed. Missionary bishops went into the new territories to minister to the far-flung and sparsely populated western parishes and congregations.

CIVIL WAR PERIOD
When South Carolina seceded from the Union in 1860, she was followed by ten more southern states. In 1861, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America was established, in every way the same as before except for its name change and its loyalty to the Confederacy. But the northern church declined to recognize any separation. Throughout the war, churchmen on both sides maintained their old friendships and bonds of Christian union with each other, according to Dawley (Our Christian Heritage, Morehouse-Gorham, 1959). Seven months after the fall of Richmond in 1865, the Confederate group quietly disbanded following the national convention, which had been held a scant month before.

AMERICAN CHURCH POLITY
Subsequent general conventions have added to, but not substantially changed a basic polity in which a democratic, lay-dominated parish structure exists in tension with an episcopally dominated central governance structure. Each self-supporting congregation (parish) elects its lay governing board (vestry) for temporal affairs and its rector as spiritual leader. Congregations that are not self-supporting (missions) are directed by the bishop of the area. In a given area, the parishes and missions make up a diocese, headed by a bishop. All clergy and lay representation from all congregations meet annually in convention to conduct the business of the diocese. The convention elects the bishop to serve until death or retirement.

GENERAL CONVENTION
The dioceses and missionary districts in the United States meet triennially in General Convention. All bishops are members of the House of Bishops, and the House of Deputies is made up of equal numbers of clergy and laity. The Executive Council, the administrative agency of the General Convention, is headed by the Presiding Bishop (elected by the House of Bishops and confirmed by the House of Deputies). The Presiding Bishop also presides over the House of Bishops. Decisions at General Convention are made by joint-concurrence of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops.

PROVINCES
The 109 dioceses of the Episcopal Church and three regional areas are organized into nine provinces, each governed by a synod consisting of a House of Bishops and a House of Deputies. The Episcopal Church is a part of the Anglican Communion.

MODERN PERIOD
Conventions of the 1950s and 1960s tended to ignore increasing pressure from women to demand ordination as deacons and priests in the church. The General Convention of 1970 allowed women ordination to the diaconate. In 1974, eleven women presented themselves for ordination to the priesthood in Philadelphia. The House of Bishops declared the ordinations invalid, saying that the 11 women remained deacons. After 1976, the eleven ordinations were regularized when the General Convention allowed women to be eligible for ordination to both the priesthood and the episcopate. Barbara Harris, the first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion, was elected as Bishop Suffragan of Massachusetts on Feb. 11, 1989. A completely revised Book of Common Prayer was adopted in 1979, and an updated Hymnal was adopted in 1982.

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THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

 

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