A BRIEF HISTORY
The Church of the Epiphany had its beginnings around 1894 in the informal gatherings of like-spirited Atlantans in the city's first planned suburb, Inman Park. By 1898, the group's lay services and Sunday school classes had grown sufficiently to warrant mission status. Bishop C. K. Nelson suggested the name Epiphany because it had been the name of his first parish, and because the new mission’s locale was the easternmost suburb of Atlanta—the Magi having come from the East. (Epiphany’s logo, a five-pointed star, serves as an apt, though unintentional, reminder of the parish’s first neighborhood, Little Five Points.) The chapel’s cornerstone of Stone Mountain granite was laid in March of 1898, and the first service was held in the building in May.
Ten years later, in December 1908, the Church of the Epiphany was admitted to the year-old Diocese of Atlanta as a parish and called its first rector, the Reverend Russell K. Smith. In 1922, having outgrown its first building, the parish sold the Little Five Points property and moved to nearby Seminole Avenue. Epiphany flourished in this location, growing to 667 communicants in the next seventeen years.
The city’s outward expansion and social dislocations following World War II brought demographic transition to Inman Park, however; by 1953 the number of communicants at Epiphany had dwindled to 165. That same year, The Reverend Dr. Norman Gore was called as Epiphany’s sixth rector. Under his leadership, the congregation moved to its third location, having purchased the current property on Ponce de Leon Avenue from nearby Emory University in 1956. The first services were held in the new chapel in October 1957. An expansion of the church in 1961 increased the length of the nave, and in 1963 a new wing was built to include a parish hall and offices.
The last half-century has witnessed further demographic transition brought on by gentrification in the neighborhoods surrounding the church. Throughout this period the parish has experienced continual growth and renewal. Membership grew steadily under the leadership of the Reverend Stanley McGraw (1971-79) and the Reverend Benjamin Turnage (1980-84). During this time, women began serving in leadership positions. (Betty Walton, the first woman elected to Vestry, in 1971, became the first female senior warden in 1973). By 1984, about 130 different households, including some 300 adults and children, were associated with the Church of the Epiphany.
In the Spring of 1985, at a time when women were only slowly gaining acceptance in the Episcopal priesthood, the Reverend E. Claiborne Jones accepted the call to Epiphany as the first woman to be the rector of an Episcopal church in Georgia. Under her leadership, the parish undertook two major renovations. First, in 1988-89, the nave and narthex were completely renovated and expanded and a memorial garden was dedicated on the east side of the building.
Ten years later, in the wake of burgeoning membership and increased activity, the clergy and leadership recognized the need for room to grow. The resulting 2003-04 construction expanded the Parish Hall, added classrooms and provided room for the dynamic community life of the parish. The first services were held in the new building on Palm Sunday 2004. Membership at that time was 718. At about the same time, adjoining residential property became available, and the parish prayerfully determined to raise funds and take advantage of this rare opportunity to plan for future growth.
In February 2006, Epiphany called the Reverend Benno D. Pattison to be its tenth rector. The ministries of the Church of the Epiphany expanded along with, or even ahead of, the parish’s space. Benno's infectious and exuberant enthusiasm helped to grow membership, parish programs and eventually the staff to include a part-time Director of Children's Ministries, Youth Coordinator and Bookkeeper.
In August 2019 we welcomed The Reverend Amy Dills-Moore as our new Priest-in-Charge whose presence will galvanize Epiphany to continue to live out the Gospel’s radical values with gladness of heart.
As of January 2020, membership was 999, representing 441 households.
Our first rector, The Rev. Russell K. Smith, on the steps of the first church circa 1915.
Another view of our first location in Little Five Points
Our second location on Seminole Avenue
Current location circa 1958. Ground breaking for our third building was April 14, 1957, Palm Sunday.
Original main entrance to the worship space prior to the 1984 renovation
Original altar location circa 1957 - now the choir loft after the 1984 renovation
Current location circa 1978