Sunday morning, January 7, 2018, diocesan communications visited the Anglican Parish of the Church of the Epiphany, Surrey or ‘Epiphany’ (for short) to experience with the members of that faith community their patronal Sunday.
This has been a very difficult time for the parish, four parishioners had died in the previous 2 weeks and for some, celebrating this feast day was proving difficult. Epiphany is a closely-knit community who are definitely a “parish family,” but they are also an open and welcoming family, demonstrated by their warm reception of dozens of Chaldean Catholics in 2014, many of whom have remained and become members of this Anglican congregation.
During the Children’s Talk, Epiphany’s rector the Reverend Stephen Rowe was accompanied by some younger members of the community and parishioner Carol Williams to the front the crèche located on the east side of the chancel entrance. Rev. Rowe pointed out that the three Magi have now joined the Holy Family in the scene that was assembled on Christmas Eve. He provided some context to their bringing of gifts and the feast day that commemorates The Epiphany. Rev. Rowe finished by saying to the younger ones, “today is the dedicated festival day of our church.”
Before examining the readings for the day in his homily, Rev. Rowe made reference to the recent events in the parish:
“It is no exaggeration to say that it has been a hard ten days for our community. For although we know that death is part of life (as it were), we have had four deaths in quick succession and that isn’t at all easy to deal with. Each of those people: Chrissy Williams, Anne Savenye, Barb Smith and Sandy Moon played a distinctive role in the life of our Church and each of them with be missed by their many friends here. All four were part of what this Cchurch community has been over the years and although Barb and Chrissy had moved on from Epiphany, all leave a gap in our life together. In time we will remember each of these people individually but today we want to thank God for having known them and having been part of our lives. And as we offer our prayer today we remember their lives and especially those they leave behind. We especially want to uphold their family and friends in this time of loss.”
As Rev. Rowe continued his sermon he gave historical and spiritual context to the story of the Magi from Matthew’s gospel and toward the end of his homily he made a connection between the gospel story and the loss experienced by the Epiphany community:
“Though we are sad for the loss of Chrissy, Anne, Barb and Sandy today is a very appropriate occasion to remember them because of their part in the community of the Epiphany. In our lives, like the magi we know deep down that we are on a journey, that we are following a star, our own pathway to Christ and to God. And like the magi (who after all were supposed to be wise men – if that isn’t a contradiction in terms) we have to keep faith, we have to keep following, we have to continue with our journey. Often times we don’t know where exactly it will lead, but make no mistake God intends that we each follow our own path – our path to God.”
The next section of the liturgy was the Renewal of Baptismal vows which was participated in enthusiastically by the congregation which led into the exchange of the Peace and the Eucharist.
Following worship there was very close to 100% participation by the congregation in the luncheon presented in the parish hall. This parish family wanted to spend some time together, to visit, to share stories, to enjoy the laughter of the children echoing in that cavernous room and perhaps to think about the closing words of Rev. Rowe’s Feast of the Epiphany sermon:
“So as we celebrate the life of our Church today let us be clear that God is with us as God is with us all the time in every moment of our lives; the One who promises us joy and prosperity, and salvation. Let us, even in our sadness and grief, still look to the light that comes from God through Christ that we may allow God’s salvation light shine into our hearts.”
- The Reverend Stephen Rowe with Carol Williams and younger parishioners at the crèche.
- Chaldean crèche in the narthex.
- Processing in to “O Come All Ye Faithful.
- The Reverend Len Dyer proclaims the Gospel, Matthew 2: 1-12
- The Reverend Stephen Rowe preaching
- The Renewal of Baptismal Vows
- Eucharistic Prayer
- A great Epiphany outfit
- Lunch time
PHOTOS: Wayne Chose