Epiphany, Decatur, GA (Exterior)

Epiphany, Decatur, Georgia, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Epiphany
Location: Decatur, Georgia, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 23 July 2017, 11:15am

The building

The parish was formed in 1898 and first met in a small stone chapel. The present building is its third, dating from 1957. It has been expanded several times in the ensuing years. It's an attractive rustic looking brick building with adjoining classroom and parish hall wings. I was amused to see a schedule of upcoming events posted on, of all places, the towel dispenser in the rest room!

The church

There appears to be a wide range of people who attend here: toddlers up to grandparents. They seem to make a special outreach to newcomers, sponsoring an adult education class especially for newcomers and holding "newcomers' desserts" at the rector's house, where (quoting from their website) "parishioners join clergy and the vestry of our parish in conversation about Epiphany, its programs, and ways to get involved." They have Christian formation classes for children, youth and adults; an art gallery that features exhibits by up and coming artists; an Earth Guild that sponsors a variety of conservation programs; and a number of ministries to help the homeless and others in need. There also appears to be an emphasis on pilgrimage and its associated inner reflections, along with many activities that revolve around families and their children. There are two Sunday eucharists that include nursery service and children's chapel, and either noonday prayer or the eucharist on various weekdays.

The neighborhood

Decatur is an independent city within the Atlanta metropolitan area, encompassing the northeastern and southeastern neighborhoods of Atlanta. It is a rather trendy, progressive city with a small town feel. The church address is on Ponce de Leon, but the driveway to the church is on the perpendicular road, East Lake Road. In the early morning the area has a fair amount of traffic but is still relatively quiet. The church sits on a corner lot, nicely wooded and serene. The grounds impart a sense of well-being with nature, and the building's brick facade blends nicely into its setting.

The cast

The Revd Benno D. Pattison, rector. Others were not named.

What was the name of the service?

Holy Eucharist.

How full was the building?

Slightly less than half full. According to one member, the earlier service is attended well during summer.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

I was welcomed by several people. The rector warmly shook my hand when I entered the building. Several ladies spoke to me directly and specifically made a point of welcoming me, asking if I was visiting and if I had any questions for them.

Was your pew comfortable?

Wooden pew – comfortable, with the correct angle of the backrest! Blue fabric kneeling pads.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Quiet but with a happy vibe. The church is warmly lit with the "just-right" amount of brightness.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Our lesson for today focuses on the parable of the mustard seed ... oh no, wait a minute, that's the lesson for another sermon!" [Lots of chuckling.] The rector then transitioned to today's story from Genesis that he used as his focal point.

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Service bulletin, 1979 Book of Common Prayer, Hymnal 1982.

What musical instruments were played?

Organ – beautifully played! What a marvelous instrument! It is a tracker organ, opus 54 of the Bedient Pipe Organ Company of Lincoln, Nebraska, dating from 1997. It was revoiced in 2013 by Robert I. Coulter Organbuilders of Atlanta. The tempo of several of the service hymns was faster than ours at home, and that mirrored the upbeat tone of the entire service.

Did anything distract you?

Honestly, I was confused by mention of the mustard seed parable, and then suddenly segueing into the story from Genesis of Jacob and his pillow of rock (Genesis 28:10-22). And then came the gospel parable about the sower who scattered his seed on rocky ground. So I was a bit confused and it took several minutes to re-orient myself to the theme of the sermon being God is with us in our community.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Their website states: "We honor the traditions of Anglican worship through our music, sung liturgy, and the occasional use of incense." The website also says that the exchange of peace is "a joyful, sometimes boisterous time of everyone saying hello to one another." I found the service to be warm and personable. People's names were used throughout. Lots of laughter, anecdotes involving parishioners.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

15 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

10 – Once he got straight what it was he was preaching on, the rector delivered a clear, straightforward sermon.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

How do we know that God is here? It is not about the place, but about community and relationships. God is the rock – we rest our heads on him. We are to engage and be involved in the work of building the community.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

I enjoyed many parts: the music was chosen well, the sermon was well delivered, and the people seemed friendly. Lots of discussion on pilgrimage, which has been on my mind a lot lately.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

I missed the phrase that I hear in my home church before communion that welcomes us all, whether we are there often, rarely, in need, and for all of us who have fallen short.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

Several people greeted me as I read through the flyers on the bulletin board, and a lady named Anne specifically asked me to join her for breakfast in the parish hall. I sat with a group for a quick bite before heading out. I felt at ease and laughed a lot ... nice!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

The breakfast was provided by the Young Adults group. There was a nice selection of breakfast casseroles, fruit, donuts, and coffee cake. Lots of coffee available from a dispenser.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

9 – I think there is a sense of openness and a desire to grow.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Absolutely. The service was a joyful and affirming event.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The warmth and laughter.

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