From the Interim Rector - April 2022
Eight weeks! That’s all we have left. The journey we began over three years ago is coming to completion. On May 31st I will turn over the keys of the church to our landlord for the last three years, Weill Cornell Medical College and the next chapter, literally, in Epiphany’s 189-year journey of faith, ministry and service to the larger community will begin. However, between now and then there is an immense amount of work and ministry left for us to do. Moving to 351 East 74th Street is certainly one of the major things we will accomplish over the coming 8 weeks, but there is so much more than just moving the church, the school, the Wednesday Night Dinner Program and the Carter Burden Senior Lunch Program, as complicated and multi-layered as that is.
This Sunday will be the last Sunday of Lent. The following week Mo. Elise will wrap up the Lenten Study she has been leading. On Sunday, April 10th we begin our journey from Palm Sunday, through Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to Easter. During the course of the Great Fifty Days of Easter Bishop Dietsche will be with us on Thursday, May 12th at 7:30 pm for the Liturgy of Secularization as the building that has been sacred space in this neighborhood and in the hearts of our parishioners for the last 83 years will be deconsecrated. And, 10 weeks later, on June 5th at 4:30 pm, he will return to be with us as we celebrate Pentecost and he consecrates 351 East 74th Street as sacred space, a “house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17) and Epiphany’s sixth home since its founding in 1833. During those 10 weeks between the Deconsecration and Consecration, the worshipping life of the parish will continue with its normal Sunday schedule. The Celebration of Holy Communion is sacramental whether the space being used is consecrated or not.
As we approach these next weeks there are several variables that make it impossible to say when we will begin worshipping and living into our new home. Shawmut is leading a full court press with all the contractors to allow us to receive a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) by the end of April. However, there are two factors outside of Shawmut’s or Epiphany’s control that could push that date into May. First, we must receive a permit from the FDNY certifying that our fire alarm and fire suppression systems are fully operational. From what I have been told, the FDNY is notoriously slow in providing these permits. We have engaged Walter Gorman Consulting Engineers to help us expedite this process. This firm is one of the top firms in the city and has years of experience working with the FDNY to secure permits for their clients. They have been consulting with our architects and construction manager for weeks now to make sure we identify and respond to any potential problems before the FDNY does their inspection. Second, the Department of Buildings and the Department of Health also can be slow in their permitting process, especially since we have been living with Covid for the last 2+ years. Once FDNY, the DOB and the DOH have approved our occupancy of the building, we will move forthwith – except for the Day School which will not move until after the end of the term on May 20th.
As we see the journey we have taken over the last 3+ years coming to a end, a new journey awaits us. One of the constant Biblical metaphors that I and others have used during our journey to our new home is the account of the Israelites on their 40-year journey to the land promised by God to their forebears. After they had come into this promised land, Joshua, now “old and well advanced in years”, gathered the Israelites at Shechem and gave one final admonition. It’s found in Joshua 24 if you’d like to read the entire account. There the aged Joshua says: “Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” When you, the Church of the Epiphany, said yes to God and sold one building to buy a renovate a larger building, you declared by that action that this parish is dedicated to serving the Lord. So you have done throughout your history. On the Day of Pentecost when the Bishop stands before you and together we consecrate our new house of prayer, we will be affirming what the Israelite affirmed long ago, and what the benefactors and forebears of the Church of the Epiphany affirmed again and again over the last 189 years. You will affirm and declare once more, “As for us and this parish, we will serve the Lord.” No matter where that journey takes us. No matter where that journey takes you.