From the Interim Rector:
Here’s something I don’t think all of us know about our new home. Barbra Streisand, Robin Williams, and Jerry Seinfeld all preformed in the Jan Hus Playhouse Theater, as the parish hall was once known. Last week Franny Eberhart, the President of Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts dropped off a book about the important immigrant history of Yorkville that the Friends had published. There, on page 44, is a picture of our new home and a brief history of what is the “oldest Czech Presbyterian congregation in the country” that features a “tower ‘that hark[s] back to Prague,’ embracing the cultural roots of its congregation.” And the reference to Streisand, Williams and Seinfeld. While the Church of the Epiphany is the older of the two congregations, having been established in 1833, 55 years before the First Evangelical Bohemian Presbyterian Church, as Jan Hus was originally known, the roots of that congregation and of that building go much deeper into our neighborhood than our own, as respectable and historic as they are. I mention this because your Vestry leadership and I have been engaged in a number of conversations with a variety of community stakeholders in how this Episcopal congregation will honor this Bohemian legacy for the generations to come. Our consistent answer and our unwavering commitment is to bring the façade of “This Old House [of Worship]” back to its 19th century glory. Fortunately, all the pieces are there to do that very thing. It’s just a matter of doing an historically sensitive face-lift. The only notable change to the facade will be the stairs, which all agree are too steep, too treacherous, and too formidable for our 21st century way of life. So, new stairs, incorporating all the original stonework, have been designed and will be in place before we move in in 2021.
I would like to think that perhaps one day, if Ms. Streisand or Mr. Seinfeld happen to be walking down East 74th Street and they pass their old playhouse, they will not only remember their early performances there, but will be pleased to see that a part of their life has a new lease on life. And, if the late Robin Williams happens to glance our way, that he too will be pleased to know that this part of his life on earth has not been forgotten. All because you, the Church of the Epiphany, a church on the move for 186 years, is still on the move—moving forward by God’s grace into all that God has yet in store for a people courageous enough to follow wherever he leads.