Epiphany UCC traces its roots to a strain of German Lutheranism that was brought to the United States by German immigrants at the turn of the 19th century. In 1894 Reverend William Grotefeld began working for the German Evangelical Mission on the Northwest side of Chicago. Thousands of German speaking immigrants had moved to the neighborhoods now known as Ravenswood, Roscoe Village and North Center.
Drawing on the energy of these new Americans a church named Epiphany was organized and began holding services and Sunday school classes in a store front at 3340 North Leavitt. The first members of this tiny church were Ferdinand Brabandt and R. Waller.
Church Council, circa 1931
After the work was begun Rev. Paul Brauns became Epiphany's first official pastor. Under his efficient ministry the congregation was organized and incorporated as the German Evangelical Lutheran Epiphany Church.
In 1895 a wooden frame church was built on the corner of Roscoe Street and Claremont Avenue. Epiphany was denominationally affiliated with the German Evangelical Synod of North America. This denomination was a non-hierarchical German Lutheran organization which provided its congregations with a great deal of local autonomy. As a mission church the congregation was supported by the Synod for the first five years of its existence
Sunday School Teachers, circa 1931
In 1900 Rev. Brauns accepted a call at a church in Peru, IL. On July 15th of the same year Rev. C.F. Weiss became Epiphanys second pastor. During his twenty-two years the church underwent many changes. In 1908 the church the building at Roscoe and Claremont was sold for $6,300 and a new building site at Bradley and Damen was purchased for $3,700. The basement of the church was built in 1909.
For the next 32 years the growing congregation worshipped in the church basement. In 1922 Rev. Weiss died. In 1923 Rev. M.C. Hoefer came to Epiphany. Under Rev. Hoefers pastorate work was begun to complete the new church building. In 1929 Rec. Hoefer moved to South Bend Indiana and Epiphany called its fourth minister, Rev. Harry Brueckner. Rev. Brueckner served Epiphany for many, many years until retiring in 1964. Many of our current members remember his ministry fondly.
At the height of the great depression and at a great deal of financial sacrifice on behalf of its members Epiphany raised enough money to complete its second building. The sanctuary and church offices were dedicated in 1931.
The Fraenverein circa 1931 This was the German speaking womens guild. It was a force in Epiphany life from the churchs inception until the late 1940s
During Rev. Brueckners pastorate the church grew at a rapid rate. Many of the founding generation had children who remained in the neighborhood and the church swelled in size. It was not unusual to break out folding chairs to accommodate the overflow. In the mid 1950s a Sunday School wing was added to the building. Another significant event in the life of our church dating back to the 1950s was our decision to join the United Church of Christ. Along with thousands of other congregations that had been members of the German Evangelical and Reformed Synod we joined hands with the Congregational Christian denomination to form our country's newest Protestant denomination.
Since Rev. Brueckners departure in the mid 1960's Epiphany has undergone many significant changes. Our numbers have fallen off and risen again. We have been served by a number of talented and faithful pastors including Rev.John Mueller, Rev. Wally Gerth, Rev. Randall Doubet-King, Rev. Evan Farrar, Rev. Matt Fitzgerald, Rev. Frank Rogers and now Rev. Kevin McLemore. As of 2014, the congregation consists of around 200 active members, with almost 40% of them under 18 years old.
During these years our Lutheran ties faded somewhat as the church grew to adopt a more inclusive and broadly protestant theology. In the mid 1980s we became home to the Common Pantry, Chicagos oldest emergency food supply. In 2001 we became the 364th congregation in the United Church of Christ to declare itself officially open to and affirming of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and trans-gendered Christians.
Throughout all these many changes Epiphany has worked to remain faithful to the Gospel while trying to meet the needs of our neighborhood. We are proud of our church's past and look forward to a faithful and bright future.
Members and friends of Epiphany gather to celebrate the setting of the cornerstone of our current building in 1909. The parsonage and basement were completed in 1910 but the actual sanctuary wasn't completed until 20 years later, at the start of the Great Depression.