Jan. 6, 2017 | Chris Goudreau
WILBRAHAM – The congregations of the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany and Christ the King Lutheran Church will officially join together to become one in the near future.
Rev. Nathaniel Anderson, priest-in-charge for the Episcopal Church and pastor of Christ the King, told Reminder Publications for the past two and a half years he’s led both churches.
During that time, the two congregations have worshiped together on Sundays, completed social ministry with one another, helped raise money for the homeless, hosted feeding programs and concerts and have had joint Christian education, Anderson.
“Really anything that the church does we’ve been doing together the last two and a half years, which is a really positive experience,” he added.
Anderson said before he started as pastor for both churches, they were independent of one another.
“Over time, we realized that things are better; things are more fun [and] more successful when we do them together,” he explained. “And so it’s been really fun to see that happen. We’re still a little ways off from being officially sort of a combined congregation. There’s a little paperwork and a lot of little details that go into that. We haven’t decided if or how we might consolidate property to have one building where we would primarily be.”
He added longtime members of both congregations are embracing the change.
“All of a sudden things are much different and there’s new people and people are really embracing that and celebrating that in a lot of different ways,” he noted.
Christ the King recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, while the Episcopal Church is about 58 years old, Anderson said.
“They actually started around the same time – Wilbraham was really growing rapidly in the 1950s and 1960s and there was a thought that it was really going to boom and needed more churches,” he explained. “And that’s why these two denominations started churches at that point. But it’s interesting – the same day that Christ the King dedicated their building was the same day that Epiphany dedicated their new worship space, they had a big addition … It was the same exact day in the 1970s, I think.”
Episcopal Bishop Rt. Rev. Douglas Fisher is also set to preach and preside at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, 20 Highland Ave., on Jan. 8 at 10 a.m.
Fisher visits all of more than 55 congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts once every two years. During the event, Fisher will perform two baptisms and one confirmation.
“Bishop Fisher has been a truly wonderful partner in our work and both he and Bishop Hazelwood, our Lutheran Bishop, have given us incredible support and encouragement,” Anderson said. “I think some of us worried that we might become ‘less Lutheran’ or ‘less Episcopalian,’ but we are blessed by the rich diversity of both traditions. We’re also learning more about our own denominational identities.
Donna Fountain, a longtime member of Epiphany said she is excited at the prospect of the Bishop’s visit.
“I looked up the word ‘awesomeness’ in the dictionary and the definition is ‘inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence and admiration,’ she noted. “This is truly how I feel when I’m in the presence of the Bishop.”
Following the service at Epiphany, there will be an informal reception in which Fisher will visit with members of the parish, according to the church. Visitors are welcome during the worship and reception.