Rev. Jennifer Reddall, rector of the Church of the Epiphany on York Avenue. Photo courtesy of the Church of the Epiphany
To grasp how dramatically the finances of the Church of the Epiphany have changed in modern times, says the Rev. Jennifer Reddall, examine the names on the wall of its long-ago donors.
Among the inscribed plutocrats are Mellons and Rhinelanders, Cornings and Livingstons, Pynes and De Peysters — plus household names like J. Pierpont Morgan and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“None of those families come to my church,” she says. “We no longer are a community of inherited wealth. Instead, we have many of those who work hard, but are cash poor, and so we need to find alternative sources of income beyond the parishioner-giving that traditionally paid for the church.”
Now Reddall, who is rector of the Episcopal church, and its lay leadership, have done precisely that.
Epiphany is under contract to sell its 79-year-old house of worship to Weill Cornell Medicine – and with the anticipated proceeds from the medical school, it is also under contract to buy Jan Hus Presbyterian Church, which sits a block away on East 74th Street.
It isn’t just the church that has reached an inflection point in its pastoral life: So has Reddall, who arrived at Epiphany in 2003 as associate rector, became priest in charge in 2011 and was called as rector in 2014.
The 43-year-old California native was elected as the sixth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona at its diocesan convention on Oct. 20, and when she is ordained and consecrated in Phoenix next March, she will become the first woman elected bishop in the state’s history.
She’ll also take her place as the youngest member of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, which has 300 active members and is one of the two houses that forms the governing body of the church in America.
Dec. 25 will mark the last time she presides over her congregation at 1393 York Avenue when she conducts a “Blue Christmas” service at 10 a.m. “It is aimed at those for whom the holidays are sad, lonely or complicated,” she said.
In her 15 years of service, Reddall guided the expansion of the church day school, whose enrollment soared from 23 children to 70, and oversaw or initiated a range of homeless, social justice, medical and neighborhood outreach programs.
She supervised a staff of 22 employees, including teachers, ministered to a growing parish and school with a modest budget of $1.9 million, raised $600,000 for capital projects and increased pledged giving by 27 percent.
And on her watch, the church, which had few children when she first arrived, became remarkably diverse in terms of race and age.
“Newcomers would sometimes tell me they liked the church, but they needed to find a place where their children could find community,” the rector said. “Now, families join the church because of our children’s programs — Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, choirs, our youth group, and of course, the Day School. And those families are a virtual United Nations of race and ethnicity.”
As for the move down 74th Street, she says, it will ensure the continued growth of parish, worship, programs and ministry:
“Without it, it is likely the Epiphany community would not have been able to continue to thrive,” Reddall adds. “We’ve been a parish for 185 years, and moved five times. Our sixth move will ensure that we have a sustainable future – for the next 100-plus years.”