Epiphany Chapel & Church House 1918WWl Centennial Chapel
Keeping the Faith
A 500-page Book of Records, History, and Photographs selected from 160 years of church records (including Ellicott’s Chapel, St. Peter’s Parish, Epiphany Chapel & Church House, and Epiphany Episcopal Church) has been published and is available on CD.
National Registry Historic Site
Almost 100 years ago, 500,000 young men and women were trampling about on acres of former farmland and orchards that comprised a new military camp built during World War I. They had enlisted into the United States Army and were now undergoing training as soldiers serving in three infantry divisions. All of these young soldiers knew they would soon be shipping out to Europe to join the British and the French in the trenches of the western front. At the same time, there were faithful church men and women in Maryland, Pennsylvania and nearby Washington DC who became very much aware of the influx of these soldiers and of their social and spiritual needs. They therefore set about creating a place to welcome them and their families, providing a home-away-from-home to provide spiritual enrichment in preparation for life’s hard circumstances. Together they built and the staffed a cottage church called Epiphany Chapel and Church House located near the train station and just outside the grounds of Camp Meade.
A young priest from Maryland, Taggart Steele, rallied the community and with the support of Bishop John Murray, spear-headed the mission with financial help from two women from Washington D.C. and operating funds from the diocese. The people who built this chapel and mission had a vision. It was to be a home-away-from-home for all people. It was to be inclusive by design. It was available to all: Catholics, Protestants of all denominations, and Jews. And when racial segregation was the norm in American society, it welcomed people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. At the dedication of the Chapel in 1918, General Nicholson, the Camp Commander assured the Rt. Rev. John Murray, Bishop of Maryland and later Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, “You could not have done a better thing. Any [person] in the Camp shall be free to visit you on Sundays; and your workers will be welcome amongst us.”
This commitment of inclusiveness, established at the beginning of Epiphany’s ministry, must have embedded itself in the very structure of the church. It must have found itself in the walls, the ceilings, the floors where it could remain dormant until called forth once again by the present congregation, its Senior Warden, Jim Conboy, who has been part of the congregation since 1923, and its Rector, The Rev. Phebe L. McPherson.
Today, when the doors of Epiphany Church are opened, once again, a genuine and rich mixture of people can be seen. The People of Epiphany Church have reestablished the Epiphany Church community. They have built a congregation from 30 people to 300 people. They have completed three building projects to the tune of $3,000,000. Together they continue the mission — to make a home-away-from-home for others. These are some of the ways they have done this: securing the release and providing a new home (and life) for a woman incarcerated for twenty years; building a child care center for the community; giving up their own home for 14 months (having to gather in a warehouse) while completing the restoration of the church’s interior; providing leadership for a regional shelter for the homeless; creating a social history museum and a peace garden to honor chaplains of all faiths; providing support for soldiers away from home and those hospitalized at Walter Reed; ongoing support for other local social organizations, providing children from a near-by elementary school with a back-to-school camp, enduring huge legal fees to advocate for excellent child care; opening up the church to the community for a weekly Saturday night coffee house with live music; enriching the congregation with retired clergy who have called Epiphany home — Jim Hammond, Jack Malpas, Mike Coram, Edmund Ilogu, Carl Harris, Barney Farnham, and Dick Landis; and all the while, the leadership of this congregation has been intentionally creating a multiracial congregation whose membership and leadership provide an embodied vision of God’s home-away-from-home for all God’s people.
As in the early days of the chapel, this congregation has not done this alone, but has called upon the larger community to catch God’s vision. When we celebrate these accomplishments we give thanks for all those who have joined the infantry ranks: the Middendorf Foundation, the Middendorf Fund, the Maryland Archives, the Diocesan Grants Committee, St. Stephen’s Church, St. Margaret’s Church, the Maryland Historical Trust, Kiplinger’s Foundation, the TKF Foundation, The France-Merrick Foundation, The Arrowsmith Fund, the Maryland Transportation Administration, the State of Maryland Preservation Funds, the Office of the Army Chief of Chaplains, the Ft. Meade Museum, members of the congregation and many generous friends. Trusting in God, this house called Epiphany will continue for many years as a home-away-from- home for all God’s people.
The original project in 1918 was supported by members of the Church War Commission from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington and by two women from Washington, D.C. who gave $11,000 for its construction. A young architect from Baltimore gave the design, gratis. Clergy staff, under the leadership of a young and dynamic chaplain, the Rev. S. Tagart Steele, Jr., was pulled together. The operation was up and running in 60 days. Enlisting young soldiers were welcomed with worship services, dinners, dances and counseling. Family members were invited to spend the night in the accommodations on the second floor, to spend time together and to say “good-bye.”
Tradition tells the story about a deacon, St. Laurence (d. 258), who in response to a command from the prefect of Rome to deliver up the church’s treasure, assembled thousands of ordinary people — the poor, children, widows, orphans, rich and poor, and presented them to the prefect saying, “These are the treasure of the Church.” Today, the preservation of Epiphany Chapel and Church House and the establishment of The Chaplains’ Peace Garden is just such an offering—an acknowledgment and tribute to the ordinary men and women who gave all they had for the well-being, safety, and freedom of others.
These are the extra-ordinary treasure of Epiphany Chapel and Church House.
The Epiphany Church Cemetery
The property for the cemetery was purchased in 1925. Additional land was donated in the 1950’s. The cemetery was expanded in 2003 and the sale of graves continues. The Constitution and By Laws of Epiphany Cemetery were last updated in 2014. A memorial Garden for the interment of cremains is currently in the planning stages. Three trustees, appointed by the Vestry, manage the cemetery’s operations.
LOCATION 1419 Odenton Road Odenton MD 21113
All Are Welcome!