Mission & History

Mission Statement

The Church of the Epiphany is a diverse Episcopal community in downtown DC. We work toward Christ-centered transformation in our hearts and the world by seeking justice, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. We manifest God’s love primarily through our service to the poor and through the gift of music.

Parish History

In honor of Epiphany’s 175th Anniversary, we chronicled 365 people and events, one per day, that form a tapestry of our past and help to tell the story of who we are today. Learn their stories and more Epiphany history here as we celebrate 175 years, with many more to come.

  • January 6, 1842 – Organizing meeting held
  • January 23, 1842 – First service held
  • August 14, 1843 – Cornerstone laid
  • May 1844 – Parish status achieved
  • June 3, 1852 – Church building consecrated
  • 1857 – Transepts, chancel, and tower added
  • December 1858 – Epiphany Church Home to help the sick and the poor opened
  • March 6, 1862 – President Lincoln attended the funeral of General Frederick Lander at Epiphany
  • July-December 1862 – Church used as a hospital for Union troops
  • February 1877 – First issue of the Parish Guide
  • March 1880 – Epiphany Chapel in SW Washington opened
  • April 1884 – Lenthall Home for Widows opened
  • January 8, 1885 – Rector William Paret consecrated Bishop of Maryland here
  • November 17, 1891 – Bishop Phillips Brooks preached to overflow congregation at opening session of Church Congress
  • Spring 1893 – Epiphany’s choir becomes first mixed vested choir in the city
  • 1893 – Endowment Fund began
  • May 1895 – Maryland Diocesan Convention meeting here created new Diocese of Washington
  • Palm Sunday 1896 – Bishop Satterlee confirms 50 candidates here as his first official act
  • 1897 – Episcopal Eye, Ear, & Throat Hospital (later named Washington Hospital Center) began, largely funded by Epiphany
  • 1898 – General Convention of the ECUSA met here
  • 1901 – Memorial Services held for President McKinley and Queen Victoria
  • January 26, 1905 – John J. Pershing and Helen Warren married here
  • 1911 – Parish House dedicated
  • September 29, 1923 – Rector James Freeman consecrated Bishop of Washington here
  • March 4, 1925 – Epiphany’s bells rang for the inauguration of President Coolidge (and for every president since)
  • 1942 – President Roosevelt attended Christmas service
  • 1942-45 – Armed Forces Canteen and Wartime Prayer Center
  • February 11, 1945 – Phillips Chapel dedicated
  • 1959 – Beatrice Aitchison became first woman elected to the vestry
  • 1967-68 – Renovation of church included air conditioning and extension of sanctuary area into nave
  • March 3, 1968 – Epiphany’s fifth (and current) organ dedicated
  • 1976 – Blessing of Metro Center Metro Station
  • 1976, 90, 92 – Diocesan Episcopal elections held here
  • 1987 – Concert of Remembrance for those who died of AIDS
  • 1991 – Parishioner Pamela Chinnis becomes the third person from Epiphany and first woman to become President of the House of Deputies
  • 1994 – Stand for Children service
  • 1995 – Welcome Table outreach ministry began


Since Epiphany was founded in 1842, music has played a vital role in the life of the parish. Today, Epiphany has fine musical instruments frequently used in both concert and worship.

The Steinway D nine-foot concert grand piano

The Steinway D 9’ concert grand piano was a gift to the church in 1984, in memory of parishioner and vestry member Betty Shinkman. It is used frequently in both worship and the Tuesday Concert Series. In addition, a 1916 Steinway 5’7” baby grand is located in the second-floor Choir Room.

Epiphany’s grand 64-rank, 3,467-pipe Æolian-Skinner pipe organ

Dr. Jinsun Cho plays A Festive Voluntary on our Aeolian-Skinner organ.

Dr. Jinsun Cho plays Bach’s Toccata in C BWV 564.

Epiphany’s grand 64-rank, 3,467-pipe Æolian-Skinner pipe organ, one of the last instruments of the Æolian-Skinner Organ Company of Boston, Massachusetts, was installed in 1968 and has recently been restored by the Di Gennaro-Hart Co. of Washington, D.C. It was originally given in memory of Adolf Torovsky, Epiphany’s organist and choirmaster for nearly fifty years, and it replaced the Ernest M. Skinner Organ Co. instrument of 1911. However, pipes from the Roosevelt (1874) and the Skinner (1911) instruments were incorporated into the current instrument. Notable Music Directors at Epiphany in the recent past have included: Garnell Copeland (1966–1977), in whose memory the Trompette-en-Chamade (1978) was given (Epiphany remains the only organ to contain two en-chamade reed stops in the D.C. metro area), Charles Callahan (1977–1986), James Buonamani (prior to his move to St. James Episcopal Church, Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles), Eric Plutz (1995–2005), now Organist at Princeton University, and Christian Clough (2005-2011). The organ’s curator is Bard Wickkeiser, curator of the organs in Washington National Cathedral and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

To view the specifications of Epiphany’s pipe organ, please click here.

Anton Skrabl Continuo Organ

The Church of the Epiphany is pleased to allow the use of this instrument in situ or outside by individuals, business and musical groups. The organ has 3 stops; 8’, 4’ and 2’. It is transposable up and down a half step from A440. The casework is of oak. The manual keys have plum naturals and ebony sharps. Its use is at the discretion of the Director of Music and the cost of hire is $350 for a period of up to four days, plus $50 for each additional day. For additional information and rental policy details for this organ, please see our booking form.

Skrabl CHAMBER ORGAN Booking form 2022.11a

Tower Chimes

The original Epiphany tower, built in 1857, contained a single bell. However, during the Civil War, it was removed and melted down for its metal. A new tower built in 1922 allowed for a chime of bells to be placed there as a tribute to the seventh rector, Dr. Randolph Harrison McKim. These were the first true set of church bells in the city of Washington and contain 15 bells made by Meneely & Company of Watervliet, New York. The largest bell is the only one with an inscription: “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth Peace, Good Will Toward Men”. The bells have been rung for the inauguration of every president from Calvin Coolidge onward. After President Truman’s inauguration in 1949 and President Eisenhower’s in 1953 and 1957, a recording of the bells was featured on national radio. Today, the bells ring on a regular basis chiming the quarter hours and hymn-based peals on Sunday mornings and weekdays at noon.