A Brief History, 1872–2009
On January 7, 1872, during the season of Epiphany, Mrs. Stephen Cable organized a Sunday school in the parlor of her home at 475 Franklin Turnpike, assisted by her daughter, Mrs. James Reading. A previous owner’s Sunday school books, discovered in the attic, inspired Mrs. Cable to form an Episcopal mission that became the Church of the Epiphany, Allendale’s oldest parish.
The first services were held by the Reverend Leigh R. Dickinson, Rector of Christ Church, Ridgewood. Growing to represent a missionary field of thirty-six square miles, the Protestant Episcopal Mission of the Epiphany moved from houses to barns and, by 1876, to the newly built Hope Chapel, affectionately called “Chapel in the Willows.” Ample memorials provided the new church with organ music, a church bell, stained-glass windows, and altar furniture.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many New Yorkers vacationed in Allendale because of its reputation as a summer resort. Epiphany sponsored many luncheons, garden parties, and fairs for these summer visitors, who, in turn, contributed to covering the expenses of the church.
By 1902, the mission, having moved the chapel down Franklin Turnpike to Orchard Place, recognized an urgent need for more space for Sunday school and mission organizations. A parish house was added to accommodate Epiphany’s 236 baptized members and Sunday school of 90 children. “The Franklin Club,” a social and bowling organization, was a tenant of the building and helped to finance the mission. During this period, a mission was organized to serve Ramsey, and, in 1906, St. John’s opened its doors.
The Church of the Epiphany became a full-fledged parish in 1958, but again it had outgrown its facilities. The congregation bought a ten-acre tract of land on West Crescent Avenue and a new brick Church of the Epiphany, now the Allendale Borough Hall, was completed and dedicated in 1965 on the Sunday after Easter. After building a new rectory on George Street, the congregation’s membership dwindled, due partially to the borough’s burgeoning growth that encouraged the building of competitive churches. The resulting financial difficulties caused Epiphany to sell the large brick building to Allendale and to build a smaller church at 55 George Street in 1979.
The 1980s and early 1990s were a challenging time for Epiphany. Membership dwindled to about 150, and it was discovered that a new rector was embezzling church funds—nearly all of which were eventually returned. Under inspired leadership, Church of the Epiphany not only survived these difficulties, but also was revitalized to the extent that it was named “Church of the Year” in 1994 by the Episcopal Diocese of Newark.
With the assistance of a diocesan grant, solar panels were added to the church in 2006 that make Epiphany the “green” church in its area. The panels give electricity back to the surrounding community, and help the church fulfill a mission of conserving God’s creation.
The year 2009 found Epiphany in the process of welcoming the presence of God’s spirit with hope and renewed confidence by enthusiastically joining with the parish of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Midland Park. This new endeavor arose from a joyful desire to share God’s blessings and the certainty that the love of Christ for all of us is abundant beyond our understanding.