In January, 1962, five families totaling 11 people met in a private home for the first services of what would become The Church of the Epiphany-Tempe. Four months later, the Bishop of Arizona authorized parish status for the new church, and services moved to a barn in southeast Tempe. The first formal service, in the barn, was held on May 27th, 1962. The barn, located on the Henness/Fancher ranch, was about five miles southeast on Guadalupe Road, about one mile east of McClintock Drive. Don and Dottee Fancher and Louise Henness (Dottee’s mother) were three of the original 11 members.
The large red barn housed the church for the first two years. In 1963, parishioners opened an Episcopal day school about three miles north of the barn in the D. J. Frankenberg Farm House on Price Road. The school site became the new church home in late 1964. The first services were held on the school’s lawn.In 1964, the current education building was completed and served as the church’s main building. Despite a growing population in the area surrounding the parish, the day school was closed in May 1968 due to financial strain.
The 1970s were a period of transition from a conservative, inward-looking congregation of the earlier years to a larger, more diverse family. The Parish had heated arguments over women as acolytes and chalice bearers, and over liturgies. The area surrounding the church also changed from being on the rural fringe of a small town to becoming part of a diverse suburban city. The Church of the Epiphany-Tempe grew to become a center for suburban families.
The staff increased to include a Minister of Education and a Minister of Music. The Sanctuary was completed in 1976 and major improvements were made in 1979. In the 1980s, Tempe continued to grow as did The Church of the Epiphany-Tempe. Never a neighborhood church, The Church of the Epiphany-Tempe draws members from most of the eastern half of the metropolitan area. As national and local concerns focused on the hungry and homeless, The Church of the Epiphany-Tempe decided to shift from “taking care of our own” to taking care of those in need beyond the parish.
Through the 1990s and into the new millennium, the congregation continued to grow along with the East Valley. The need for a larger building became apparent. Our third sanctuary with its adjoining Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament was dedicated on Sunday, May 4th, 2003. With the new sanctuary, a separate nursery building was completed next to the original sanctuary. Additional campus improvements and building modifications were completed in 2008. The Church of the Epiphany-Tempe campus now includes the original, historic Farm House and four modern buildings which frame a much loved courtyard. Located to the south of the Farm House is our Memorial Garden.
Today, The Church of the Epiphany-Tempe continues to grow from the small group of 1960s worshippers seeking shelter from social change to a large, friendly, caring parish, reaching out to our community. We have learned a greater acceptance of God’s diversity of people and ideas. Our diversity is one of the greatest strengths of our parish, along with the recognition that ministry is a shared responsibility of all our members.