Christ the King-Epiphany Church began as two separate parishes with very similar backgrounds. Christ the King Lutheran Church (CTK) and the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany (COE), both started as mission churches in the town of Wilbraham in the 1950’s. CTK met in the Grange building, while COE used the old Wilbraham United Church.
As their numbers grew, they decided it was time to construct their own church buildings. In 1961, COE decided on a wooded, 20 acre site at the end of Highland Avenue. CTK, in 1969, laid a new church building foundation at 758 Main Street. As their congregations continued to increase in size, both made additions to their buildings.
The parishes flourished and had deep commitments to outreach ministries, locally and in the wider world. They enjoyed worshiping together, praying for each other, celebrating and mourning together, and being in fellowship. It was good (mostly).
Fast forward to 2010. At CTK, Pastor Karen Safstrom was serving as Transition Pastor, as the Profile Committee was preparing for a call for a new pastor. In September, 2011, Pastor Nathaniel Anderson, fresh from Seminary, began serving at CTK. At COE, Reverend Meredyth Ward was Priest-in-Charge, serving under a four year agreement.
In 2012, according to the Pastor’s report at the 2013 CTK annual meeting, “This year also saw us explore new ways of partnering with our Episcopal full-communion partners at Church of the Epiphany”. He mentioned a joint worship service and children’s event and the commonalities they shared. He wrote, “I look forward to seeing where God will call us to work together in the future.” Little did he know that, in that same month, COE was forming a Profile Committee in preparation of their search for a new Rector, that might have an impact on him.
As COE was getting ready to release their profile, they were approached by the Bishop with the idea of, instead of calling a new full-time priest, they considered sharing Pastor Anderson with CTK. This began a series of meetings at both churches. Did CTK want to share their Pastor? Did COE want a Lutheran pastor, and part-time at that? Finally it was decided to give it a try. Pastor Anderson would serve at 9:00 a.m. at COE and then drive the three miles to CTK for a 10:30 a.m. service.
This wasn’t ideal, for a number of reasons, and changes were made. Some Sundays would be at CTK and others at COE. As the partnership grew, and it was decided that we would officially combine our two churches into one, a decision needed to be made about which church building would become our permanent home. This was probably the most difficult decision to be made. Extensive research was done on the viability of both buildings, with much discussion and prayer, as well. Finally, it was decided that the COE church building and rectory would be sold.
Then, Pastor Nathaniel announced in January of 2018 that he was leaving to accept another call. It was a surprising and saddening development in our journey. We were fortunate, however, to be able to call Pastor Karen Safstrom back to lead us as Transitional Pastor/Priest-in-Charge. It was written in the 2018 Senior Warden’s report, “In the journey of calling Rev. Karen, we also learned things about ourselves. Among them is our desire to listen and hear each other, work towards understanding our different traditions, and reach consensus. We prayed for and with each other.” One of the important decisions left to be made was a name for our combined church. After input from the parish, we chose to combine our two names-Christ the King-Epiphany Church.
Throughout 2019, Pastor Karen was challenged with getting us through all the legal details required to become “official”. During this time she continued to be a wonderful pastor. In January 2020, she led our celebration, as Christ the King-Epiphany Church, by unanimous vote, became Federated. One of her many achievements prior to the sale of the church was the successful transfer of Epiphany’s Columbarium Garden to the Woodland Dell Cemetery in Wilbraham
Sadly, Pastor Karen Safstrom passed away suddenly in June, 2020. We have comforted each other in our grief, as we look to the future to see where the Holy Spirit will lead us next.
We have been blessed since June of 2020 to have Deacon Patricia O’Connell and our Bridge Pastor, Reverend Barbara Thrall, leading our worship and providing pastoral care.