The true story of a church lies not only in recounting its statistics: date of construction, number of members, and the names of its rectors. The church is an outward and visible container for the spiritual yearnings and inner striving of the members of its congregation. It is a structure where both believers and doubters and the faithful and questioning can come to be among others, in fellowship, who are seeking to discover what it means to lead a thoughtful, compassionate, caring spiritual life.
Although the inner striving of the early members of the Church of the Epiphany have not been recorded, it is obvious from what is known about the church since its inception that its story has been one of struggle, devotion, and persistence through both good times and bad.
A small number of families who had begun meeting for worship services in Dumont Hall in Trumansburg in 1870 achieved the status of a parish and the formal Church of the Epiphany was born in January 1871 with the Rev. Thomas Lyman Randolph as its rector. By 1873 the wood frame chapel building which is now used as the church was built on land given by Henry Barto who also gave the church the Gerald Tremain House to be used as a rectory. Having built their first church, the congregation yearned to erect a fine stone edifice, which was made possible through a $9,000 legacy from John Carr and later augmented by the generosity of Mr. Barto. The cornerstone of the new structure was laid on the 17th day of September 1874. The new building was beautiful, but unfortunately it was erected upon inadequate foundations and with poor masonry.
By the end of the 1920s the physical condition of the church edifice became critical. However, in spite of its financial problems and the decaying physical plant, the church seems to have experienced a period of growth in membership and spiritual and social activity from 1920 through most of the 1930s. It was obvious that much of the financial problems of the church could be associated with the general economic condition of the country, which grew increasingly worse during the last of the 1920s and the early 1930s. The largest pledge in 1930 was $25.00, not an insignificant amount considering one could feed a family of six on $40.00 a month if one didn’t have a garden.
In December 1944, the first official action was started to dismantle the stone church. In 1945 it was decided to sell the stone from the building to Cornell University and use the proceeds to provide a suitable building for worship services. These were trying days for the small group of persons who voted to renovate the existing chapel and construct an addition to it. The chapel was restored by 1951 and regular services were able to be held there where they have been through the present day.
The small but lovely church and its property are today beautifully maintained, and provide a faithful home for soulful worship, celebration, and outreach.
Beers, Aileen H. Church of the Epiphany, Trumansburg, New York : Centennial Celebration, 1871-1971