On Thursday, August 11th, 2016, the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, bishop of the Diocese of Virginia, presided over, blessed, and enthusiastically recognized the life of Epiphany as they marked their new place in the Diocese as Epiphany: a self supporting congregation, and installing the Reverend Hillary T. West as Rector of Epiphany Episcopal Church.
This change in church status is a significant achievement. As Bishop Susan Goff from the Diocese of Virginia explained, “Epiphany Episcopal Church faced tremendous challenges when a small group returned to a huge facility. The growing congregation has managed the stresses and joys of living into new possibilities with prayer, trust, hard work and a real sense of community. They’ve turned a significant corner as they focus now on all that lies ahead.”
Many at Epiphany credit Hillary’s leadership as a key to this growth. Bishop Goff also noted, “Hillary West brings a wealth of maturity and experience to her role as rector of Epiphany. Her unflappable hope and unwavering joy are contagious. God has given her the skills to lead the congregation with courage into the future that God intends.”
Epiphany began its search for a new priest-in-charge in the summer of 2013. Arthur Buck, Senior Warden at the time, describes the results. “It quickly became evident that Hillary was a great fit for Epiphany. Her love of children and skill in growing a vital congregation were particularly important in the selection process. Her recent selection as rector is an affirmation of both her ability and her dedication.”
The installation was warm and inclusive while still reflecting the traditions of the Episcopal Church. One highlight was the Reverend Marek P. Zabriskie’s sermon celebrating Hillary’s journey as a priest in his parish near Philadelphia.
Fred West, Hillary’s husband of 45 years, said that if there had been a way to dedicate the installation as one would dedicate a book, it would be a dedication to Hillary’s father, B. Dale Davis. “Poppi was completely devoted to his family and with quiet conviction exercised Christian ethics every day. Upon retirement, he traveled the world assisting in the formation of newspapers in developing countries. He was full of enthusiastic love for his family and world community.”
Fred goes on to say, “On any Sunday morning, when Hillary is delivering a sermon, I imagine B. Dale sitting next to me with tears of joy celebrating Hillary’s brilliant and loving ministry.” The entire West Family was bursting with joyful tears on Thursday.
When asked what Hillary has brought to Epiphany, Mike Dickerson, former Senior Warden offers: “Hillary has given Epiphany new life, growth, and opportunities to serve our community.”
Recognizing a responsibility to reach out in love to a group increasingly persecuted, Hillary, in collaboration with the Adult Ministry team, cultivated a relationship with a local Muslim community and was instrumental in facilitating a series of faith-based discussions through which they could better understand — and break bread with — their neighbors.
Hillary’s commitment to serving those in need has broadened the mission of the Community Outreach Ministry team and expanded the programs Epiphany supports. In particular, Hillary has made serving the homeless a major focus of Epiphany. With her leadership, Epiphany has hosted a hypothermia shelter four times in the past two years and will host another this upcoming Christmas week. With her encouragement, Epiphany has also sent money to help the flood victims in West Virginia and recently a team from Epiphany transported appliances for 35 families to the Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity in Franklin County, WV. “Her commitment to serve others has been an inspiration to everyone on the Ministry Team,” Lay Leader of Community Outreach Ministry, Celeste Meyer said.
The Children’s Ministry has also benefitted from Hillary’s guidance and mentorship. Vestry Member, Melissa Woodhead explained, “She encourages Epiphany’s teachers and parent volunteers to explore new ways to apply their individual gifts in the classroom and beyond. She has an amazing connection and rapport with our kids, and has been instrumental to the successful expansion of our team’s programs.”
A monthly “Family Worship” is one of the first ideas Hillary introduced to Epiphany. It is a service that incorporates kids’ participation in every aspect of worship. Epiphany is traditionally very accepting of the noise and disruption that happens when children get restless during church, but Family Worship takes the pressure off parents and makes it more fun and ultimately more meaningful for children.
“Most assuredly, her complete devotion to family is ascribable to her successful and joyful Christian career. As we know, many Bible stories are centered around family relationships. Hillary has a unique talent in uplifting and supporting her immediate family and church family members. She’s the real deal,” Fred West said.
Epiphany’s current Senior Warden, Mary Erdeljon believes Hillary will be a successful Rector because she is uplifting and always serves as a positive influence on everyone within the Epiphany community as well as those outside of the church. “Hillary’s strong faith and her commitment to serve provides the vestry with the inspiration to fulfill the vision of Epiphany Episcopal as the ‘church on the corner where God loves you. No exceptions,’” she stated.
As Epiphany moves forward, they will continue to have the Diocese’s support. “We look forward to Epiphany continuing to grow as a beacon of hope and light right there on the corner of the Fairfax County Parkway and Franklin Farm Road. The congregation is poised to be a powerful partner with the Holy Spirit in reaching out in love to the wider community,” Bishop Goff said.