Episcopal Church of the Epiphany
225 West Main Street
Laurens, South Carolina 29360
The story of Epiphany Church, a chronicle of struggle and perseverance, is a visible reflection of Jesus’ word that “the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed…the smallest of all seeds; yet when sown, it grows” (Mark 4.30-32).
An 1839 service of worship held at the Court House is the oldest indication of an Episcopal presence in Laurens, SC. In 1846, Colonel James H. Irby, a prominent local citizen, gave land for a church building. The following year, Joel R. Poinsett took interest in the project, contributing liberally and providing plans for the building. Thomas A. Badgett, given the job of construction, used materials from his Wattsville brickyard for the exterior. The Reverend Richard S. Seely was the first rector.
By 1848, there were two parishioners. In 1855, Bishop Thomas F. Davis visited Laurens and discovered one member, no Bible or Book of Common Prayer, no vestments; only grass and weeds. The area was spruced up and lights were added for evening services. And, soon well-attended, the decision was made that the church would be open at least one Sunday a month for services.
Immediately following the Civil War, only three families remained and there were no services. In 1869, J. Ward Motte, the Senior Warden, moved to Newberry, taking the church archives. Later, his home was destroyed by fire and all records were lost.
By 1882, four Episcopalians, Carolyn Henry Farrow, Zelene Boyd Sullivan, Mary Farley Todd, and Ursula Lockwood Wallace, remained in Laurens. Though faced with illness, age, and a lack of funds, these stalwart women were determined to repair their dilapidated church building; through ice cream festivals and suppers, garnering funds statewide.
In 1885, regular services were held for the then eight families. With construction of the railroad, newcomers arrived, and church life was renewed.
In 1918, a Hinners pipe organ from Pekin, Illinois, still in use today, was installed.
In 1951, church membership fell to six, but thirty years later, had increased ten-fold. And, in the succeeding years, four wondrously generous members, Beaufort Ball Copeland, Jimmy and Elsa Griffin, and Lucy Sitgreaves Dial Habenicht, whose love for Epiphany and depth of forethought were manifestly grand, contributed funds that established endowment accounts, for which the congregation remains abidingly grateful.
Though, since inception, activity has flowed and ebbed, with years of no or few services of worship, today, the Epiphany community continues to fulfill its Mission Statement: To celebrate the light of Jesus Christ, proclaim the Gospel, deepen our faith and nurture and encourage one another. The Service of the Holy Eucharist is held each Sunday morning as well as daily Holy Week observances. The members seek to welcome and serve all through community outreach programs and annual fellowship events.
The building, admitted to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, enjoys the distinction of being the oldest church structure in the City of Laurens and is never locked, open for all who desire a moment of silence and solitude for prayer, meditation, or rest.