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May 29, 2015 | Kevin Thompson

Christ Church’s Epiphany Campus To Open in South Tyler

[Diolog Magazine] In January of 2011, the Epiphany Community gathered for the first time at Christ Church, Tyler. Initially aimed at young adults and college students, Epiphany has transitioned into a missional community with its eyes on a second campus. “It began as a service for all the people who, for whatever reason, don’t [feel comfortable] in the nave,” said the Rev. Matt Boulter, who leads the growing congregation.


Dressed in his priestly collar and sporting blue jeans and a vest, Boulter, a former Presbyterian minister and church planter, is associate rector of Christ Church. He is quickly recognized as he walks from Christ Church downtown to a nearby coffee shop. “Culture is always shifting,” Boulter said, “and I make a real effort to be out in public as much as I can, to do mad networking and shake as many hands as possible, have as many conversations as possible.”


Those conversations led to a small Bible study on Thursdays and have grown into the second campus in South Tyler. “God willing, the building will be open for worship by Christmas, which is not a second too soon.” Epiphany currently gathers on the fourth floor of Christ Church in a room that seats 100 people, maybe 110, but they need more space.


The new location in South Tyler is situated on 27 acres purchased with a grant from the Diocese’s Great Commission Foundation. The building will be a multiuse facility that will get the congregation through its first five years in this growing area of Tyler. The new Epiphany location will serve a more suburban population, taking the community out of its original downtown context.


“As a resident of Tyler, I can tell you that our city is growing to the south,” said the Rt. Rev. Jeff W. Fisher, suffragan bishop. “The south campus of Christ Church will be apostolic and evangelistic, reaching people who have never heard or experienced the good news of Jesus Christ through the lens of our rich Episcopal tradition.”


A mix of old and new worship styles, Epiphany has used different liturgies to “introduce people to tradition,” Boulter explained. Some forms were unfamiliar, even to lifelong Episcopalians. “We borrow liturgies from around the Anglican community,” he said. “For anyone already accustomed to Episcopal liturgy, it’s going to be fresh for them.”


Through events like Pub Club, college dinners and movie nights, Epiphany has reached out to people who might not normally consider going to an Episcopal church, or any church at all. Even one of the bartenders at the bar where Epiphany’s Pub Club meets now attends Sunday services and is in the process of being confirmed.


Boulter attributes this outreach mentality and freedom to experiment to Christ Church’s rector, the Rev. David Luckenbach. “He’s the one who fully empowers me to initiate, implement and pull off Epiphany as I see fit,” Boulter said.


After Boulter had lived in Austin for 20 years, he moved to Tyler, where he encountered a new set of challenges for his ministry. “In Austin, I’d say there are a lot of groups that are already formed that you can plug into. There are neighborhood potlucks, tons of dog parks, things like that are already up and running,” Boulter said. “Four and a half years ago when we moved here, there wasn’t a lot of stuff to jump into. It’s kind of like I had to invent stuff.”


That invention led to time spent meeting people in coffee shops and pubs, and even a failed idea to network with people at the local country club. Boulter also enrolled in classes at The University of Texas in Tyler where he and a few faculty members began holding Bible studies on campus specifically for faculty.


“I believe that amateurs borrow and geniuses steal, so I look around for the best out there to steal,” Boulter laughed.  One of the models that Epiphnay is based on is the contemporary young adult service at Dallas’ Church of the Incarnation. “We got a date on the calendar, and we pulled it off,” said Boulter, talking about the first meeting of Epiphany. “It was fun, it was scary, and it was really exciting. Probably no one in that room knew what to expect or had experienced anything like that.”