On Sunday, April 16, the congregation of Epiphany Church lined up in formation and did the Electric Slide. It was not an irreverent addition to their morning worship set, but a fun element of their 5-year anniversary celebration following the day’s services.
Epiphany Church was planted in April 2018 to serve a city desperately in need of light. Wilmington, Delaware, had been labeled “Murdertown, USA” by Newsweek magazine, and that broke founding pastor Derrick Parks’ heart. “When I read that, I began to pray and ask God to turn the city from Murdertown to Mercytown,” the New Jersey native said of the city just 35 minutes down the road from his home. Derrick recalls the Lord laying a “10-ton weight” on his heart for the city of Wilmington. He moved his family there and began recruiting a core team to plant a church. They hosted a Bible study and developed a vision rooted in Titus 2:11 to see every person have an epiphany that would allow the grace of God to appear to them.
And over the past five years, that is what Derrick and his church family have seen! “We’ve been witnessing God really turn the light bulb on for people who have been searching for Him,” he said. Derrick gave an example of a young man who was fully entrenched in an alternative lifestyle when he entered the doors of Epiphany Church. Shortly after the church’s launch, he came to faith and was baptized, and the Lord began to radically transform his life. Today, he serves faithfully in the church and is a key man on Derrick’s team.
Likewise, Derrick has seen transformation among his entire congregation. “To watch people who were at one point very individualistic, and now see them giving of themselves to love on other people and really be a family has been incredible,” Derrick observed. “I couldn’t say this two years ago, but the people in our church really love one another and serve one another and outdo one another in showing honor.”
Epiphany Church has not only grown to be a tight-knit family, but also blessed the city of Wilmington in both tangible and intangible ways. They have served over 2,000 families through their food giveaways and met the needs of over 1,000 families through backpack drives.
And they have brought joy to the weary streets of Wilmington. One year during their Good in the Hood summer festival, from between moon bounces and snow cones, a police officer came running up to Derrick. His initial concern melted into gladness when the officer surprised him with what he had to say: I have to tell you what this man who lives in this park just said – he told me that he has not seen this much joy in his community since before the 1968 riots! Derrick treasured the man’s comment, noting it was a testament to God’s grace and what the church can do by sharing a little love and spreading a little light in a big city.
One of the things Derrick credits for the spiritual growth of his congregation is Epiphany’s ongoing partnership with TIMES12. He describes himself as an O.G. – he’s been a part of the network from the beginning of the church planting process. Today, he is grateful for the connection he experiences during TIMES12 collectives and for the invaluable gospel resources that have helped him shape and shepherd his church. “I feel like I’ve re-planted my church several times just by going back to the resources and re-running the playbook,” he said. “Our partnership with TIMES12 has been a blessing.”
Reflecting on the first five years of Epiphany Church, Derrick emphasized that there is hope in Wilmington, Delaware. Despite the darkness displayed in the media, there is great good in the city in the form of people who love God and love each other.
Pastor Derrick Parks (middle) with some of the Epiphany Church congregation
Fun with the photo booth at the 5 year anniversary celebration