Council Update May 2, 2023

Hello, Epiphany!

This week’s Council update is focused on our upcoming Community Conversation, May 7 at the Far Hills Sanctuary. We are planning a noon start and will wrap up around 1 p.m. Your attendance is strongly encouraged; the more eyes and ears we have, the richer our discussion can be! 

So, what are we talking about? Our Treasurer and Finance Committee chairs are pairing up to take us through the projected 2024 income and expenses, highlighting changes from last year and their reasons. We also have a freshly installed Call Committee, and the Epiphany Lutheran Church (ELC) leadership will provide an update on that process. 

Stepping through the budget in this way allows you to ask questions before the annual meeting. Hearing questions beforehand also helps ELC leadership prepare for similar items during the annual meeting. If you recall during our March Community Conversation, our Statements of Intent (pledges) have declined, including this past appeal. At the same time, we are excited to bring on our next full-time associate pastor. This decrease in income forecast and increase in expense for our associate pastor presents challenges, and we want to share the outlook and go-forward plan with you. 

To close, I have a few “housekeeping items.” The conversation will be in the Far Hills Sanctuary and will be recorded and sent out in a congregational email for those who cannot attend. Q & A will be encouraged throughout our time together, and wireless mics will be available so everyone can hear (thanks for the feedback last time!).   

I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers as we plan this next fiscal year. 

Your Brother in Christ,

Anthony Brown

Epiphany Council President

Council Update April 13, 2023

Call Committee Update: “He has risen indeed!”  
Wow, do I have a great announcement on the heels of the Easter season; we have our associate pastor call committee! Amazingly, when the chair accepted, we received another six enthusiastic “yeses” in succession. There is no denying God’s work in this (God math…again?!), and our Council team is humbled by the group of individuals the Holy Spirit formed to call the associate pastor that God has already chosen for Epiphany. Yes, this is our sincere belief, and I invite all of you to pray for this special team as they receive their training and begin this vital work. We will make the finalized Ministry Site Profile (MSP) and pastor job descriptions available upon request once they are finalized for posting. 
Epiphany Associate Pastor Call Committee 
  • Michele Uhl – Chair 
  • Diana Pearson 
  • Lee Dixon 
  • Sandy Houpt 
  • Becky Zink 
  • Jim Lehman 
  • Cooper Henderson 
Note: The installation of our call committee will take place during the Austin livestream worship service on April 30.  
Budget-Focused Community Conversation May 7
Epiphany’s leadership has been listening, and we’ve heard you; let’s create an opportunity before the annual congregational meeting to discuss next year’s budget. This event, held after service on May 7, aims to share the draft budget, highlight significant changes from last year, and do our best to answer your questions. We understand there are concerns about what Epiphany can and cannot afford and a desire to see where ministry dollars are being allocated. Wireless mics will be available to ensure everyone can hear questions during Q & A. 
Date: Sunday, May 7, 2023 
Time: Noon 
Location: Far Hills Sanctuary 
Strategic Planning 
At our March 19 community conversation, we shared that there were 142 respondents to our congregation-wide survey. We now have themes for each question. We are working with staff to identify two to three “quick wins” that align with this feedback. Next, we plan to commission a group of four to six individuals with gifts in strategic planning to review Epiphany’s mission and values, then develop Epiphany’s strategic plan. This work will take a commitment of time with periodic member feedback as part of the process. It will involve digging deeper into member feedback, reviewing the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) Analysis conducted last summer, looking outside Epiphany at current community needs, and prayerfully deriving two to three themes that clarify Epiphany’s current expression of loving Jesus by serving others. If this work interests you, please email so we can connect with you at the right time! 
Check It Out! Austin Ballpark to See Improvements 
I am excited about our Council and staff’s new partnership with a local youth baseball team. They will make field improvements this year and have begun collaborating with another local team to utilize this space fully! We have already received plenty of clean-up help (weeds, mowing, etc.), and other exciting upgrades are planned. We will share changes through our various communication channels as they are made. Throughout the summer months, stop by Austin to see the progress! 
In Closing 
I want to thank the many staff members and volunteers who have worked hard to make our Lenten events and Holy Week successful this year. This is an awesome season for us Christians, and our Council appreciates the many seeds planted and fruits discovered during this special time. 
In Christ, 
Anthony Brown 
Congregation Council President

Update after City Council Meeting – March 6, 2023

Report on February City Council Meeting and Next Steps

Over 40 Epiphany members attended the Centerville City Council meeting on February 20, 2023, to support bringing Epiphany’s concerns about a proposed development of a Sheetz gas station, restaurant, and convenience store at the current Elsa’s site next door to the church. Thank you for your personal support at the meeting.

Two representatives for the Sheetz development introduced Sheetz during the public comment section of the meeting. They proposed negotiations with the City to bring this new store to Centerville. The next speakers for public comment opposed the proposed development, including Pastor Julie Reuning-Scherer, Epiphany Preschool Director Heather Philips, neighborhood representative and Epiphany Director of Operations Kathy Whited, Graceworks legal counsel Robert Curry, and Bethany residents Art Asbury and Pastor Larry Hoffsis. 

Approving a new development typically begins with a developer submitting a major site plan to the Planning Commission of Centerville. This group reviews the plans from a city zoning point of view. If the Commission finds issues with the plan, the Commission will send it back to the developer to address the identified variances with the local code. If the Planning Commission approves a proposal, it heads to City Council, which reviews the site plan from the perspective of whether the development is appropriate for the community. Decisions at either stage can be appealed by supporters or opponents who actually appeared and spoke at the Planning Commission Meeting. 

Centerville City Council Economic Development Administrator Joey O’Brien informed the gathered assembly that Sheetz submitted a major site plan to the Planning Commission in December 2022. Several issues were identified including lighting, public improvements of streets and traffic flow, and landscaping. The developer has not yet submitted an application to the city. An application is a requirement for a major site plan. If Sheetz submits an application, the next hearing would be the March 21 Planning Commission meeting.  Any property owner within 500 feet of the proposed development will receive written notification of the meeting. If the March 21 meeting goes forward, Epiphany plans to be present to oppose the development. We will advise you if that hearing does indeed go forward.

We ask congregation members to place March 21 at 7 p.m. on your calendars in case we are called upon to share our concerns in more detail. We welcome any questions or concerns. Reach out to Council President Anthony Brown or Pastor Julie Reuning-Scherer

Additionally, our Congregation Council leadership is planning a community conversation at Epiphany to address current work in the church, including this proposed development, on Sunday, March 19 at noon in the Far Hills sanctuary.

Thank you for your continued prayer and support of our mission as we seek to love and serve our neighbors.
Anthony Brown, Congregation Council President
Pastor Julie

Update from Council – February 16, 2023

God’s grace and peace to you, Epiphany, from the President’s desk! Ash Wednesday is just around the corner, and Lent is one of my favorite seasons of the church calendar; a time of reflection, sacrifice and discovering strengths we never knew we had. It’s the power of the Holy Spirit within each of us. There is an order-disorder-reorder cadence that God places in our lives at key times, and it is through this lens that I write to you today. 

There are three things to communicate, along with a member call-to-action, so please take a moment to look over each with care. As always, please feel free to reach out to me as Council President if you have questions. Your Council is also available and here to serve.


Strategic Planning

I am excited about this. Strategic planning typically happens on an annual cycle, and for years Epiphany has been doing that, however, during the pandemic, many things were changed, necessarily. The strategy was still going on, but it didn’t occur in the same manner as it typically does. Instead, we had to look at our health systems, the CDC, and local municipalities for direction and strategy. I think we did a great job with that, given the situation was uncharted for everybody. Now, we need to get back to an annual planning process where we look at Epiphany’s mission, what our values are, and what priority items we should be focused on to continue demonstrating our love for Jesus through service. To kick things off, Council is providing an opportunity to respond to a 6-minute congregation-wide survey. We will keep this survey open for at least two weeks, giving you time to pray and respond. The survey aims to collect feedback on what inspires you, what comes to mind when you think of Epiphany, and how we uniquely serve in Christ’s ministry. There are also some visionary questions, such as naming one thing you would love to do if there were no boundaries. Of course, with God, we know there are no boundaries, so we ask you to pray and think through it with a faithful heart. We know it isn’t all about rainbows and unicorns, so we ask what isn’t going so well or feeling so good at Epiphany. All of these perspectives add to the richness of the feedback. Strategic planning will be happening over the next several months, and Council will continue providing critical updates, including other ways you can participate.


Parking Easement

Epiphany continues to strongly oppose the dramatic changes to our neighborhood which the construction of the Sheetz gas station, restaurant, and convenience store (with a liquor license, selling CBD products), operating 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, will bring to our neighborhood. The dramatic neighborhood impact will not only hurt Epiphany but also our other neighbors. Congregational Council President will update everyone when we receive any additional important information. Currently, we do not have any additional important information to share, which is new from our first communication. Each of you will have an opportunity to support Epiphany’s strong opposition at a future time. We will keep you updated.

Associate Pastor Call 

We are in the process of finishing up our candidate list for the call committee. As a reminder for those that remember when we called Pastor Julie, seven representatives is the “magic number,” and we’ll be reaching out to individuals soon to try to find the seven that are feeling led to serve in this way. It’s a gratifying, fulfilling way to give, but it also has to be the right timing and season for a person’s life. We appreciate that, and if you get a call, we ask that you pray about it and serve if you can. It will commence here soon, and it will complete on God’s time, though we are aiming for mid to late March. Once that is finished, the group of seven will get training by the Synod, and then they will start to set up the process of reviewing our Ministry Site Profile (MSP) that Council has been drafting. The MSP will then be published online for potential candidates for the associate pastor call to review, and then the Synod will send candidates our way, first hitting the call committee. Once they decide there’s a primary candidate fit for Epiphany in both their quality and the style we’ve provided in our Ministry Site Profile, the Council will review that. If Council feels they are the right primary candidate at that level, it will go to the Congregation for a vote. We’ll be providing more updates over time on this, but that’s the current status.
Until next time, God bless you, and thank you for all you do in service to Christ!

Anthony Brown

Epiphany Council President

Update from Council: February 3, 2023

Dear Epiphany Brothers and Sisters,

Epiphany Lutheran Church’s mission is to “love Jesus by serving others.” Part of this mission is to be a good neighbor to homeowners, businesses, and non-profits in the area, and to support neighborhood projects that promote the public good.

The Epiphany Congregation Council was briefed at its meeting on February 2, 2023, by Epiphany member and attorney, Mark Chilson, about the potential benefits and liabilities of the proposed development of a Sheetz gas station, restaurant, and convenience store at the current Elsa’s Restaurant site. The Council heard from the Preschool Director, Heather Phillips, regarding the needs of the youngest community members and their families, as well as learned about Bethany Village resident concerns. The Council also reviewed an existing parking easement between Epiphany Lutheran Church and the current and future owners of the Elsa’s property. This easement is a legally binding agreement that guarantees a sharing of the parking lot situated between Epiphany’s sanctuary building and the current Elsa’s restaurant building. This parking lot is where much of the proposed development lies.

After deliberation, reflection, and prayer, the Council has deemed that the proposed development of a gas station, restaurant, and convenience store at the current Elsa’s Restaurant site is not consistent with Epiphany’s mission to love Jesus and serve others. The Council voted at its special meeting on February 2 to not relinquish the parking easement Epiphany holds on the aforementioned property for the following reasons:

1) Safety concerns that accompany running a 24-hour-a-day operation, including an additional 3,000 patron vehicles, 3-4 semi-trucks to refill gas pumps, and multiple vendor delivery trucks at this location:

  • Increased security risks for church and preschool with greater traffic coming off the highway.
  • Parking lot safety issues at church and preschool, as Epiphany is already a cut- through for many area drivers.
  • Traffic pattern that may impede an evacuation of Bethany Village’s nursing home and/or Epiphany Lutheran Church during preschool, worship, or large events.

2) Environmental Safety concerns affecting neighborhood, area businesses, Bethany Village, as well as Epiphany’s preschool and worshipping community, including impacts such as fumes, spills, or leakage of underground tanks.

3) Quality of life issues for all neighbors, including:

  • Light pollution and traffic noise, 24 hours a day.
  • Greater quantity of litter due to the convenience store.

The Epiphany Congregation Council supports a development on the current Elsa’s site that is consistent with the welfare of the whole community. This means a new development supported by Epiphany would provide valuable services to the community while ensuring the continued safety of area residents, worshipers, preschool families, Bethany Village residents, staff and visitors, and businesses.

Questions and concerns may be addressed to me as Council President or to Pastor Julie.


Your Brother in Christ,

Anthony Brown

Epiphany Council President

Update from Council – January 18, 2023

Happy New Year, Epiphany brothers and sisters! It’s been nice to hear how people spent their holiday time. On behalf of our Council, thank you for the prayers over the past few months; please keep them coming! In our December update, I shared details from two Community Conversations held in October to gather associate pastor themes. It was invaluable feedback that you can review here. Today’s update provides more information about the Ministry Site Profile, the Call Committee formation status, and other items. I plan to create short videos outlining the same content.


One of the initial steps in the pastor call process is the creation of a church Ministry Site Profile, or “MSP” for short. The MSP is created by our Council in collaboration with the Call Committee and used by the synod to match Epiphany with rostered minister candidates expressing the qualities and characteristics we seek. It covers who we are (demographics), our core mission, the leadership qualities and characteristics we are seeking, and a summary of our current focus. Our Council formed a task force in December to begin the MSP updates, and the entire Council is currently refining it. The Council does the majority of the work and then hands the work over to the Call Committee to review and make edits as they see fit. We are on track to provide a draft to our Call Committee in February for a final refinement before submitting it to the Southern Ohio Synod for publication!


Several of you may be wondering what the function of a Call Committee is and how it gets created. The Call Committee is the Epiphany lay members who will interview pastor candidates and provide a final recommendation to Council and, ultimately, the Congregation. Council is responsible for creating this committee through a unique and faith-filled process. A Council task force plans to reach out to members in early February; enough time for our task force and Council to finalize the list. A balanced representation across worship styles, campuses, and other demographics are essential. In the summer of 2021, you may recall then-President Carlin Heimann sharing how we made seven calls and received seven “yes!” responses when forming the senior pastor Call Committee. I am confident God will provide us with exactly what we need to call our next associate pastor, and we look forward to providing more updates soon.


Are we getting a next-door neighbor at Far Hills?

Attorney Mark Chilson is working at the request of the Council to safeguard Epiphany’s interests and mission regarding a proposal by a developer to build a Sheetz gas station and store complex in the current Elsa’s site. Council is committed to being a good community neighbor, which includes making other public services aware of the proposal and evaluating the potential risks and benefits of any development near our Far Hills property.


This article is part of a dedicated webpage for future Council updates. For any questions concerning these updates, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at


Your Brother in Christ,


Anthony Brown

Epiphany Council President