Harrowing Of Hell
February 24, 2023

What is the Church? A Letter from Julian Petrallia

Dear Epiphany, 

Warm greetings from Dallas, Texas! I am Julian Petrallia and I am thrilled to join Epiphany as your Assistant Director of Music in a few weeks. The church and community that I saw during my time in Seattle is what I have long dreamt of. 

What is a church? For many, the word “church” calls to mind the image of a certain type of building. If a church is just a building, what is the exact part of that building that causes it to be a church instead of—say—a house or a shed or a restaurant? Is it the altar? Is it the organ? The stained glass windows perhaps? Maybe something on the exterior? Furthermore, what then do we do if something happens to this special church-making element? The altar gets a chip in it? The organ falls silent? The stained glass window shatters? Wear and tear erodes the façade? 

What then? Are we left without a church? 

While meanings of the word “church” can be found in dictionaries, online, and in discussion, etc., I would like to offer you my view on what it is that makes a church a church. One word: people. The special element that transforms a building into a church is the group of people who make that place their spiritual home. 

I have recently been thinking about what book of the Bible—that concisely exemplifies Jesus-following people—I might suggest to some interested in Christianity. As a musician, I am drawn to the beauty and imagery of the Psalms; however, upon reflection, I came to the conclusion that I would suggest the Gospel of Matthew. I appreciate how much of the Gospel of Matthew is comprised of Jesus’ own words and by how clearly it’s all laid out. It’s almost like a how-to guide for being a Christian. Want to know how to approach forgiveness? Matthew 5:33–37. Having trouble dealing with that one tricky coworker? Matthew 5:43–48. Having trouble with being judgmental? Matthew 7: 1–6. Needing a simple solution for being a Christian because you can’t keep track of all the dos and don’ts? Matthew 22: 34–40. It’s all in there! Upon reading the Gospel, one gets a crystal clear image of what it means to live as a follower of Jesus. Some of the main themes are as follows:

  • Forgive others
  • Be generous
  • Be a force for good in the world
  • Be kind
  • Don’t judge others
  • Help others

Why am I saying all of this? A few weeks ago I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Seattle. While there, I saw a church. I saw Epiphany Parish. I saw you! I saw a group of people who were examples of what it means to be Christ’s light in the world, like how the Gospel of Matthew describes. During the relatively short time that I spent in Seattle visiting the church, I was amazed by how welcomed I felt by everyone I had the pleasure of interacting with. Each person that I met was so keen to learn about me and also to share about themselves and why they call Epiphany their home. The kindness, positivity, energy, desire for spiritual growth, generosity, and thoughtfulness that I saw in all of you revealed how special Epiphany Parish is. 

After several months of worshipping with you online and later meeting many of you in person, I am thrilled and truly honored to be joining the Epiphany family in a few short weeks! In all honesty, it feels a bit strange to say “joining” the Epiphany family because I have such a strong feeling of already being a part of the family thanks to your immense kindness. I look forward to saying “hello” to those who I’ve already met and to many new faces, fostering growth in an already thriving music ministry, and—most excitingly—to be a part of the Epiphany Parish family. A true example of what it means to be a church. 



Julian Petrallia