There were acrobats and mimes, jesters and madrigal singers, and even a flaming boar's head - well. pig anyway - to give the authentic touch to the "first annual" Epiphany celebration of St. James Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill.

The event not only celebrated a frequently ignored festival of the church, but more important, offered proof that people who put their own fun and strengthen community spirit in the process.

"We decided to do it (the epiphany celebration) because nothing happens in January," explained Paul Reimers, a parish member who, dressed in a shapeless tunic and sandals, acted as chief steward, or master of ceremonies, of the feast.

In the Christian tradition, Epiphany marks the homage paid by the wise men to the infant Jesus.

For St. James, an Anglo-Catholic parish whose church building is a model of 12th century English architectural style, a medieval style feast seemed particularly appropriate, said Reimers, who is retired from the Library of Congress.

St. James is located about where the newly renovated and fashionably expensive neighborhoods of Capitol Hill came together with the ghetto. Well endowed financially by previous waves of prosperous parisshoners, in recent year it has suffered the usual decline of membership experienced by churches in neighborhoods in transition.

Its plight was aggravated by the long illness and death from cancer of its previous rector, the Rev. William Goodrish, a little more than a year ago.

"There were only five or six families left who were really supporting the church," explained Betsy Reimers, who with her husband, helped organize the Epiphany feast.

The coming of the Rev. Richard Downing, present rector, has helped reverse that trend, although, as Mrs. Reimers explained, "he doesn't push us - he's just letting the parish find its way."

Neverthless, attendance at Sunday services has increased several times over in the past year; community related activities such as a senior citizens' hot lunch program have been launched, and new members, particularly young people, have been attracted to the church.

"One couple has a little baby and another is pregnant," reported Mrs. Reimer happily. "We're all excited about that - it's the first pregnancy in the church in some time."

The Epiphany festival was an over-whelmingly home-grown celebration. Mrs. Reimers did most of the research to make it as authentic as possible.

Four men in the congregation who like to cook did most of the cooking. Kark Schwengel, James Low, Jeff Lisher and Mike Lawrence produced such authentic medieval delicacies as "roast joynte of smoaked boare" (which tasted remarkably like ham) and a roast chicken dish called "henne dorre" as well as home baked breads, vegetables and a flaming plum pudding.

Carol Edmonds, a parish member who excelled in gymnastics in high school, performed "acrobatiques." The mime troupe of Queen Anne School in Upper Mariboro, where Father Downing had taught before coming to St. James, provided both the jesters and the mime performance that no medieval feast would be without.

A parishioner who sings professionally persuaded friends in the Abbey Singers to perform madrigals. Another parishioner set up his own stereo in the church parish hall to provide the background of medieval music for the feast.

To top off the evening, parishioner James Brown, a professional dancer, cajoled the entire company, many of whom had entire company, many of whom had rigged up their own vesion of medieval costumes, to take thefloor, where he taught them medieval dances.