Building on our History
few key thoughts
HONORING OUR PAST
“We need a church of our own.” It’s easy to imagine these words being spoken when, on March 30, 1858, 29 devout Anglicans gathered together in Union Hall at the corner of Elm and Washington Streets to discuss the formation of a new church. The group had been worshiping in neighboring Rhode Island. They began to meet in the Towne Street School, and called the Rev. Edward Cowley to serve as their rector
“Let’s build our church here.” The group eventually purchased a parcel of land that extended from Broad Street to North Washington Street, and to seal the deal, on June of 1872, a group of Masons from the Ezekial Bates Lodge laid the cornerstone in the northeast corner of the property. The parishioners proudly opened the doors of the new Grace Episcopal Church on March of 1873, with the Rev. John S. Beers as rector.
“The Parish continued to grow”. As the town grew in relation to the growth of the jewelry industry, the parish continued to thrive. In May of 1881 the parishioners of Grace called the remarkable Reverend George Osgood as priest, a position he held for over 40 years. During his tenure, Grace Church flourished, and the church moved from mission status to parish status.
“What a terrible tragedy!” In December of 1929, people watched in horror as their beloved church burned to the ground. From the charred rubble, they were able to salvage the Rose Window, the Memorial “porch”, and the Bambino window, along with a few other objects.
“We will rebuild!” In spite of the enormous hardships of the Great Depression, the parishioners began to rebuild Grace Church! In our Archives we have discovered handouts from March 21, 1930, proclaiming “IT CAN BE DONE! $60,000 IN TEN DAYS… A new Grace Church, not for ourselves alone, but for those who will follow”… The Past built for Us…Let us Build for the Future.”
NOT AN END, BUT A NEW BEGINNING
The resiliency of the parish had been tested. They rebuilt their church, incorporating the treasures saved from the rubble. Their beloved priest, Rev. Osgood died in June of 1930, during the reconstruction. The first service held in the new church was on Easter of 1931, and the Rev. Albert Chafe presided.
Grace Church has been home to many forward-thinking priests. The Reverend Benjamin Minifrie, who served the parish from 1938 to 1943, was a vocal advocate for Civil rights. The Rev. Edgar Romig and the Rev. Bruce Hanson were at the forefront of gay tights. And the Rev. Maryalice Sullivan, the first female priest at Grace, has been an outspoken advocate for women’s rights and gay rights.
Our forefathers struggled through adversity to build and then rebuild. We are committed to following their lead and continuing the legacy they have given us.
In closing, the words of Rev. George E. Osgood continue to ring true. “In its influence, its varied activities, its membership, the parish holds a leading place in the town…”.
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