Grace Church


 

Grace Church is one of Newark's oldest and most prominent congregations. A gothic English country church located in downtown Newark, Grace Church is unique for its Anglo-Catholic liturgy and role it has played in Newark, and the nation's, life. The birthplace of the music for "America the Beautiful" and the home church of Thomas Lynch Raymond, one of Newark's greatest mayors, Grace Church is our feature this May 2007.

Grace Church is located at 950 Broad Street in Newark, New Jersey. At the time of its construction, this site was an upscale residential quarter on the edge of Newark, today it is a lower-income, but gentrifying, section of downtown.

Grace Church was founded on Whitsunday, May 14th, 1837, as a daughter congregation of Trinity Church. The founders of Grace Church had practical and spiritual reasons for founding their new parish. As for practical reasons, by the 1830s, Newark's Anglican community was too large to be accomodated by a single church. Anglicans in the neighborhood of South Park (later Lincoln park) desired something closer to where they lived as well. Spiritually, the founders of Grace Church were "High Churchmen," that is, they emphasized the sacraments and music in their liturgy, rather than the Bible and the conversion experience.

There was no single founder of Grace Church, but George Washington Doane, the bishop of New Jersey, was the leading organizational spirit. George Washington Doane, the father of the Monsignor George Hobart Doane profiled in December 2006, was one of the leading "High Churchmen" in the United States.

"He believed that the forms of the Church were important adjuncts in its development. He loved the pomp, the ceremony, the display which, in his judgment, made the worship of the Most High fitting and appropriate. To him the rich habiliments, the costly altar, the dim cloistered church, the swelling organ and the glorious ritual, were a part of the services of the Living G-d, bearing even then but a faint resemblance to to the magnificence of His worship in the upper world." (quoted in Bataille, p 5)

The Grace Church congregation had more than one physical space in its first years. The congregation worshipped in the little white schoolhouse that stood at the site of the Colleoni statue in Lincoln Park, it worshipped at Trinity Church, and it shared quarters with a Universalist congregation on Market Street.

Grace Church's first rector was the Reverend George Thomas Chapman, D.D. Chapman was an acquaintance of Bishop Doane's from Boston and a very experienced priest. At the inception of Grace Church, Chapman had already served as rector of nine different churches in four states.

May 1837 happened to be a boom time for Newark, but a serious depression began practically the next month. Newark industrial production declined by one-quarter to one-third. Newark's population even declined from 20,000 to 16,000. Grace Church in those early years had problems paying its bills. Dr. Chapman was promised a $1,500 a year salary, but only paid $500 of it. Chapman resigned as rector of Grace Church in 1841.

The national economic depression gradually lifted in the early years of the 1840s and Grace Church's own fortunes, buoyed by the many industrialists who were congregants, accordingly rose. By the mid-1840s Grace Church was already planning a permanent structure for itself, to be made of stone.

The leading benefactor of the Grace Church building fund was Jeremiah C. Garthwaite (1807-1883, a clothing manufacturer and retailer. Garthwaite supported several churches in Newark. He once dropped a deed worth $20,000 into the alms box at St. Paul's Church on High Street/MLK Boulevard and gave, in all, $90,000 to the Diocese of New Jersey. In the 1840s Garthwaite purchased several lots for Grace Church on lower Broad Street, on the condition that the rest of the congregation raise money for the physical church.

In 1847 Richard Upjohn was selected to design the new Grace Church. Upjohn was already the master of Gothic Revival architecture in America, having just completed Trinity Church in New York City.

Upjohn was very conservative in his design for Grace Church. The layout was standard cruciform and Grace Church lacked the ornate masonry pyrotechnics of most of Upjohn's other designs, such as what he did for St. Paul's in Buffalo. Grace Church was intended to evoke a rural English parish, and thus has no crocketed rooflines nor ornamented finials.

The total cost of Grace Church was $22,050. Carpentry cost $9,600, masronry cost $11,450, and Richard Upjohn was paid $1,000. Aside from donations, the building was paid for by selling pews. Construction began in May 1847 and the church was consecrated in October 1848.

The Grace Church one sees today is not the same as the Grace Church of the 1840s. Grace Church has been expanded several times. The newest addition is the 1928 parish house. The magificent caen stone raredos was done in the 1870s.

It is at this time that I should mention Grace Church's religious beliefs and practices. Grace Church was founded by a high churchman, Bishop Doane, to be the standard bearer for the Catholic revival within the Episcopal Church.

In the 1830s the "High Church" stream developed in the Church of England. The High Church movement began as a purely theological movement, only later becoming a liturical movement. High Churchers declared that the Church of England was much more than an organ of the government, but a divine institution. Centered at Oxford, the ritual revival movement is often called the Oxford Movement.

The Oxford Movement itself was more than a movement of Protestant monastaries and Catholic ritual and vestments, the Oxford Movement was a movement within the Episcopal Church that emphasized the eternal nature of the Church. Oxford Movement men and women believed that the Episcopal Church derived its authority from an unbroken chain beginning with the Apostles and Jesus Christ himself. In England, the Oxford Movement was led by John Henry Newman (a subject of Eminent Victorians), John Keble (after whom Keble College at Oxford is named), and Edward Pusey.

Grace Church is aware that it is an Episcopal Church, but the congregation has gradually adopted more Catholic-style rituals. In the 1870s, Rev. William H. Harrison introduced candles on the altar and had Grace Church clergy start wearing white linen vestments. The white linen vestments had been controversial, but then the next rector, the Rev. George Martin Christian, started wearing colored silk vestments in the 1880s. Red cassocks were adopted by the choir in 1924. (which were abandoned in 1978)

Rev. Christian also started to hear confessions and celebrating the Eucharist every day. Congregants were expected to fast before communion and abstain from meat on Fridays.

Not everyone appreciated the ceremonies of the High Churchers. Opponents denounched High Churchers as ritualists who were "going to Rome." Anti-Catholic bigotry was often barely under the surface. One rector of Grace Church, Rev. William Henry Nassau Stewart, was fired for opposing Grace Church's High Church inclinations. In his letter of resignation, Stewart denounced daily services and weekly communion as "of Popish origin and tendency." (Bataille, 51-52)

 

Edward F. Bataille's history of Grace Church's first one hundred years does not say very much about Grace Church being a political church. Many of the members were businessmen, so one can assume that Grace Church's interests were with business and the Republican party.

Like New York City, Newark was neither a slavery city nor an abolitionist city. Many Newark businessmen, including Jeremiah C. Garthwaite, had affairs in the South and opposed war to keep the South in the Union. When the Civil War began and Grace Church peeled its bells in support of Fort Sumter, Jeremiah C. Garthwaite objected to "his bells" being rung for a war he opposed. The rector of Grace Church at the time said that the bells were the church's, and they would be rung in defense of the Union.

Newark's greatest mayor, Thomas Lynch Raymond, was a member of Grace Church from 1915 to his death in 1928. Raymond lived on Kinney Street near Grace Church, but was not a member until he met Father Gomph at a luncheon. According to legend, Raymond told Rev. Gomph, "I live in your parish, I suppose I should be in your church." Rev. Gomph agreed and invited Raymond to services. Raymond's response was "When you know about me you may not want me."

In any case, Raymond did join Grace Church, even becoming a vestryman in 1924. In his will Raymond remembered Grace with a $12,000 donation.

Music has always had a prominent role in Grace Church services. From the beginning, Grace Church had an organ. A choir was begun soon after the founding the church.

Grace Church's most famous organmaster was Samuel Augustus Ward. In 1882, Ward wrote a melody for the hymn "Oh Mother dear Jerusalem." He called the hymn "Materna" and had it published. The name "Materna" may not mean anything to you, but if you heard the melody you would surely recognize it.

Some years later, Katherline Lee Bates' patriotic poem, "America the Beautiful" was put to Ward's melody.

Grace Church has played its part in social action in Newark. Mrs. Anthony Q. Keasby, a members of Grace Church, was the founder of the Guild of St. Barnabas, the forerunner of St. Barnabas hospital. Jeremiah C. Garthewaite and Jerome Ward were generous contributors to the hospital as well.
Grace Church's longest serving minister was Father Charles Gomph. Born a Lutheran, Gomph was the minister of Grace Church from 1913 to 1949.

Gomph had many successes during his many years at Grace Church. During Gomph's ministry Grace Church installed six new sets of stained glass windows and the bas reliefs of the Stations of the Cross. There was also the 1928 parish house.

However, Gomph's greatest success as rector of Grace Church was simply the survival of the parish.

The first threat to Grace Church's existence came in 1937-1939, when the City of Newark and the federal government desired to seize Grace Church by eminent domain in order to build a vast plaza in front of the post office. This plan, backed by a group of merchants called the Broad Street Association, would not only have meant no Grace Church, but would have hurt Broad Street itself. Instead of the small scale street scape that we now now, it would have created a big sterile plaza, unpleasant for pedestrians.

Thankfully, Grace Church was politically savvy and this plan went nowhere.

The more serious challenge Grace Church was simply surviving in an era of demographic change. Grace Church was an Anglo-Catholic congregation, and by the Twentieth century Newark was home to fewer and fewer Anglo-Americans. Once Newark was an Anglo city, by the 1930s, Newark was a white ethnic one. Many of Grace Church's parishioners were coming from the suburbs and few lived in the neighborhood. Two other Episcopal parishes did close down, St. Stephen's and St. Paul's.

The leaders of Grace Church realized very early on that demographic change was coming to Newark.

In 1901, the Rev. Charles Edmunds saw financial problems ahead. In arguing for a church newsletter Edmunds wrote:

As a downtown church [Grace Church] must, in the very nature of things, grow poorer and poorer, year by year, while on the other hand its ministrations will be more and more needed by the increasing population. Even now, if it were not for the electric roads, which bring worshippers from other parts of the city we might find ourselves in a very difficult position.

Grace Church's neighborhood and demographics indeed changed greatly over the years. In 1913 there was only one commercial establishment on the block of Broad Street south of Grace Church. Twenty years later that block was all businesses.

In 1908 one of the wealthiest and most socially prominent families in New Jersey, the Kinneys, donated three stained glass windows to Grace Church (seen at right). Within a few years, families like the Kinneys would not live in Newark. Early twentieth century Newark was a white ethnic city, late twentieth century Newark was a black and Latino one.

Episcopalianism, in common with other liberal religious strains in the United States; such as Presbyterianism, the United Church of Christ, and Conservative and Reform Judaism; has seen a loss of numbers in the last few decades. Grace Church is still a vibrant congregation, but it has not bucked this trend. Sadly, Grace Church's boys' choir was dissolved very recently.

Grace Church's future may be brightening along with Newark itself. Grace Church's neighborhood is steadily growing in economic status and population. Grace Church appeals to Roman Catholics who are dissatisfied with Roman Catholicism stance on homosexuality and female ordination. Grace Church's second 170 years may be as accomplished as its first.

Official Grace Church Website

Special Thanks to Bruce Ford and James Macgregor

 

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Bibliography

Bataille, Edward F. Grace Church in Newark: The First Hundred Years: 1837-1937. Newark: The Rector, Warden, and Vestrymen of Grace Church in Newark, 1937.

 

 

December 2006, April 2007, photographs by Jeffrey Bennett and Eric Koppel.

 

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