The Church Across from the Mall
Nestled in the heart of the Brandywine Valley, Grace Episcopal Church retains much of the charm of the farm community from which it sprang. Its stately trees and weathered gravestones offer a tranquil setting that recalls a previous era. For many, Grace Church weaves its spirit through the very center of their family traditions as several generations count this very special church as their home. Others came to Grace as they began families and new careers with the companies that incorporated here. These ‘newcomers’ have come from all over the United States, and even globally; some joining to reconnect with their childhood faith tradition and others staying because they were touched by the sense of community Grace offered. They found inspiration and a stability that comes from abiding tradition. They found people like themselves committed to missions within the community and to the enduring nourishment of regular worship.
That legacy of tradition offers both opportunities and challenges as we embrace the increasing pace of life in the twenty-first century. Like our earliest Christian forbearers, we don’t all agree how best to meet these opportunities and challenges. But we can agree that through a nurturing faith, a community and church family, and deep knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can journey forward as the Lord calls us.
We are a tree of life rooted in God’s love branching out to embrace all.
Our mission is to be a wellspring of spiritual sustenance, providing support
for faith, friendship and service.
A Short History and Description
Grace Church is the oldest Episcopal congregation in the Brandywine Hundred. In the early 19th century, the farmers of the Hundred desired a church where they lived. The congregation was founded December 30, 1835 in the Talley School House. The old school-house was purchased, refitted for church services, and consecrated that year.
The Search for a Home
As the congregation grew, they searched for a site suitable for a new church and establishment of a cemetery. The present site was purchased in the fall of 1872, and in 1874 the cornerstone of the church, was consecrated. The first service of worship and dedication took place July 4, 1875. The low stone wall bounding the front of the property on Concord Pike remains intact from the late 19th century.
Room for Sunday School
A Parish House was added in 1928 on the north side of the church and dedicated the next year. It served as an area for Sunday School classes and evening recreation. As the congregation expanded, a two-story wing was added on the back of the Parish House and completed in 1952.
A Growing Congregation
The post World War II-era saw explosive growth of housing developments in the Brandywine Hundred and of the congregation. Ground was broken in 1959 to build a new, larger church, and the first service was held Christmas Eve 1960, with the congregation seated on folding chairs. It was dedicated March 5, 1961. Our large digital sign fronting Concord Pike was installed in 2008, and provides visibility to the parish and brings attention to our programs.
A New Symbol
On Pentecost of 2003, a new stained-glass window, the “Tree of Life,” a contemporary rendering of a cross as a tree, was dedicated, replacing “the temporary window” that divided the Narthex from the sanctuary. Both the big church and chapel are used for worship, with the older, air-conditioned Chapel being used in the summer months. Our small but dedicated choir accompanies the liturgy from September to early June, adapting well to both spaces. Our liturgy follows the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, with occasional use of Enriching Our Worship. Along with the regular observances of the church year, we enjoy celebrations such as the Blessing of the Animals in honor of St. Francis, and “Sea Sunday,” to honor the work of mariners and support the Seamen’s Center at the Port.
An Active Parish
The addition to the Parish House continues to house our Christian Formation programs, including the Vacation Bible School, which takes place in late July every summer. This has become one of the most successful endeavors of the parish, inviting children from the community as well as the parish in an evening program where volunteers from the congregation work together to provide a fun and memorable experience for everyone.
The Parish Hall serves a multitude of parish functions, as well as a rental space for Jazzercize classes and other events. The “Memorial Room” is a comfortable space for adult classes, including Education for Ministry, which the parish sponsors, and other gatherings, including “Creative Call,” a parish crafts group, and the Book Club.
Giving to the Community
The Seamen’s Center, is one of the outreach programs of the church, with the annual collection of items for “Ditty Boxes” at Christmas for mariners, along with the “Angel Tree” wish list for Ronald McDonald House being fulfilled every year. Once a month volunteers prepare casserole meals in the Parish Hall kitchen for Emmanuel Dining Room, a ministry to the homeless in downtown Wilmington.
We gather food for the Claymont Community Center Food Pantry every month, and partner with Jewish Family Services for the disbursement of the yearly “People in Need” grant money from the Jesse Ball DuPont Fund. As a musical offering to the surrounding community, we sponsor the Holiday Brown Bag Concerts, showcasing local talent during the lunch hour on Fridays in December and again in the spring.