The History of Grace The Plains
Grace Episcopal Church was founded in 1855, as the Right Reverend William Meade, Bishop of Virginia, consecrated the original white frame structure “to the worship of the ever-adorable Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” Originally one of three churches in Piedmont Parish, Grace shared a rector for many years with Trinity, Marshall, and Emmanuel, Delaplane. After the Civil War, which ravaged and defaced the churches of Piedmont Parish, Grace Church became part of the newly formed Whittle Parish.
The late nineteenth century brought change, when the Rector, the Reverend James Grammer, D.D., refused communion to members of the congregation who were said to indulge in dancing, gaming, and other “unsuitable” practices. Consequently, the Church of Our Savior was established at Little Georgetown, in which a small group worshiped for a number of years. In 1966, Grace Church assumed responsibility for the upkeep and acquired the adjacent cemetery, managed since 1992 by the Little Georgetown Foundation.
The early twentieth century was a period of healing and renewal. A great impetus for growth came from the remarkable vision of the rector, the Rev. Dr. Edmund Lee Woodward, who spearheaded the construction of the present stone structure, to be a “symbol of the centrality of Christ in the midst of the whole community.” The church and parish hall were built of local stone given as free-will offerings and hauled from neighboring farms. The church, an excellent example of 13th century rural English Gothic architecture, was consecrated on June 28, 1918. Incidentally, after Woodward’s retirement from Grace in 1920, he went on to create Shrine Mont, a conference and retreat center for the Diocese of Virginia, located in the mountains of Shenandoah County.
In the last decade of the twentieth century under the leadership of the Rev. Zachary Fleetwood, the congregation grew and began to plan for much-needed office and Sunday school space, as well as room for the expanding programs of the church. The new addition, the Education Wing, was completed during the tenure of the Rev. Caroline Smith Parkinson.
Under the spiritual guidance of Rev. Parkinson, the church’s outreach programs grew, church partnerships were established in Scotland and Navajoland, educational opportunities such as Education for Ministry (EFM) were offered, lay involvement in the Diocese increased, and the church continued its long-standing tradition of seminarian field training through Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria. Rev. Parkinson retired in 2010. Following a time of transition, the Rev. Susan Rebecca Michelfelder was called as Interim Rector in October 2014.
In May of 2017, after a year-long search, the Rev. Weston Mathews, formerly of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, was called to serve as the twenty-first rector of Grace Church.
Weston has rekindled a spirit of love at Grace, has strengthened the church’s position in the community as a center for the arts, and has spearheaded the creation of Grace Montessori School, a faith-based Montessori school for children 18 months – 6 years old, which opened in the fall of 2019.