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 leading 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 Reverend 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 constructed 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 June 28, 1918. Read the first-hand account of that splendid day from an original print recently restored and duplicated in booklet form (special thanks to long-time parishioner & Grace Church Trustee, Robert deT. Lawrence, IV).
Upon the church’s 150th Anniversary, extensive interviews were conducted to honor the memories of our beloved Rectors. In the last decade of the twentieth century under the leadership of the Reverend Zachary Fleetwood, the congregation grew and planning began for much needed office and Sunday school space, as well as room for the expanding programs of the church. The construction of the new addition occurred during the tenure of the Reverend Caroline Smith Parkinson.
Under the spiritual guidance of the Reverend Parkinson, the church’s outreach programs were expanded, church partnerships 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. The Reverend Parkinson retired in 2010. Following a time of transition, the Reverend Susan Rebecca Michelfelder was called as Interim Rector in October, 2014.
In May of 2017, after a year-long search, the Reverend Weston Mathews, formerly of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, was called to serve as the twenty-first Rector of Grace Church.
Today, as it has since its inception, Grace Church remains open and responsive to the needs of the community, honoring the traditions of the past while working toward the goals of the future.