The History of Grace Church
Grace Episcopal Church, Jamaica, founded in 1702 by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts of the Anglican Church, is the first church organized in what is now the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. It is the second-oldest Episcopal church in the state of New York and is considered the “mother church” of the Episcopal churches in the town of Jamaica.
The Reverend Patrick Gordon, a chaplain in the Royal Navy was appointed Rector of Queens by the Bishop of London. He dies in Jamaica, on July 26, 1702. They worshiped in the “Old Stone Church” that was a shared space and worship with the Presbyterians. The first Grace Church that was constructed in 1734 on land provided by the 1733 deed of the Heathcote widow. Through the generosity of the Honorable Rufus King, the first Ambassador to England and one of the original signers of the Constitution of the United States, a new building was constructed and consecrated in 1822. It was destroyed by fire 30 years later. Grace Church, a congregation known for its resilience and perseverance began a new church building within the year and in September 1862 open its doors for worship in the Jamaica community. This is the present church building, which is considered to be one of the finest examples of American Gothic architecture. The church building is 154 years old. This building was designated by the landmarks commission to be included in the national Registry of Historic Places in 1967. It’s cemetery cited to be in the Registry in 1963.
As the church increase in congregants, additional room was needed for many of its activities. To house the Sunday school, a wooden building with erected on Flushing Avenue (now Parsons Boulevard) in 1856. In the midst of considerable growth of the Jamaica community on the tiny village into a driving metropolis, there was the need for a larger space. In 1912, made possible by the gifts of many parishioners, the cornerstone for the “Grace Memorial House” was laid to serve the church and community. The current building consists of offices, a gymnasium, an auditorium and meeting rooms. This year the “Grace Memorial House” turns 108 years old. Today the building serves to provide for the needs of its members and hospitality to the larger community for meetings and other activities.
The history of Grace Church is a chronicle of 318 years of continuous ministry, holding divine services without interruption while responding with the resilience and perseverance to the changing demographics of the Jamaica community. Its history of mission has been a reflection of the faith and witness to the work of Jesus Christ in promoting big social Gospel to the needs of the community. Under the leadership of the Reverend Herbert Thompson Jr., the Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded Grace Church $7 million to erect and sponsor housing for the elderly and handicapped. Grace Houses continues to thrive under the administration of its Board of Directors, composed of Grace Church members.
Great Rectors such as the Reverend Samuel Seabury, who later became the first Bishop of the Episcopal Church in America, have provided unyielding leadership for the parish over the past 300 years. Continuing in this tradition is the Reverend Father Darryl F James who began his ministry as Priest-in-Charge in 2007, retiring in 2019. In September 2019, Grace Church, welcomed Reverend Father Gary J. Parker as interim priest.