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 died in Jamaica, on July 26, 1702. Congregants worshipped in the “Old StoneChurch” that shared space with the Presbyterians. The first Grace Church 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 opened its doors for worship in the Jamaica community. This the present church building, which is considered to be one of the finest examples of American Gothic architecture. The church building is 160 years old. This building was designated by the landmarks commission to be included in the national Registry of Historic Places in 1967. Its cemetery was cited to be in the Registry in 1963.
As the church increased in congregants, additional room was needed for many of its activities. To house the Sunday school, a wooden building was erected on Flushing Avenue (now Parsons Boulevard) in 1856. During 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. Today “Grace Memorial House” serves to provide for the needs of its members and hospitality to the larger community for meetings and other activities.
Grace Church has provided continuous ministry, holding divine services without interruption until 2020 when it was forced to close its doors for the first time in history due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite that, services were initially held virtually. As the pandemic restrictions were lifted, a hybrid format was used offering in-person and virtual services to meet the needs of its congregants with varying health risks.
As of 2022, the church chronicles 320 years of ministry and remains steadfast in its mission “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” This is reflected in its outreach to the changing demographics of the Jamaica community. Its history of mission has reflected 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., members of Grace Church filed and received a Certificate of Incorporation for “Grace Episcopal Church Jamaica Senior Citizens Housing Development Fund Corporation.” The Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the corporation $7 million to erect and sponsor housing for senior citizens and persons with different
In 1990, Grace Episcopal Church in the town of Jamaica, NY, sold the vacant parcel of land on which “Grace Houses” was erected to “Grace Episcopal Church Jamaica Senior Citizens Housing Development Fund Corporation.” “Grace Houses” continues to thrive under the administration of its Board of Directors, primarily 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 three centuries. 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.