Grace Church Parish in Rutherford came into existence May 11, 1869
after ten years of preliminary groundwork. This began in 1859 when Mr.
Floyd Tomkins, who resided on the site formerly occupied by Fairleigh Dickinson University, now occupied by Felician College, started Union Sunday School.
Eight years later, the ministry was expanded to include worship
services held according to the usage of the Book of Common Prayer.
These services were conducted by lay readers in the Rutherfurd
Park Hotel (note original spelling). Because of the enthusiasm for
these services, the organization of a parish in union with the Diocese
of New Jersey was undertaken.
The congregation met with the Rev. W.G. Farrington, D.D. on April
24, 1869 and decided by ballot that the corporate name of the church
should be “The Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of Grace Church in Rutherfurd Park”. At this meeting two wardens, five
vestrymen, a secretary and treasurer of the vestry were elected and
three deputies to the Diocesan Convention were chosen.
On May 11, 1869, the Rt. Rev. William H. Odenheimer,
Bishop of the Diocese of New Jersey (this was prior to the formation of
the Diocese of Newark), gave canonical consent of the formation of the
parish and it became an integral part of the Diocese. The Rev. William
H. Lord was the first Rector, called at a salary of $1200 with
residence provided. In 1871 Mr. Lord retired. Thereafter, services were
conducted at Union Hall by Mr. N.F. Boss, a lay reader.
In December 1871, a gift of land measuring 200 feet on West Passaic
Avenue by 150 feet on Wood Street was given for a church by Mr. Floyd
Tomkins. Ground was broken for the new church on September 5, 1872 and
the cornerstone laid by Bishop Odenheimer, on
October 14 of that year. The cost of the original church, which
constitutes the present nave up to the beginning of the transepts, is
listed as $7,957.48. The Rev. Edwin S. W. Pentreath
served as Rector from 1872 to 1874. Serving as Rectors for brief terms
were the Rev. R. M. Hayden and the Rev. E. Saunders. In 1885 the Rev.
Francis J. Clayton became Rector. During his rectorship
the remainder of the mortgage incurred in the building of the church
was paid off. The great bell in the tower, which weighs 1,521 pounds
and cost $750, was given by the ladies of the church.
On August 1, 1890 the cornerstone was laid for the new chancel and
transepts. These were formally opened on February 5, 1891 by the Bishop
of the Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Thomas A. Sharkey, D.D. This was the first
time that a vested choir of men and boys sang in the church. The cost
of this addition was approximately $12,000. The Rev. Mr. Clayton
organized a mission in Arlington in 1886 and St. Thomas’ Mission in
Lyndhurst in 1888.
The Rev. Henry M. Ladd became Rector in 1895. During his rectorship the rectory was built in 1903 at a cost
of $8,850 and the Chapter House on Wood Street was completed in 1911,
During this time several beautiful stained glass windows were
installed, including the Altar Window in 1901 and the Gold Star Window,
a memorial to our men lost in World War 1, in 1919. In1904 Mr. Ladd
brought about the establishment of Grace Chapel in East Rutherford. He
also served as Archdeacon of Paterson.
On June 25, 1922 the church was consecrated by the Rt. Rev. Edward
S. Lines signifying all indebtedness was paid off. Mr. Ladd retired in
1924 and was succeeded by the Rev. Charles W. Popham.
During his rectorship the hung ceiling in the
church was removed revealing the full beauty of the Gothic design of
the original church. Eucharistic candles were introduced at this time,
making Grace Church one of the last parishes in the Diocese to catch up
with liturgical trends. The Women’s Chapter was conceived under Mr. Popham, by uniting the Missionary Chapter of St.
Paul and the money-raising group, the Ladies Aid.
Mr. Popham was succeeded in 1945 by the
Rev. Knud A. Larsen, III. At this time all
grades in the church school above the kindergarten began worshiping in
the church with parents and other adults. Thus, the Family Service was
inaugurated. The Junior Choir of boys and girls was reorganized by the
organist and choir director, Mr. Arthur B. Paulmier.
The Acolytes’ Guild became affiliated with the National Order of St.
Vincent. The Baptismal Font was moved to the room at the base of the tower,
which came to serve as the Baptistry. In 1949
St. Elizabeth’s Chapter was formed to provide a means for women who
could not attend afternoon meetings to have a part in all phases of the
work of the church and Diocese. A Sanctuary light and an aumbry were installed during Mr. Larsen’s tenure.
Mr. Larsen was followed by the Rev. Richard N. Pease, who was
instituted as Rector on Whitsunday 1951 by the Rt. Rev. Benjamin M.
Washburn. Due to the need for expanded facilities, the parish approved
a fund-raising program in 1953 for the erection of a new wing to the
parish house extending from the north transept along the rear of the
church property on West Passaic Avenue. The new parish house was
completed in late spring of 1954 and was dedicated by Bishop Washburn
at a festival service on May 23, 1954. Included in the building were
ten classrooms and offices of the Rector and his administrative
assistant. The cost of the building with equipment and furnishings
amounted to approximately $100,000 and was paid off within three years.
Other improvements included the rebuilding and redecoration of the Baptistry and the installation of a chancel rail
and wooden altar rail given as memorials.
Just prior to the 100th Anniversary, a professional survey of our
physical plant revealed serious weaknesses in the structure of the
nave. The Vestry voted for an immediate program of restoration.
Beginning in August 1968 services were transferred to the East Wing
Parish House while restoration was in progress. An electric organ and
the pews moved in from the church helped transform the upper hall into
a temporary chapel, which was used until Easter 1969 when we were able
to move back into the church.
During all this time the work of restoration and reinforcement was
being carried on. the most readily visible
interior signs of this work are the angle plates and tie rods firmly
binding the nave truss members and roof timbers.
On the exterior, the entire church, nave, transepts, and chancel
have undergone a very thorough going over including removal of the old
“Civil War era” mortar and its replacement with modern durable Portland
cement. A Narthex Screen was presented in 1971 and a new carillon was
installed in 1974 replacing the previous one which was given in 1949.
From August 1962 to August 1963 Mr. Pease participated in a clergy
exchange with the Rev. John F.C. White, Vicar of the Church of St.
George the Martyr, Ramsgate, Kent, England.
This exchange took place under the Wates-Seabury
Plan, a program set up between the Episcopal Church in the United
States and the Church of England.
In January of 1981 Mr. Pease retired and the Reverend Doctor Philip
Cato became our interim priest. In 1982 the Reverend Doctor Edward
Martin, Jr. was called as the permanent rector. During this time the
Outreach Commission was formed (1983), The Rutherford Senior Housing
Complex was sponsored by Grace Church (1987), and the Lay Eucharistic
Ministers Guild was begun in 1987. The Homeless Shelter was established
in 1988, and the roof and bell in the Bell Tower were renovated.
In 1994 the Reverend Doctor Edward Martin, Jr. resigned and was
replaced by interim rector the Reverend Canon Edmund B. Partridge. In
1995 the Reverend Canon Edmund B. Partridge was called to be the
permanent Rector after serving as an interim priest. Canon Partridge
served until August 1, 2000.
Upon his arrival, the Endowment Fund was $310,000 and there was no
Reserve for Contingencies Fund. In five years The Endowment Fund grew
to over $530,000 A Reserve for Contingencies Fund of $30,000 was
created. This is a fund separate from the Endowment Fund but similarly
The Rev. David L. Gable followed Canon Partridge as the 10th rector
of Grace Church. Father Gable served from February 2002 until March
2008. He expanded on the traditional mid-week service by offering lunch
to those who attended. This has grown to include members of other
community churches, and is an important part of worship at Grace
The Memorial Garden was dedicated after its expansion as the Garden
of Repose. New American and Episcopal Church flags were procured and
mounted in the Transcepts of the church. A
new gold-colored Dossal was procured and installed in the church
sanctuary behind the High Altar and the entire East Building had
central air conditioning installed.
Grace Church, along with the Presbyterian Church, took the
initiative in creating the Rutherford Community Food Pantry. Other
churches joined in this effort to make it a successful ecumenical outreach
During these years the financial structure of the Church substantially
improved and the Church’s various Outreach and other programs were more
than doubled in volunteer hours served and in dollars given. Grace
Church, along with all other outreach obligations, sent hundreds of
dollars in the relief of every major disaster in the world.