Grace Episcopal Church (Lawrence, MA)

3510121The library has a collection that includes the parish year books and other ephemera.

As the Great Dam on the Merrimack River was being built in 1845 the Eastern Diocese of Massachusetts Episcopal Church was divided into three districts: east, west, and south.  The Missionary Association of the eastern district (Essex and Middlesex Counties) believed they should establish a church in the area to service the men working on the dam and the mills.  The Rev. George Packard had been a missionary at large to the town of Beverly, Woburn, and Merrimack.  With the help of Samuel Lawrence and Rev Packard a church was established on land granted by the Essex Company.  The site given became the present site of Grace Church at the corner of Jackson and Common Streets.  The original building was wood framed and built for the cost of $1350 with the proviso that the congregation would rebuild in stone within five years time.  Grace Church became the first church building in Lawrence.  The first church service was held Oct. 11, 1846.  This building was replaced by the present stone building and dedicated May 2, 1852.  The old wooden building was moved to Garden Street and served the church for weekday services and Sunday School until 1878.  The church was enlarged and a new organ was installed in 1896.

 The congregation published The Parish Year Book beginning 1872.  The Grace Church Monthly began publication in 1891.  The church was composed of a number of groups: the Women’s Auxiliary (originally Parish Aid), the Mother’s Society, The Eureka Club (formerly the Junior Auxiliary), Young Women’s Guild (a branch of the Girl’s Friendly Society), The Altar Guild (originally the Chancel Committee), The Men’s Club, The Dramatic Club, The Ben Ardens, The Grace Church players, The William Lawrence Club (a branch of Young People’s Fellowship), Little Helpers, Married Couples Club, and the Church Periodical Club.  A number of troops of Boy and Girl Scouts used the church for their meetings.  William Lawrence, a member of the Abbott Lawrence family, was pastor of Grace Church for a number of years in the 19th century and went on to become Episcopal Bishop of the State of Massachusetts.  Grace still has a very active congregation.  Esperanza Academy, a parochial middle school, is housed in the parish house.

5 Responses

  1. Louise,,, me again. Grace is still very active, with a large Hispanic congregation and a small Anglo congregation. The Priest in Church is Nicarauguan (sp?) and his assistant is from the Dominican Republic. They are leaders in the community, especially among the young people. And Esperanza Academy is a ministry of this congregation and its sisters in the Valley along with the bishop and diocese. There are two priests associated with the parish in addition to the two mentioned above… one of whom is me!
    Want more?? Just ask,

  2. I loved Grace Church. Was in the choir for 6 yrs, confirmed there, Loved the camp at Canobie and William Lawrence Club. Serving Shrove Tuesday breakfast and so many other wonderful activities. Great memories. I believe it was Rev. Shields & Father Nelson.

  3. Grace Church was very much a part of my early childhood, My mother sang in the choir, I and two sisters attended Sunday school, one sister was confirmed there by Bishop Sherrill, I remember going to so many activities including halloween parties and the church picnics at Canobie lake of which I have a newspaper picture of the whole group one year My sister was also a girl scout there, I can remember sitting in church after sunday school and how the lights began to dim. at the start of the serman The Rev. Raymond Heron was our beloved Rector and the Rev Roebuck was Curate. My English grandmother who died in 1891 is buried in the Grace church Rose and Thistle lot in the Bellevue cemetery. We loved Grace church.

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  5. […] when Lawrence was still a town.  Just east on Common Street at the corner of Jackson Street is Grace Episcopal Church, the city’s oldest church structure. Another church that is both very old (1872) and large is St. […]

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