An Historical Perspective of Grace Church
In the 169 year old Grace Church minute book, we read that a group of people met on August 12, 1844 to organize and build an Episcopal Church. Eight days later, at a second gathering: Thomas Lawrence was called to the chair, Henry Hone was appointed secretary, Elbert Floyd-Jones was elected Collector of Funds for the new church and James Meinell was made Treasurer of the "subscription monies."
General Thomas Floyd-Jones donated the land. To this day, the legal title of this parish reads as follows: "The Rector, Churchwardens and Vestrymen of Grace Church, South Oysterbay."
In September of 1844 plans were approved to erect the first church building. It was only 24 feet wide, 36 feet long, 16 feet ceilings and a brick foundation. The first annual meeting was held on March 25, 1845; the annual meetings for over 100 years being held the Tuesday after Easter.
The first Rector to be "called" was William A. Curtis at a salary of $300.00 a year. Grace Church was closed from Christmas to Easter of each year, as the handful of people who attended services went to New York or elsewhere during that time.
On July 9, 1846 the church was first used for services, but, due to illness of the Bishop of New York (we were part of QueensCounty in those days and also part of the Diocese of New York) the building was not consecrated until April 13, 1847. The clergy from Jamaica, Hempstead, Islip, Patchogue and Huntington were present.
The first baptisms in the Parish were on July 1, 1848 - Muney and Sarah Elizabeth, the children of Henry and Henrietta Purdy. Helen and Catharine Floyd-Jones were the first confirmation candidates and the first marriage ceremony recorded was a wedding at the home of Tredwell Carman.
In 1880, a Christmas gift of seven acres of land for a parsonage was given by John D. Jones in memory of his wife. Most of this land is still owned by the parish. What we call the Floyd-Jones House was built and placed where the new church now stands; the building was moved to its present location in the summer of 1957. The small building next to the old church was built a couple of years later. This building is called Wiley Hall in honor of Dr. William Wiley whose Rectorship lasted longer than anyone's, from 1890 until 1926. His remains lie in the Church graveyard.
Grace Church was enlarged in 1905 and some of the Tiffany windows were installed. The congregation itself grew steadily larger and expanded under the Rectorships of William Wiley, Edgar Brice, Edward Rogers and Edward J. Bubb.
In 1948, the Reverend John Malcolm Haight was called to be rector and, under his vision and guidance, the present church was built and the Day School formed. A Rectory was built in the summer of 1949; additional rooms were built in 1963. In 1952 a $120,000 Parish House was built and has been in constant use ever since.
Construction of the existing church began in 1959 and the congregation moved into the new building in September 1960. Rev. Haight was succeeded by the Reverend John X. Jobson in 1974. Under the direction of Father Jobson, the old Grace Church was given to the Historical Society of the Massapequas, the north chapel (St. Christopher's) was sold to the Carpathian Orthodox Church, and the present church was substantially renovated, incorporating the Tiffany stained glass windows from the old church.
Father Jobson was succeeded by the Reverend Douglas Hutchings, as interim priest, in 1997. Father Hutchings empowered the laity, and was effective in transitioning the parish toward a new rector, the Reverend Sara Louise Krantz. Mother Krantz served as rector from 1999 to 2007, and was instrumental in developing and enhancing diverse parish outreach programs.
In November 2009, The Rev. Joshua D. Walters was welcomed as the 11th Rector of Grace Church. He provided inspiring leadership and direction for the parish. The congregation grew by more than a third, and young families were drawn to the Church and the Day School. Community outreach increased as did Church attendance. He attracted a loyal following of parish volunteers all working to improve not only Grace Church. but the greater Massapequa community. In 2012 he answered the call of a regional Church with more than 1,000 members in the suburbs of Rochester, NY.
Grace Church was left on solid footing with outstanding Wardens, an enthusiastic Vestry and energized parishioners ready to keep the Church growing into the next decade.
The Wardens and Vestry began working with the Diocese and the search began for a new Priest-in-Charge.
In September 2012, The Very Rev. Canon John P. McGinty, PhD, Canon for Formation and Dean of The Mercer School, was assigned by Bishop Provenzano, as celebrating priest. A church scholar, his sermons were considered among best ever preached at Grace. He filled an important void while the search for a new spiritual leader began.
In January 2013, The Rev. Dr. Charles R. Colwell became the Interim Rector at Grace Church. The Rev. Colwell officiated at Sunday Services, provided pastoral care for the Parish and support for the Grace Day School until a Priest in Charge was selected. Fr. Charlie with an infectious smile and easy manner, brought a life-time of experiences as an Episcopal Rector to the congregation.
Bishop Lawrence Provenzano and The Rev. Canon John D. Betit played important roles in the search for a Priest-in-Charge. Their leadership and support was key to helping the Vestry screen qualified candidates.
In March, 2013, the Wardens and Vestry of Grace Church announced the appointment of The Reverend Walter V. Hillebrand as the new Priest-in -Charge. Fr. Walter, originally from Italy, possesses vast professional experiences and skills in Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care and Counseling. In addition, Fr. Walter has an extensive background in Business Administration and General Management. He begins his ministry in May, 2013 and the entire parish is looking forward to a new era for Grace Church.
After discussion and prayerful consideration, the Wardens and Vestry unanimously elected The Rev. Dr. Walter V. Hillebrand as the 12th Rector of Grace Church effective September 1, 2014. His outstanding work as the spiritual leader of Grace as priest-in-charge, coupled with his management skills insured his election.
Fr. Walter's election was wholeheartedly supported by Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, who officiated at his institution on November 1, 2014.