Our History

History of Grace Episcopal Church

The beginning of Grace Church goes back to the first days of Ottawa.  The city, started as a Baptist mission for the Indians, was incorporated in 1866.

On June 19, 1867, representatives of approximately a dozen of its families secured the establishment of the Holy Comforter Episcopal Mission.  Bishop Vail received permission to use “A Public Hall” for gatherings and services, and then appointed the first resident priest, the Rev. C. E. D. Griffeth.

The list of the initial communicants includes names of “considerable prominence” in Ottawa’s history, as does the list of Bishop Vail’s first confirmation class presented to him by Rev. Joseph W. Norwood on July 28, 1872.  Despite this, there were real struggles for survival with only 14 persons and a yearly offering of $27.00.  By 1881, four clergymen were assigned to Holy Comforter Mission in rapid succession, in addition to which there was one period of supervision by the rector of Trinity Church Lawrence. Then in 1881, the Rev. Richard Adams arrived, staying 5 years with an annual salary of $150.00.

In 1887, Grace Guild was organized by the new bishop of Kansas, the Rt. Rev. E. S. Thomas, and a tradition of work and sacrifice for the church started, a tradition that carries through to today with the women of the church in the forefront of raising funds for the church.  Eighteen months after its establishment, $1,875.00 had been raised.  This sum enabled the mission to buy, renovate, and furnish a building formerly owned by another church.

Following the dedication of the church in 1889, Holy comforter Mission experienced happier days.  The congregation was admitted to Convention as a parish in November of 1890.  an interesting item in connection with this admission to Convention is the change in the official title of the church.  Holy Comforter Mission was changed to Grace Church on June 15, 1890, and was consecrated as such in 1891.  Since Grace Church began at least three years before the name change, this may be an example of a church taking its name from the title of its women’s organization.

Using Guild funds, plus a mortgage, the church bought land at Fifth and Locust, and the first Grace Church building was consecrated on October 11, 1896 by Rt. Rev. Frank Millspaugh.

After 1896, 12 priests served the church.  During the tenure of Rev. Claude Sauerbrei, 1949 to 1953, a new church was built at Fifth and Locust.  Mrs. Ralph Harris made an initial gift of $25,000.00 and members of the congregation matched that amount.  Architect of the church was Lloyd Rourke, Lawrence.  At the insistence of Mrs. Harris, the church was copied after one she had seen in England.  The new church building was consecrated February 14, 1954, by Bishop Goodrich Fenner.  Like a number of other churches in the area, an old Santa Fe railroad locomotive bell was placed in the tower.  The bell bears the Santa Fe emblem, a cross inside a circle, which Christians see as a symbol of God’s everlasting love.

Under the guidance of Rev. Leopold Hoppe, 1960 to 1973, the church became involved in a federal housing program and built the 76-unit Canterbury Courts addition.  For many years, men of the church served on the housing board until it was sold to a private investor.

In 1967, the church celebrated its centennial anniversary, and in June 1992, on the feast of Pentecost, Grace Church celebrated the 125th anniversary of its founding.  As the Rev. J. D. B. Sweigart wrote, “The ground has been made ready; the seed has been sown.  May God continue to grant increase

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