How Grace Church Began
In the early 1840s, several families who were interested in forming an Episcopal Church in Bath began holding services in their homes. The group later moved to the local Music Hall, which was heated by a wood stove and lit by whale-oil lamps. At church time, if few were present, the service was delayed while members of the group went out to the street to invite people in. This method proved successful and the congregation grew; it became evident that a church building was needed.
In August 1849, a meeting was held to organize the Parish of Grace Church, and plans were made to build at the corner of Oak and Middle Streets. A portion of the construction funds was raised through the sale of pews in the church. The first service was held on Christmas Eve, 1852, with Grace’s first rector, The Rev. Frederic Gardiner, celebrating.
In 1905, for the first time, women were allowed to attend the Annual Parish Meeting. Miss Grace Woodbury was elected treasurer, but she was not permitted to be present at Vestry meetings! Until 1921, Grace’s rectors served for terms of about 3 to 8 years. In that year, The Rev. Charles Tubbs was installed as rector; he served for 30 years until 1951. Grace was a thriving church with a large children’s ministry. Please see the picture from 1937 of the Altar Party, followed by the Boys’ Choir. Timer Savage is following the Crucifer (on right).
In 1958, when The Rev. Richard Adams was rector, the Vestry discovered that the 100+-year-old church building was structurally unsound and deemed to be unsafe. The church was closed in March 1962, and services were held at the Masonic Hall. The 157 members voted to build a new church.
Following a capital fund campaign, ground was broken in 1963 at the present location of 1100 Washington Street. Stained-glass windows (many of which are original Tiffany) and the altar from the old church were installed in the new chapel, and the beautiful rose memorial window is now in the narthex. After parishioners voted to enlarge the building, a new parish hall was built and consecrated in 1964, named for Father Tubbs.
Our last ten to twelve years have focused not only on major outreach projects, but also on making Grace Church more visible in the Bath community. Participation has included distributing free bottles of water to spectators as they watch the July 4th Heritage Days parade in downtown Bath, and the Blessing of the Animals in Library Park on the Sunday closest to St. Francis Day. We are a partner to Institution Univers in Uanamenthe, Haiti, providing a scholarship fund for one of the Haitian students to attend the university, and participating in several mission trips.
A monthly “Supper at Six” pot-luck supper in our parish hall, which was open to any neighbors who wanted to attend, morphed into Grace Parishioners taking the pot-luck to four low-income housing venues in Bath. It is now known as “Feast at 5:30” — because the residents prefer to eat at that time. Grace parishioners are major supporters of the Bath Area Food Bank. A special collection is taken the first Sunday of the month specifically for this purpose. On the fourth Tuesday of each month, Grace Church hosts a huge food truck in our parking lot, with 10,000 pounds of food from the Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn. All types of food and provisions are given free to any family in need with no questions asked. This truck supplies hundreds of local people every month.
Within the surrounding community, Grace parishioners support the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate and participate in the annual Habitat Walk. Parishioners participate in filling backpacks for the Backpack Program, so that school-age children can have nutritious food over the weekend. Grace Church members actively support the cultural life of the community and can be found on the lists of donors and board members of the Maine Maritime Museum, Patten Free Library in Bath, the Maine State Music Theater on the Bowdoin College campus, and the Chocolate Church in Bath.