Origins of Grace
Grace Church United Methodist, originally Grace Methodist Episcopal, was born from a dream of a couple dozen people and their pastor. Reverend W.J. Stevenson and eleven others gathered together in their home church of St. Paul’s, desiring to establish another Methodist church in Wilmington to expand upon the Sunday School work being done by St. Paul’s already. In a second meeting, with twenty-five persons (including Bishop Simpson) in attendance, the following resolution was adopted:
“That it is the unanimous sense of this meeting, that the interests of Methodism, church enterprise and city improvement unite to encourage the erection of a new church somewhere in the improving western section of the city, and that the congregation of St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church, and the friends of the enterprise will build a new church on some eligible site in the western part of the city.”
And thus, with a spirit of expansion rather than separation, began the family of Grace (the name chosen for the new church by the ladies present at that second meeting).
Wilmington at the time of Grace’s beginnings was a city of approximately 30,000 inhabitants. The city was growing quickly amid the Industrial Revolution and the Civil War. Industries such as shipbuilding, iron foundries and railroad and trolley car construction were replacing the early mills and businesses that gave Wilmington its strong working foundations. The city’s residents included prominent businessmen as well as the hard-working artisans and workingmen and their families, most of whom resided east of Market Street. Poverty and a lack of education were found throughout their numbers, especially amongst the itinerant populace of southeastern Wilmington. This was the backdrop of our church’s earliest days.
The Board of Trustees for Grace Methodist Episcopal purchased a lot at the Northwest corner of Ninth and West Streets, near the northwestern outskirts of Wilmington. Cow pastures could still be found north of Delaware Avenue. Ground was broken for a Church and Chapel to be built on the site on April 27, 1865. Bishop Simpson laid the cornerstone for the main edifice on October 7, 1865. The first service was held in the Chapel, built within a year’s time, on Sunday, March 25, 1866. The main Church was dedicated on Thursday, January 23, 1868. The arrival of Grace seemed to inspire an expansion of residential and business growth westward for Wilmington. And from its inception on, Grace Church United Methodist has endeavored to serve and share in the community.
More information on the buildings and windows can be found by clicking here.
Over the years…
- In the early years of Grace’s Sunday School program, children were taught reading, writing and arithmetic as well as religion.
- The Women of Grace rolled bandages and sewed for the Red Cross during both World War I and II.
- The Upper Room (in our church’s first building) was an early home of the Delaware Children’s Repertory Theatre.
- An art gallery encouraging the presentation of art and faith was established here in 1994.
- Grace has provided space for the neighborhood mission/ministry of Urban Promise.
- Grace today has its own resident music group, the early and contemporary music chamber ensemble Mélamonie.