Grace Episcopal History
History of Grace Episcopal Church
Our Centennial 1912 – 2012
The history of Grace Episcopal Church, Glendora, California, is an integral part of the history of the community of the city itself. The concept of Grace began in 1910, a year before Glendora became an incorporated town. Pioneer settlers, including early members of Grace, had actually arrived in the area via covered wagon, long before the town’s 1911 incorporation.
Thus, the history of Grace Church is long, rich, and colorful. It features people of faith, talent, energy, and vision. Our archives contain many precious documents and photographs. This is a brief condensation of Grace’s story. A forthcoming link will take you to a more comprehensive narrative.
In the year 1910, the Reverend Henry Quimby, rector of Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church in Monrovia, California traveled by horse and buggy for a meeting with a small group of Glendora families. The purpose of the meeting was to plan the founding of a new church. All present agreed to the undertaking. Thus began Grace Episcopal Mission Church.
The first services took place in Glendora’s Masonic Hall. It was frequently a challenge to find pastors to officiate. Often, lay members read Vespers (Evening Prayer). Sometimes, vestrymen would fetch ministers from other towns (by horse-drawn buggy, then car or trolley) to celebrate Holy Communion.
Soon plans were formed to create a true home for the new congregation. In 1911, the founders purchased two 40-foot lots on Vista Bonita Street in Glendora upon which to build the church. Many vigorous fundraising efforts were undertaken, especially by the Women’s Guild. In a generous gesture, the construction company, which had been hired to build the church, donated the labor. The modest structure was made of redwood and measured 20 ft. x 30 ft., with a seating capacity of 60. Furniture for the church was donated by Saint Paul’s Church in downtown Los Angeles, which later became the cathedral.
On June 28, 1912, the opening service was held in the new church, with Father Quimby officiating. Mr. Comstock, a Glendora City Councilman attended, and Mrs. Comstock played the pump organ. By December, 1912, the congregation numbered 80 persons.
As years passed, the congregation grew. A number of clergymen served as “supply priest” or “priest-in-charge.” Then, in 1921, Grace welcomed its first fulltime priest, The Reverend R.C. Gould.
A milestone was reached on January 25, 1922, when, according to records, Grace Mission became officially in union with Diocesan Convention. Subsequently, in 1926, Grace obtained full parish status, with Mr. Gould as its rector. The church’s physical profile was expanding, also. A parish hall and other spaces had been added to the little redwood building on Vista Bonita.
There followed a period of growth and progress, for the city of Glendora and for Grace Church. By the mid ‘30s, it was apparent that larger facilities would be needed. In 1936, a new priest would begin to lead the flock: The Reverend Henry Scott Rubel. He would prove to be a driving force in the development of Grace of Glendora. Beyond being a priest, he had a successful career as a comedy writer and musician for stage, radio, and motion picture productions. He and his wife, Dorothy, made a dynamic team. It was during the service of Father Rubel that plans began for further expansion of Grace. Father Rubel’s untimely death at age 48 in 1946 unfortunately ended his tenure.
By the time the Reverend Peter J. Brownlee became Grace’s priest in 1953, the Vista Bonita church could no longer accommodate the burgeoning congregation. A site was found on Mountain View and the property was purchased, largely through the generosity of Dr. and Mrs. George Baxter. The people of Grace then threw themselves into fundraising for a grand and spacious new church, under the leadership of Father Brownlee.
Groundbreaking for the first new building, Baxter Hall, and a wing of other rooms, took place in 1954. From Christmas Eve, 1954, through Christmas, 1956, all services were conducted in Baxter Hall; the stage held the altar. A rectory was built behind the Hall. Classrooms, a choir room, a vestry-sacristy, and an altar guild room were also completed.
In 1957 the new great church and the Rubel chapel were ready. Donations of the faithful included the magnificent stained-glass windows. Many other memorials and gifts of the people were incorporated into the buildings. Elements of the Vista Bonita church can be seen today in the chapel. These include treasures which were hand carved by parishioners: the wooden door, the altar and the rood beam inscribed “I am the way, the truth and the light.” The wooden cross from the old church now stands above the door of Baxter Hall.
The ‘50s, ‘60s, and early ‘70s were times of intense importance and many changes, not only for Grace Church and the City of Glendora, but also for our country and the whole world. Under the leadership of The Reverends Benjamin Miller, Wallace Essingham, Peter J. Brownlee, John Colburn, Robert P. Kincaid, and Gary Dean Hand, the church’s membership increased and flourished.
Additions were made to the church, notably the classrooms and the rooms above the office. It was a time of wonderful growth as well as an era of notable outreach ministries. These included Grace House (the original Rectory), which became a home for unwed mothers, and the Wise Penny thrift shop, a successful resale store maintained by the women of Grace. The music ministries (so important a part of our heritage) continued to grow.
In more recent years (late 1970s through the present), Grace Church succeeded through many challenges. During the tenures of The Reverends Richard H. Shackell, Warren H. Raasch and G. Douglas Eberly, Grace continued to develop her ministries with a strong focus on people, particularly children and youth.
In 1997, the Reverend Susan L. Scranton became our rector. Under her leadership, Grace continues to flourish. Important improvements have been made, including new heating and air conditioning, roofing, and remodeling of the kitchen and Baxter Hall. The music program has expanded and become even more outstanding. The organ was completely rebuilt by expert Manuel Rosales. Outreach programs have been added to help the needy in our local communities, and for the children we sponsor in Africa, David and Evans.
Throughout its history, the people of Grace have given of their time, talents, and treasure. Their dedication, innovation, and faithful service have truly made us “The church that love built.” We now enter our second century – and we do so as a dynamic and growing organization devoted to the love of God and the betterment of humankind!