At Grace Church, we say, "ALL are welcome, especially YOU!" No matter where you are on your faith journey, we welcome you. No matter your life story, we welcome you. No matter your family or marital status, we welcome you. No matter your gender or sexual orientation, we welcome you. No matter your age: young or not-so-young, we welcome you. We do this, not because we are nice (though we are), but because this is what we believe Jesus would have us do. In welcoming you, we welcome Jesus.
We know that entering a place, especially a church, for the first time can be intimidating, perhaps even scary. We hope that we greet you warmly and help you to find your way. Please know that, not only is it okay to ask questions, we encourage it! In addition to the friendly folks you will meet, our priest, Paula+ (or Rev. Paula+, if you prefer), is happy to talk with you about any of your questions or your spiritual journey. She is available after the church services or by appointment during the week.
We provide a bulletin with information about the service, so that you will find it easier to follow along and participate to the level you feel comfortable. Our primary resource is The Book of Common Prayer. Most of our music comes from The Hymnal 1982. Both books can be found in the book rack in the pew, and folks will gladly help you find your place.
As followers of Jesus in the Episcopal tradition, our life together is centered around the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Eucharist. We believe that sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace. Sacraments are freely given and undeserved. They are gifts from God, plain and simple.
In baptism, we accept and acknowledge the reality that we are beloved of God, members of God's family. We are called to the "ministry of the baptized," fully equipped to be a part of doing God's work in the world.
Our common worship centers around the Celebration of the Eucharist, at which the priest presides, though the celebration cannot take place unless others are gathered. The worship service, sometimes called the "Mass," includes gathering prayers, reading of the Word (a.k.a. the Bible or Scripture), and sharing of the Peace, all of which prepare us for the sharing of fellowship with Christ. The presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a "holy mystery." It is something we know to be true, though perhaps it defies our 21st century understanding of intellectual reason. At the end of the service we are sent out into the world to do the work God has given us to do.
We consider ourselves "Anglo-Catholic," which means, among other things, that our liturgy looks and feels familiar to people from the Roman Catholic Church, though it is not "Roman Catholic Lite." There are significant theological and practical differences between the Anglican/Episcopal and Roman Catholic traditions (too many to name here), though we share a love of liturgy that includes exciting our senses as a way to better understand the beauty and glory of God. We have beautiful stained-glass windows. Clergy and altar servers wear vestments. We use incense on special feast days, such as the Easter Vigil and Christmas Day. (To love and care for those for whom incense is problematic, we announce these days in advance.) We love our music - our organ is magnificent! - and chant some of the Sunday service.
At Grace Church all are welcome at God's Table. We offer gluten-free hosts and non-alcoholic wine, so that no one who feels called to receive Communion need refrain for health or dietary reasons. Of course, it is perfectly acceptable to accept Communion in "one kind" (either bread or wine), or to receive a blessing instead.
Grace Church has a fascinating history! As you may be able to tell when you see our beautiful building, Grace Church has been around a while. The cornerstone of the building was laid in September 1864, though the parish - the community of people - began to meet in 1863. We were founded by the Wheelock, Burroughs, Harwood, and Hodges families. Motivated in large part by the death of young Welcome Hodges and her mother's deep desire to have an Episcopal community in which to grieve, these families came together to found the church. In May 1865, the parish was admitted to the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. The first services were held in the current church building in October of that year.
Grace Church had a bit of a rocky adolescence, with a few temporary closures between 1869 and 1903. In 1903, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts split, with Grace Church coming under the care of the newly formed Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts. Grace Church today is a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts.
The people of Grace Church were faithful and committed to keeping it going through its ebbs and flows. In 2013 Grace Church celebrated is 150th anniversary as the Episcopal community in Oxford. The people of Grace Church continue to look forward to the future, with curiosity and excitement about where the Holy Spirit will lead us!