Grace Church Origins
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:
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
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.
In the early years of Grace’s Sunday
School program, children were taught reading, writing and arithmetic as well as
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.
The facade is on the National Registry
of Historic Places.
Memorial stained glass windows, some of
which can be seen on this website, were installed in 1913. Our Gambrill
Memorial Window, a 22x26 foot Tiffany-inspired window, was added to our
sanctuary in 1924, and stands as one of the largest stained glass windows in