Grace Episcopal Church
Priest-in-Charge: The Rev. Julie Harris
Fill in Priest: The Rev. David Bicking
Worship Readers: Bill Chappell, Dan Rowzie, Robert Shives, Lee Jones
Eucharistic Minister: Bill Chappell, Robert Shives
Lector: Bill Chappell, Dan Rowzie, Robert Shives
Music Director: Peggy Grantham
Organist: Peggy Grantham
Pianist: Linda Chappell
Sunday School Teacher: Carmen Creamer (leader), William Chappell, Amon Grantham
Senior Warden: Robert Shives
Junior Warden: Frank Supplee, IV
Treasurer: William W. Grantham, Jr.
Assistant Treasurer: William Chappell
Recorder: Dan Rowzie
Administrator: Kim Shives
Vestry Members: Bill Chappell, Peggy Grantham, Lee Jones, Dan Rowzie, Frank Supplee, IV, Robert Shives
Altar Guild Members: Kerry Grantham (leader), Linda Chappell, Kim Shives, Phyllis Grantham, Virginia Rowzie
A History of Grace Episcopal Church,
In the formative days of the 18th century the area that is now known as Middleway was settled in 1734. The Episcopal Church was the established church of Virginia.
In 1713, the Church in Virginia had been organized into 54 parishes. These included 70 churches and chapels. Rectories were provided for each parish in addition to a glebe or farm of about 250 acres. More than half the churches were supplied with ordained clergymen. The remaining churches were served by lay readers. Some parishes were located in unsettled territories. As an example, Augusta Parish extended westward from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Ohio River and beyond to the border of the frontier.
Several Episcopal congregations were formed in the 1740’s and churches were built in Bunker Hill, Martinsburg, and Shepherdstown, Berryville, Hedgesville and west of Charles Town (Saint George’s Chapel at Piedmont Farm). The continuing growth in the area caused the Church to create a new parish in 1744 which was designated Frederick and designed to serve the northern Shenandoah Valley. Continuing population growth required a further sub-division in 1771 and Norborne Parish was created. This new parish included all of Berkeley and Jefferson Counties.
The Revolutionary War (1775-1783) created tremendous change for the Episcopal Church in the United States. The Church was disestablished under the new U. S. Constitution, its clergy scattered and many church buildings were damaged or destroyed.
The Episcopal Church in the United States was faced with the task of rebuilding itself as an independent national church since it was no longer under the jurisdiction of the Church of England. The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia adopted the role of a missionary church in Western Virginia. It was not unusual for bishops to travel 1500 miles a year on foot, horseback, train or boat in order to visit their scattered congregations.
The Congregation at Middleway
The community of Smithfield was located mid way between Shepherdstown and Winchester and Charles Town and Bunker Hill. Established in 1795, the community soon became known as Middleway. A Methodist Church was erected early in its developmental years. Shortly thereafter, Episcopal clergy who were known as missioners visited the area and held worship services in the homes of Episcopalians.
The most prominent of the new settlers was Dr. Mann Page Nelson who practiced medicine in the village from 1822 until his death in 1888. Other persons of note were Dr. Samuel Scollay and William Orr Macoughtry.
Early records reveal that the first Episcopal congregation was organized in Middleway in 1825. It was attached administratively to Christ Church, Bunker Hill (Norborne Parish). The first recorded visit by a bishop was in August 1834. The Reverend Alexander Jones began conducting monthly services in the Methodist Church in 1836. By 1849, local Episcopalians, under the leadership of Dr. Nelson, resolved to build a place of worship in Middleway.
Dr. Nelson had arrived in Middleway from Yorktown, Virginia. Members of his family had been strong supporters of Grace Church in Yorktown (and several members of his family are buried in its graveyard even to this day). It is speculated that the name of the new congregation in Middleway was influenced by their connection to Grace Church, Yorktown through the presence of Dr. Nelson.
Grace Church, Yorktown remains one of the oldest continuing congregations in America having been founded in 1649. Thus, Grace Church, Middleway can claim its origin to the earliest days of the founding of America.
Dr. Scollay donated the land for a church and cemetery in 1850. The corner stone of Grace Church was laid by Bishop Johns on August 1, 1851. The Rev. C. M. Callaway was appointed Rector of Christ Church, Bunker Hill and Missioner to Middleway and Leetown in 1851. Grace Church was consecrated by Bishop Meade in November 1853 although it had been used as a place of worship since its completion in the spring of 1852.
The Civil War Period
At the time of the “War Between the States” Grace Church, Middleway was under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Virginia. Existing church records show no episcopal visitations between 1861 and 1864, nor was Grace Church served by any clergy in 1863 and 1864. Shortly before the end of the war, Bishop Johns visited Middleway. He described his visit writing, “We were kindly received by Dr. Nelson, at whose residence I had, in the evening, the privilege of uniting in social worship with some of the congregation who had assembled there upon hearing of my arrival.” The Bishop next traveled to Shepherdstown where the service he was leading was ended abruptly by advancing Federal troops.
Bishop Johns could not return to Middleway because of continuing fighting among the armies, so he continued in a westerly direction to Bunker Hill. Later he remarked upon the war-damage to Christ Church.
During the war, Grace Church was struck by one stray bullet at least. It remains embedded in the vestry door even to this day. Several soldiers killed in battle were buried in the church yard during the course of the war.
Even though the state of West Virginia was created in 1863, the Episcopalians of the Eastern Panhandle considered themselves Virginians long afterwards. When the Diocese of West Virginia was created in 1874 the Reverend Mr. James Grammer, Rector of Grace Church led the opposition to the inclusion of the churches in the Eastern Panhandle in the new diocese. His objections were overruled by the national Convention of the Episcopal Church. In spite of his opposition, he was elected president of the Primary Convention of the Diocese of West Virginia.
Parishes and Missions
In 1877, local parishes in the Eastern Panhandle were re-organized to recognize the boundaries of the various counties. Grace Church and St. Bartholomew’s Church became part of St. Andrew’s Parish. The Reverend Mr. James Grammer continued to serve as Rector of Grace Church. In addition to his duties in Middleway, he became the Missioner to St. Bartholomew Church in Leetown.
In 1888, shortly after the death of Dr. Mann Page Nelson, The Church of the Holy Spirit in Summit Point was yoked together with Grace Church and St. Bartholomew’s Church to form Nelson Parish. Thus, another church was added to the responsibilities of the Reverend Grammer.
In 1935, Nelson Parish was extended to include St. John’s Church in Rippon. Two years later, in 1937, a house was built in Summit Point to serve as a rectory. The existing rectory, which had been located in Middleway, was sold after serving as rental property for ten years.
In 1964, the congregation of Grace Church seized an opportunity to purchase the building of an existing Lutheran Church which had terminated its ministry in Middleway. At one stage it had been known as the Union Church and in later years had been identified as the White Church. Located only a half block distant, members of Grace Church renovated the building as a parish hall and Jefferson County’s first “head-start” pre-school. The building was also used for other purposes such as Christian education, congregational dinners, a church office and a multitude of other activities.
In 1991, another re-organization was formulated. Under the leadership of the Right Reverend John H. Smith, Bishop of the Diocese of West Virginia, an experimental ministry was undertaken. The Nelson Cluster of Episcopal Churches was formed to include Church of the Holy Spirit, St. Bartholomew’s Church, Grace Church, St. John’s Church, Rippon, St. Philip’s Church, Charles Town, St. John’s Church, Harpers Ferry and St. Andrew’s Church, Harpers Ferry.
Bishop Smith appointed the Reverend Mr. John D. Alfriend as Missioner of the Cluster churches. Within a few weeks, Bishop Smith assigned a newly ordained deacon, the Reverend Ms. Kathleen Smith, to assist Mr. Alfriend. Other clergy persons who served in the Nelson Cluster of Churches with the Reverends Alfriend and Smith were the Reverend Mr. Edward Greene and the Reverend Mr. Joseph Mackov.
The thrust of the Nelson Cluster of Churches was to provide a team of clergypersons to fulfill the spiritual needs of the individual churches, no one of which could support a priest financially. A service of Holy Eucharist was scheduled for each congregation a minimum of three Sundays a month. On occasions when a priest was unavailable, local lay readers read Morning Prayer.
The Nelson Cluster of Churches gradually imploded when Grace Church threatened to withdraw its financial support from the coalition because of issues related to Cluster governance and financial management. In 1998, a decision was made to seek retired clerical support whose financial needs were less stringent than younger clergy with active families, and to support the Missioner with newly ordained priests as assistants for short periods of time. The Reverend Victor Lawson, newly retired from the Diocese of Washington, DC, was appointed Missioner. At various times his assistant clergy were the Reverends Jane Kempster, Keith Butler, Sister Julian Hope, and Laurie Moyer.
By 2004, it was obvious that the governance and financial structures of the Cluster were beyond repair and that Grace Church could not thrive within the Cluster. The congregation of Grace petitioned the Right Reverend Michie Klusmeyer, Bishop of West Virginia, for Grace Church to become an independent mission church. The Bishop granted this request in November, 2005, and Grace Church was released from Nelson Cluster in January, 2006.
The Reverend Mrs. Laurie Moyer was appointed as part-time “Priest in Charge” of Grace Church in February, 2006 and set about the task of re-shaping Grace as an independent mission Church. Unfortunately, the Reverend Moyer became ill the following summer and retired from her position with Grace in December, 2007.
The Reverend Mr. John D. Alfriend returned to Grace Church in January, 2008 to serve part-time in a newly created position known as “Priest in Residence”. He was joined on occasions by the Reverend Mr. Joseph Mackov who had served with him in the Nelson Cluster of Churches.
The Reverend Mr. Alfriend retired from the active ministry in September 2010. He was succeeded as part-time “Priest in Charge” by the Reverend Mrs. Susan MacDonald who had been an associate priest at Trinity Church in Shepherdstown. Mrs. MacDonald divides her vocation between Grace Church and the Washington County Office on Aging in Washington County, Maryland. The Rev. Susan MacDonald moved to a church in the Virginia Diocese in 2014.
Beginning in 1998, the physical structure of Grace Church began an extensive modernization program which would require continual rehabilitation work for the following decade. A new heating and air conditioning system was installed. A handicap ramp was built, and the entire exterior façade was repointed and repaired to correct degradation that had been underway during the previous century.
In addition, the Parish Hall (known formerly as the White Church) has been renovated and the interior has been redecorated. A new well has been installed and plans are underway to upgrade the existing kitchen. The building includes a church office and restroom facilities in addition to meeting rooms. In addition to parish activities, the Parish Hall is made available to the community as part of its outreach.
The congregation of Grace Church continues an active ministry to the immediate community of Middleway. In addition, it reaches out to organizations throughout Jefferson County including Community Ministries, Meals on Wheels, and the Charles Town Race Track Chaplaincy. The membership of Grace Church is drawn from across the entire county and slowly continues to grow.
We offer many opportunities for fellowship and spiritual growth. We hope you will visit us soon.
Sunday services are at 11:00 AM with Holy Communion offered on the first three Sundays of each month, and Morning Prayer on the fourth Sunday of the month. Sunday school is available for children and youth at 11:00 AM.