A brief history of Grace Episcopal Church, Pemberton, NJ
In 1839, five people with a vision of Episcopal services in Pemberton petitioned the Bishop with a request for services. Those services were held in various homes and buildings until, in 1861, the Church purchased a building on Hanover Street from the Baptists. That building currently houses the Cranberry Blossom Florist. The construction of our current church began in 1937. Bishop Gardner laid the cornerstone on February 20, 1938 and he returned to consecrate the building on October 25, 1942. Our church was built from the fruits of our earth – the swamp white cedar grew in White’s Bog; the stones are from Arney’s Mount; the walnut is from neighborhood trees; and the sand for the plaster was mined locally. The window glass is from our original church and various other buildings in the area. Many are etched with the names of the facilities from which they came. A good place to read the inscriptions in the glass is in the outside door to the sacristy. A vestry member found a keg of handmade nails, circa 1700, in a building on White’s Bog. The vestry cleaned those nails and they were incorporated into the church. Examine the door between the church and the sacristy – those large, black nails are some of that inventory. There are many inscriptions on the basement walls listing vestry members, the contractor and his construction crew, the formula for the plaster mix, and a brick embedded in the cellar wall from Christopher White’s house, the first brick building in South Jersey. We have a rich and well-preserved history in the buildings and grounds of Grace Church. Touches of the 1861 church were incorporated into the new building, including the altar, baptismal font, and pews. The screen in the right alcove next to the organ is part of the rood screen from that earlier church. The cross above the pulpit is from that rood screen, too. There were also provisions made for the new. The most striking were the Holtcamp Pipe Organ and the design of the church to support a steeple, even though in 1937 the budget couldn’t be stretched to include one. In 1950, the wrought iron cross was removed from the roof and we erected a steeple in honor of Franklin Chambers.
That original wrought iron cross still adorns our Holy Week garden and can usually be found in the rear of the church. The most recent addition to our worship facilities is the Green Chapel located along the North Branch of the Rancocas Creek at the rear of our facilities. Dave Tuck obtained a donated cedar tree that was used to create the pews. Arney’s Mount stones were used for the altar, and God’s creation provides the changing setting. The Green Chapel was dedicated in 2013 by Bishop George Councell and then rededicated in 2015 by Bishop William (Chip) Stokes. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Grace Church is its wonderful community of people where all are welcome. One of our ministries that reflects our welcoming spirit is the food pantry that we maintain for those in need. The grace of God continues to flow through, in, and around us day-by-day and year by year.