History of Grace Church
An excerpt from All Saints Day,
November 1, 2009,
where we celebrated 30 years
The original Grace Church was established as a mission of the Diocese of Arkansas in the late 1800s. The physical church building was located on the land where the Siloam Springs Museum now stands. Priests were sent to this mission church, as there was never a resident vicar in the early days. Over the years, the families that supported the church died or moved away, and the frame structure eventually burned. In the 1960s, there were a few Episcopal families that organized St. Alban’s Chapel. Various priests came from Fayetteville or Rogers and officiated at home services. In 1975, The Rev. Fred Barbee was assigned from St. Paul’s in Fayetteville to officially begin a mission. The name was changed back to Grace Church when it was officially designated a Mission by the Diocese of Arkansas in 1976, and services were held at St. Mary's Catholic Church, in Siloam Springs.
The 26 charter members raised enough “awareness” and money to construct the present church building on Mount Olive. Bishop Christoph Keller broke ground on December 10, 1978 and the building was finished by late October 1979. The first service was held on the evening of November 1st, All Saints’ Day, which fell on a Thursday in 1979. The building was dedicated on Sunday, November 11, 1979 by Bishop Keller. The Stadelmann pipe organ had been installed, the Boychoir from Trinity Cathedral in Little Rock sang, and a brass ensemble of local musicians, including Ernest Whitmore, played. At this time, the parish hall was a 30’ by 30’ room. There were no classrooms in the original building and the office and nursery were located at the back of the nave, in the area presently occupied by the choir and organ.
In 2002 the parish hall was extended and classrooms, offices, and bathrooms were added under the direction Scott Walters, Master Carpenter and member of Grace Church. Scott went through the discernment process at Grace, graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary, and now is the Rector of Christ Church in Little Rock.
Grace Episcopal has only had seven vicars since 1976. The Rev. Fred Barbee, The Rev. Harold Strickland, The Rev. Kevin Robinson, The Rev. Kay Ashby, The Rev. John Barton, The Rev. Russ Snapp, and The Rev. Stan McKinnon. The rest of the time, we have depended upon a relationship with St. Paul’s, Fayetteville for our priest supply. Many faithful priests have supplied Grace Church over this time and they include: The Rev. Gary Nowlin, The Rev. Fred Jones, The Rev. Chuck Walling and The Rev. Doug Simmons.
The music of Grace Church has been consistently excellent under the direction of Dr. Jan Helmut Wubbena. Jan was the first Organist and has continued to be the Organist–Choirmaster for over 30 years. He helped select the first organ installed at Grace upon the completion of the building. This was a 10-rank self-contained mechanical action pipe organ built by Leopold Stadelmann, an Austrian who built organs in Italy. It is now housed at St. Martin’s on the campus of the University of Arkansas. Ernest Whitmore owns the present organ, Steven Cook’s Opus 10. The shared arrangement has benefitted all of us at Grace Church.
Other area churches have contributed to the growth of Grace Church. Our Sunday school was shared with the First Presbyterian Church for over 18 years. Our youth attended meetings with the youth of the First United Methodist Church, St. Thomas’ in Springdale, and St. Paul’s in Fayetteville during the early years. Our church had services in the Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church and the Catholic Church before building our church.
Outreach has always been a focus of this congregation. Church members continue to volunteer, as well as include a percentage of the annual budget toward supporting these programs.
- February 1976 - Grace Episcopal Church begins as a Mission (supported in part by The Diocese of Arkansas)
- November 1979 - The building is constructed
- February 2012 - Grace Episcopal Church begins as a Parish (fully self-supported)
Graces's mission prayer
Holy Father, we ask you to bless each one of us in this congregation and to unite us in our common desire to know and love you. Help us to worship you with praise and thanksgiving. Give us grace to share this way of life with others. All of this we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen