Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

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Finding Grace in Elmira – Part I

October 13th, 2012, Promulgated by Bernie

Note: We will do this story in 2 or 3 Parts.

(The factual information in this post is quoted  from “The New Book of Grace Church” which was produced by the parish when it celebrated its centennial in 1988.)

Want a grace-filled experience? Visit Grace Episcopal Church in Elmira and you won’t be disappointed.

This Anglo-Catholic Episcopal Church is a real beauty and such a treasure that it is listed on The National Registry of Historic Places. It also has preservation status in Elmira. The parish was founded in 1864 by forty-seven families who moved from the mother church in Elmira, Trinity Parish. In 1888 Grace Parish hosted a mission conducted by an Episcopal priest from Boston who was strongly influenced by the principles of the Oxford Movement in England. The parish continues a strong tradition of sacramental religion historically bound to the Anglican heritage.

The present building was designed by the Reverend Frederick W. Burge (architect) of Westfield, NY with Otis Dockstader of Elmira (associate architect). The church was consecrated November, 1908. Much of the carved oak was designed by the Reverend Arthur Belding Rudd, rector from 1903 to 1916.

My wife and I visited Grace Church in the early afternoon and the fall sun blazed through non-figurative great and clerestory windows bathing the interior with gorgeous oranges, yellows and greens. But, as the sun was bright and in the west it made taking pictures in the direction of the altar impossible. The interior lights were not on and I could not compensate with my camera settings. With permission I have used some pictures from the parish’s website.

(You will want to click on the photos to see sharper images)

The church was originally designed to be 140 feet long, with a chancel 40 feet deep just beyond where the high altar now stands. A great arch, where the altar is, would have separated the chancel from the choir area in front.

Hans Mayer of Oberammergau carved the figures of the rood beam. Christ is shown crucified between his Mother Mary, and John, the Beloved Disciple. Two angels stand on the beam, one to the far left and the other, to the far right.

Seven lamps hang from the rood beam and symbolize the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: Knowledge, Counsel, Strength, Wisdom, Understanding, Godliness, and Fear of the Lord. (Rev. 4:5 “And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne” -the altar represents the throne of God– “which are the seven spirits of God.”)

The reredos is actually a plaster model of what was to be the final stone one for the new chancel. Hars Mayr carved the wood statues on the reredos. They represent the four great missionaries to the British Isles: (left to right) St. Augustine of Canterbury, St. David of Wales, St. Columba, and St. Patrick.

The pulpit was carved by Wippell and Sons of Exeter, England and depicts on its front the “Good Shepherd”.

A gentleman was practicing on the organ while we were there which, of course, just added to the pleasure of the visit.

Here is the great east window over the main entrance and some south windows.

We’ll continue our tour of Grace Episcopal Church in Part II. I hope you enjoy it.

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2 Responses to “Finding Grace in Elmira – Part I”

  1. avatar Choir says:

    Bernie – Thank you so much for the first in the series. Father B. took me in their many years ago. What a gem! Did you get much information on the organ?

  2. avatar Choir says:

    Correction to above “their” s/b “there”.


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