The Family of Grace--115th Anniversary Celebration!

From the Notebook of Sam Hodges

We have much to celebrate.

The Dallas area has older Methodist churches than Grace, but Grace has met continuously in one building longer than any of the rest. “Every Sunday since 1903” – this unofficial church slogan speaks to the constancy of generations of Grace’s laity and clergy.

At its inception, Grace was a silk-stocking church, serving a near-in neighborhood of large homes, many with servants’ quarters in the back. (Its members included governors, mayors, philanthropists, and TV star “Mr. Peppermint.”)

Grace was mission-minded from the start, helping start other Methodist churches (Munger Place and Highland Park United Methodist churches are listed as “spin-offs” in Grace’s nomination for historic landmark status!) and providing important support to Southern Methodist University as it got started.

Our historical records, preserved by the late Henri Etta Eidt, note that church members rolled bandages and sponsored the first local USO for troops stationed at Camp Dick during World War I. During World War II, the church hosted a cooking school to help women make the most of food stamps and rationed goods.

Grace remained a big church in the immediate post World War II years, but as greater Dallas became a Metroplex with flourishing suburbs, the population right around the church shrunk and became poorer. Some of our neighbor churches closed or moved farther out, but Grace stayed.

A cadre of members whom the Rev. Bill Bryan called “durable saints” kept Grace going through lean years. Under Bryan’s leadership, the church focused outward, welcoming immigrants who had settled in Old East Dallas, and embracing community ministries such as Agape Clinic, the East Dallas Legal Clinic, and the Open Door Pre-School. Grace helped form and operate the East Dallas Cooperative Parish, joining with other local churches in a more coordinated, effective ministry approach. In 1984, the Dalai Lama visited Grace, having learned of its work with Asian immigrants.

Grace solidified into a small but vital congregation, using members’ donations and foundation support to make important repairs to the building. Under the Rev. Charles Cox, Grace expanded its commitment to outreach and diversity, becoming a Reconciling Ministries Network church – thus declaring its welcome to LGBT people.

After Chuck came the Rev. Diana Holbert, our first female pastor, who broadened our vision of worship and led us into another, much-needed capital campaign. Her successor, the Rev. Judith Reedy, has been a wonderful pastoral presence and strong leader of a church that is truly a community hub of ministry and among the more diverse United Methodist congregations in North Texas.

Photo--Rick Ware