Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Church on the Grow Grace Episcopal Expanding to Accommodate Increase

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Church on the Grow Grace Episcopal Expanding to Accommodate Increase

Article excerpt

Byline: R. Michael Anderson, County Line staff writer

ORANGE PARK -- As Clay County grows, so do its houses of worship. And Grace Episcopal Church, which began as a small chapel in 1880, is growing step by step.

After years of praying, planning and fund-raising, construction has begun on a year-long expansion and renovation of the main sanctuary on Kingsley Avenue just east of U.S. 17. When the job is finished early next year, there won't be any front yard left but there will be a lot more room inside.

"It seats 320 now, but it'll seat about 540 when it's finished," said the Rev. Sam Pascoe, Grace's pastor for nearly 16 years. "It'll look almost identical to how it looked before, just bigger. We've basically doubled in size in the last 15 years in terms of attendance and the school has expanded to about triple the [former] size."

Susan Glade, church membership secretary, said average weekly attendance presently is about 725 parishioners each Sunday, and the congregation continues to grow.

To accommodate such a large number of people, services are held at 7:30 a.m. in the original 121-year-old chapel across the street from the newer sanctuary, where services are held at 8:30 and 11 a.m. Another service is conducted at 10 a.m. at the Orange Park Woman's Club building a block down the street.

Grace Church, which consists of 14 buildings in a campus-type setting on both sides of Kingsley, runs a school for children in pre-kindergarten to seventh grade. An eighth-grade class will be added in 2002.

Though the 121-year-old church is one of the oldest in Florida and "almost as old as the town itself," Pascoe said, its membership is young, consisting largely of families and children.

"Our largest single age group is zero to 10," he said. And so many toddlers and rambunctious children in a congregation "keeps us busy."

The expansion project necessitated by new families joining Grace is the culmination of a successful campaign with the appropriate name: Step by Step. Volunteers rolled up their sleeves and went to work rounding up moral and financial support.

The church has received pledges totaling about $1. …

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