History of Grace


During the early 1900’s, Northeast Portland and the Irvington area were building up rapidly. Available lots that were suitable for new neighborhood churches were becoming almost non-existent. Many residents living in the area had made numerous requests to the Bishop that a new parish be founded. Following the death of her husband, Fredrick Wm. Berry, in the Spring of 1906, Mrs. Angeline Berry offered to purchase the land for such a new church. With the last two suitable lots still being available in the Irvington area, with the concurrence and enthusiastic support from her long-time friends and fellow Episcopalians, and with all other conditions being “just right,” on December 28, 1908, Mrs. Angeline Berry signed the deed for the property and formally marked the birth of a new Episcopal Parish.

The Name

grace plaque

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the founding of “Memorial Churches” was fairly common within the Episcopal Church. An individual could give a certain type of gift with the understanding that a new church would be founded “in memory of” an appropriate loved one. Mrs. Berry stipulated that the parish be named “Grace Memorial.”

We are unsure why Mrs. Berry chose this name: if she had a late friend named Grace, if she envision the church building as a memorial to an unnamed loved one or to her husband, or if she wished to recognize and give thanks for the Grace of God. The riser of the fourth step into the church building from the courtyard suggests the latter explanation. Carved into it are Paul’s words from his Second Letter to the Corinthians:

My grace is sufficient for thee.

Mrs. Angeline Berry – 
Lay Founder and Benefactor

Mrs. Angeline Berry and her husband, Fredrick, came to Portland immediately following their marriage in May of 1883. Angeline became a prominent civic worker within the Portland community. She was noted as founder and vice-president of the local Humane Society, as well as one of the founders of Good Samaritan Hospital and the local YWCA. She was also an active member of St. David’s Episcopal Church for 25 years. She held various offices in St. David’s Chapter of the Women’s Auxiliary, as well as various offices of the Auxiliary at a Diocesan level.

Her husband, Fredrick, had a very successful store which sold paper, cardboard boxes, string, and such commodities, and was located at S.W. Ankeny & Front Streets, where the downtown fire station is now located. He helped to found the Columbia Chapter of the Masonic Lodge, and also had been a member of St. David’s vestry for 19 years. He had spent many years involved with the missionary work of the Episcopal Church, both in New York and in Oregon. He was publicly well known for his spiritual life. In December of 1908 Angeline Berry, then 65, purchased the first two lots for the new parish to be named “Grace Memorial Episcopal Church.”

Angeline immediately organized a local chapter of the Women’s Auxiliary at the new church. She was elected “to sit in the chair” as President for 9 consecutive years, while continuing to hold offices at a Diocesan level. At the time of her death in August 1920, she bequeathed $8,000 (now equivalent to some $200,000) to the Foreign and Domestic Missions of the Episcopal Church for the purpose of maintaining Bible readers in China. On the western face of Angeline and Fredrick’s grave monument now located in Lone Fir Cemetery is written the quotation: “Holy, and Humble of Heart, I Will Give Unto Thee a Crown of Life.”

The First Service

The first public service of Grace Memorial Episcopal Church was a Service of Holy Communion held on Sunday January 3, 1909, at 11:00 am, in a canvas-and-wood tent building. A portable organ had been placed in the tent, and Judge Stephen Bullock of the County Court led the singing, with his daughter playing the organ. Attendance on that Sunday was around 20 people. Within a few weeks, a permanent organist, a greeter, and an usher were elected.

The temporary tent building was used for worship services and Sunday School every Sunday until June 6, at which time a parish house was completed enough to be used for services and other parish activities. By that time, average Sunday attendance was around 50 people. The parish house served as the main church building for 17 years. In December 1926, the present Church building was completed.

The Present Church Building

The present Church building was completed some 18 years after the Church’s founding. It is an authentic reproduction of a small, naturally lit, English-Gothic country church. The structure is long, narrow, and tall and is formed in the traditional shape of the cross. Many people refer to it as “just like being in a big old ship.”

Since the time of completion, only two minor modifications have been made to the interior. The “Richardson Memorial Organ” and the 8-foot-tall decorative wooden panels along the walls on either side of the High Altar were added in 1971. In 1994, a cathedral-style Table Altar was added at the center of the building transept. However, the original and ornate 2-story-tall reredos at the end of the Sanctuary, with its hand-carving and tall wooden spires, was left intact as originally donated and built.

Eighteen beautiful, 10-foot-tall, pictorial stained glass windows line the smooth white walls of the Sanctuary. These were donated by various families of the congregation, and were installed between 1933 and the mid-1940s. Additionally, three 15-foot-tall steel-blue stained glass windows were placed above the main front entrance to the Sanctuary, and portray the story of the Transfiguration. The large brass cross with the traces of wheat & grapes across the face which sits on the High Altar, was hand-made by artist Fred Strickland, and was dedicated in memory of The Rev. Oswald Taylor in 1948.


Then and Now

Between 1942 and 1964, the Parish grew from 450 communicants to some 1,000. By the 1940’s there were several choirs: a 3-to-7 year old Choir; Junior, Intermediate, and Senior Choirs; and a Boy’s Choir. Then, as more families moved to the suburbs, and the remaining congregation grew older, there was a decline in numbers to about one-quarter of that size. The Parish has had a long history of social activities which have been frequented by the general public: the Annual Christmas Art Faire and Bazaar; the Shrove Tuesday Pancake meal; and the use of the Parish House as a meeting place for 12-step programs, community organizations, and special interest groups. 

In the 1990s, under the leadership of the Rev. Stephen V. Schneider the parish began a new period of growth, drawing people from across the city. Sunday School classes increased, as did the ministries of choir, altar guild, and acolytes.

Today Grace Memorial is the site of a variety of community outreach programs, including the weekly feeding of the hungry. An annual community outreach auction was instituted, and Grace gave birth to Grace Institute, which has given rise to a variety of widely attended programs including the summer Grace Art Camp which provides an experience of the creative arts for over 1,250 children each year.

As Grace Memorial Parish has entered its second century, the people of Grace look forward to finding new ways to grow in faith and to reach out to our community and to the world.

Clergy at Grace 1908-2023

Dr. George Van Waters, 1908 – 1910 (Organizing Priest)
The Rev. Oswald Taylor, 1910 – 1942 (First Rector)
The Rev. John Richardson, 1942 – 1964 (Second Rector)
The Rev. Duane S. Alvord, 1964 – 1973 (Third Rector)
The Rev. Jay J. McMurren, 1973 – 1993 (Fourth Rector)
The Rev. Stephen V. Schneider, 1994 – 2014 (Fifth Rector)
The Rev. Sara Fischer, 2003 – 2004 (Associate for Faith Formation)
The Rev. Esme J. R. Culver, 2006 – 2014 (Associate Rector);
December 2014 – August 2015 (Interim Rector);
August 2015 – October 2015 (Associate Rector)
The Rev. Martin Elfert, 2015 – Present (Sixth Rector)

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