Grace Episcopal Church, located within the Episcopal Diocese of California, was established in 1869 by The Rev. James Lloyd Breck and it was consecrated in 1870. Based on these dates, it was the first Episcopal parish to be located within Contra Costa County. The following is a brief history. We are a parish with members from all over Contra Costa County and have our roots in the Anglican tradition where our authority rests on Scripture, tradition and reason.
Early records show that there were Anglicans present in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1800s. In fact, the first Episcopal Church in the area was built in Benicia in the 1850s. The Episcopal Diocese of California was founded in 1869. Grace Episcopal Church has long been a presence in Martinez and is the second oldest church in town. It is also one of the oldest churches in all of Contra Costa County. The first services in Martinez were purported to have been in someone’s home during the winter of 1854-55. The first Eucharist was held in a home Easter 1868. In 1869, through efforts of some devoted women, money was raised and the Church building was begun and completed under the close supervision of Reverend E. P. Gray. The original building was consecrated on July 11, 1870, by the Bishop William Kip, Bishop of California.
The groundbreaking in November, 1968, marked the beginning of construction of the present Church building. On September 14, 1969, the Right Reverend C. Kilmer Meyers dedicated the new Church, but without a bell tower or steeple. In 1979 a group of parishioners joined together to construct a bell tower at its present location. The bell, at an original cost of $300 was cast by the W. T. Garrett Company in San Francisco in 1875. It served in our first Episcopal Church until our present church was built and dedicated. On Sunday mornings with the ringing of the bell, we believe that it is telling the surrounding neighborhood that a community of faithful Christians is gathering there in spirit with God.
In 1984, the next construction project was the atrium at the front of the Church. This gave us an opportunity to install the original font outside so that baptisms and other services could be held out there. While we were at it, the cement block exterior was color coated to match the atrium and the bell tower. The Gates to Grace were constructed at the foot of the hill leading up to Grace. Interior construction provided nine lights “window boxes” in the nave against the cement block wall. Stained glass windows were installed depicting scenes from the Bible. Also a stained glass scene was installed over the interior Baptismal Font. In 1990, the Sunday school wing was extended to its present size. The next project completed was the extension of the Parish Hall as it stands today. This completed the courtyard appearance that we now enjoy.
The stained glass window work described earlier was followed by the installation of three triple windows on the west wall of the church facing the courtyard, and two double windows in the Narthex in 1990. The most recent window project took place in 2015 with the installation of the Constellation Windows above the choir loft to get remove interior glare and to celebrate the birthdays of all members of Grace Church, past, present and future.
When you enter the parking lot of Grace Episcopal Church in Martinez, California, you are greeted by a sign board with a gold anchor and two silver fish on a red background. This emblem serves as a banner or logo for Grace Parish. At Grace Episcopal Church in Martinez, we cherish the anchor and fish emblem that has become the symbol of our Parish. It transcends the earliest Christian times through the founding of our church in 1869, the maritime heritage of Martinez and our present day congregation. We have several other anchor and fish emblems around the parish.
We have inherited a great deal from the small group of people who started the first Episcopal Church in Martinez. We are sure that if they could feel the warmth and love in our present Parish family, they would feel that that their efforts were not in vain.
As a result of our recent discernment in preparation for our search for a new permanent Rector, the core values of the parish were very clear; “fellowship and family”, “inclusion and love and acceptance” and “worship, preaching and teaching”. We invite you to join us!
For a detailed history, please visit the History link on this website.