HISTORY

Grace and St. Peter’s is the product of the merger of two parishes in 1990. St. Peter’s did not exist until 1958, but the history of Grace Church stretches back 200 years before the merger, when our nation was newly independent, the Episcopal Church USA had only recently established its own constitution and structure apart from the Church of England, and the town of Hamden was little more than a dusty crisscrossing of paths in the countryside. 

 

The First One Hundred Years

When a group of volunteers de-cluttered the parish office in 2017, among the items they turned up was a photocopy of a book entitled “History of Grace Church, Hamden, Conn.: From Its Organization, March 1, 1790 to July 1, 1912” by the Rev. James Edward Coley, published New Haven, 1913.

The account is bare, straightforward, and factual, and offers little in the way of vivid writing or perspective on the times.  Perhaps a little background information will be useful at the outset.


 

If you are a fan of the hit show Hamilton, you are familiar with Bishop Samuel Seabury, the first Episcopal Bishop of Connecticut and in fact the first bishop of the Episcopal Church USA.  Like many adherents to what was then the American branch of the Anglican Church (Church of England), Seabury was a “Tory” or loyalist to the Crown in the American Revolution, and in the musical he is portrayed as a prissy, snippy elitist.  This is a bit of a jolt for Connecticut Episcopalians, who have been taught to regard Seabury as a pioneer and hero. 

Until independence, there were congregations of the Church of England in the colonies, but no bishops.  To receive ordination, candidates had to cross the Atlantic.  As a young man, Seabury graduated from Yale, studied theology privately, and then traveled to the British Isles, where he studied medicine in Scotland and was ordained deacon and priest in England.  He returned to the colonies and served several parishes in the New York and New Jersey area, and served as a chaplain and surgeon to British troops during the Revolution.

 

At the end of the war, when a great many Anglican clergy and lay people left the new nation for Canada and other areas still loyal to the Crown, Seabury and a group of other Connecticut clergy chose to remain, and take on the task of founding the new, independent American Episcopal Church.  Seabury was chosen to be its first bishop, and in 1784 he crossed the Atlantic again, to receive consecration from three Scottish bishops, since consecration in England would have involved swearing allegiance to the King. 

In 1789, the second General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America met in Philadelphia, and approved a Constitution and Canons, and a Book of Common Prayer, for the use of this church.  Right around the same time, a handful of families in Hamden, Connecticut, met in the hope of founding an Episcopal congregation in that town.  The account of Grace Church’s parish history takes up the story:  [to be continued]


 

GRACE & ST PETER’S

(203) 248-4338

2927 Dixwell Ave, Hamden, CT 06518, USA

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