Grace Church History
Located on Route 73 in the Forestdale section of Brandon, the Grace Church building is a wooden “Country Gothic” church designed by Royal Blake as a summer chapel. It was consecrated in 1853 by Bishop John Henry Hopkins. The undercroft and front ramp were added in the 1980’s. After years of discussion, in 2015 the parish made the hard decision to sell the Grace Church building. In May 2016 Bishop Thomas Ely presided over a liturgy to secularize the building, which was sold in the spring of 2017. Many of the furnishings were moved to St. Thomas.
The Bell at Grace Hangs Silent
by Ken Brown
From the time of Christ the membership of a church community has been a transient society. People pass by through the ages. Some are "cradle to grave" in one parish, some never arrive and and everything in between.
Church buildings have no legs so spend their life where planted, their bells calling the people to them.
In the early 1800's Royal Blake developed an iron smelter in East Brandon. He was instrumental in establishing the Episcopal Church in East Brandon named St. Thomas Parrish in 1839 with meetings held in his stone mansion on the knoll across from where Grace Church now stands. He built the "carpenter gothic"chapel consecrated as Grace 20 July 1853 as a summer chapel. A bell was installed with inscription "A. Meneely & Sons West Troy, NY 1851", to ring out over the countryside.
The first Bishop of Vermont, John Hopkins, decreed Grace not sufficient. The Church in Brandon must be at the center of business and industry around Neshobe Falls which is now downtown Brandon. He rendered one of his designs in stone for the purpose and St Thomas was erected and consecrated in 1861.
Grace continued to be populated by the mostly working class people of the greater Forestdale area with the priest at St Thomas providing spiritual direction and communion services. The chapel remained basically as built for about 128 years except for the addition of electric lights in the early 20th century. Most of post-revolutionary US history has taken place since Grace was consecrated including major events like the Civil War, WW1 & WW2 as well as routine church life. The Meneely bell noted all these events while continuing to ring through the village over the many decades.
In 1981 the resident transients of the time came together and Mary McCollum's dream of a parish hall was realized. The basement was dug out and McCollum Hall was created. The Meneely bell heralded the event when Bishop Kerr came to consecrate it.
The community at Grace carried on through the years in relative comfort now with running water and his & hers bathrooms, essentially providing "the early service" while the late service occurred at St Thomas. The Meneely bell roused local residents for the 08:00 o'clock service.
Following national trends for all churches the long term transients with attachment to Grace faded in number. Calls to dispose of Grace grew more frequent and stronger. Finally in 2015 with Grace approaching its 163rd anniversary a resolution passed to sell Grace Church. The ring of the Meneely bell started to lose some of its luster then, only tolling instead of ringing exuberantly as its rope began to drag harder.
One day Bishop Ely requested all churches ring their bells for ten minutes in support of a human interest cause. The Meneely bell tried to step up to its commitment but alas, an ancient wooden pulley supporting the bell rope finally wore through dropping coils of rope on the floor.
On Saturday 14 May 2016 Bishop Ely arrived at Grace Church along with about 32 others to lead the service of deconsecration. Memories of Grace were voiced. The Meneely bell remained mute.
The Bell at Grace Hangs Silent