We seek a full time Rector who will use patience, humor and love to guide us to grow Grace Church numerically, spiritually and in missional leadership and deepen our faith in Christ. We seek a leader who is confident in spirituality, deep in wisdom, enthusiastic about trying new ideas, respectful of comfortable traditions. We are in need of a leader who is unafraid to lead, but also willing to delegate and share decision-making when appropriate. We would enjoy well prepared sermons that address modern issues through scripture.
The small town of Merchantville (approximately 3,700 residents) invites the Rector to be a strong presence of the community, engaging in neighborhood and community events, living in town or neighboring community. Networking with the other churches in town and fellow is strongly recommended.
We currently have outreach and in-reach ministries at Grace Church, including South Jersey Food Bank, Thrift Shoppe, St. Paul’s Camden breakfast program, Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, youth and adult choirs, Bible study programs, Lay Eucharistic Ministries, Altar Guild, and Sunday coffee hours. Our new Rector will support these ministries and encourage us to undertake others.
We are searching for a Rector who will devote time to our young people of all ages. Our Rector will embrace the diverse needs of our congregation and continue to help us attract new families and members through an inviting ministry.
Grace Church is in Merchantville, Camden County, which is located in the southwestern part of NJ. The population of Camden County is approximately 514,000, and the median income is $65,000 per family of four. The average age of Merchantville’s population of 3,800 is 41.3. Families represent 51% of the population and the median home value is $221,900.
Merchantville is about ten minutes from historic Philadelphia, PA. It is conveniently accessed by Rt. 130 and Rt. 38 from the NJ Turnpike or Interstate 295. Bus transportation and the PATCO high speed line provide public transportation to Philadelphia and the NJ shore areas. Neighboring communities include Maple Shade, Pennsauken, Collingswood, Haddonfield and Cherry Hill. Two of the area’s largest shopping malls, Cherry Hill Mall and Moorestown Mall, are convenient to Merchantville.
Grace Church is one of five churches located in Merchantville. The town is comprised of a municipal building, police station, post office, banks, volunteer fire department as well as many quaint shops, restaurants, and a coffee shop located within a block or two of the church. There is a Green Club, seasonal farmers’ market, Wellwood Park and the Veterans memorial Campaign. There are many historical buildings in this small Victorian town with women’s groups, a garden club and historical society which actively support the rejuvenation of the town. A golf course, community center, three parks and other recreation facilities are also available.
Approximately 375 children attend the Merchantville Elementary School in town and can choose between Pennsauken High School and several area high schools offering School Choice including Audubon and Haddon Heights for grades 9 through 12. Private and parochial schools are also available nearby. A public library is in the Merchantville School and the Pennsauken Library, affiliated with the Camden County Library, is nearby.
In addition to Merchantville, Grace Church serves many other communities. We are comprised of members and families from Pennsauken, Merchantville, Cherry Hill, Maple Shade, Cinnaminson, Moorestown as well as other neighboring communities.
Grace Church is comprised of 165 households. Approximately 17 children are registered in Sunday School. 10 of our parishioners are shut-ins or confined to nursing homes.
Grace Church History
Grace Church started in a private home in 1872 and was established as a parish in 1873. Afternoon services were held in Trinity Methodist Church and later in Merchantville Hall. In 1878, a small wooden church was built on the current site. Membership grew beyond its capacity and construction was begun on the current building in 1893. In the 1950’s, additions extended the Sanctuary, added Sunday School rooms, a bell tower, a chapel, office space and a kitchen.
Over the years we have established two mission churches: St. John’s in Maple Shade (1885) and St. Bartholomew’s in Cherry Hill (1961). We have enjoyed sharing a Wednesday evening supper and Bible study with the parishioners of St. John’s during Lent for several years.
The first priests to serve our church were the Rev. Wilberforce Wells (1880) and Rev. A.A. Rickerts (1880-1881). They were followed by the Rev. Richard Moses (1882-1906) and the Rev. Harold Morse (1906-1934) who devoted many years to the life of the church. During World War II, Grace Church continued its mission under the leadership of the Rev. John Saunderson (1935-36) and the Rev. James Richards (1936- 48), with the help of the Rev. David Pyle, Curate, who was Priest in Charge while Rev. Richards was serving in the Armed Forces. The Rev. Albert Van Duzer (1949-1965) guided us during a period of great growth and the Rev. Canon. James E. Purdy (1966-83) contributed to the ecumenical movement in our district. The Rev. Edward J. Peck Jr. (1984-93), the Rev. C. Edward Pritts (1994-2007) and the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey M. Kirk (2009-2018) have tried to keep us current with social needs within the parish and the community. The Rev. Dr. Patrick Close (Fr. Pat) currently serves as our Interim Rector.
We have a small staff. Grete Ingalls has been our Organist and Choir Director since early 2018. Becky Martin and Josh Seib are our Youth Directors. Julia McGraw has been our part time Secretary for three years. We are proud of the willingness of our parishioners to seek lay ministry as Eucharistic Ministers, Acolytes, Choir and Altar Guild members, Sunday School Teachers, Food Bank Assistants, and St. Clare’s Thrift Shop workers.
The Church Today
Worship Services: Holy Eucharist is celebrated on Sunday at 8:00a.m, (Rite I), with sermon but no music and at 10:00a.m. (Rite II), with sermon and music provided by the Organist. Combined attendance for these two services averages 87 members. Coffee and light refreshments are available in the Trinity Room after the 10:00 a.m. service. Sunday School is held from September to June and begins at 9:00a.m. A Tuesday service with healing prayers is offered at 4:00p.m. in the St. John’s Chapel.
The Vestry consists of nine members who serve overlapping three-year terms and 2 Wardens who serve a two-year term. There are three standing committees which are Finance, Property and Ministry. The Rector usually presides at these meetings on the second Tuesday of the month from 7:00p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Members of Vestry and Delegates to Convocation and Convention are elected at the Annual Parish meeting at the end of January. On this Sunday, one service is offered at 10:00a.m. so that we can meet as one corporate body for worship. A fellowship luncheon follows the presentation of the annual committee reports including finances and elections.
The Discernment Committee consists of eight members who will represent the entire congregation as we visit with and interview candidates to become our Rector. Valerie O’Reilly is the Chairperson.
Lay Eucharistic Ministers: We have trained and licensed LEM’s who assist at the altar in serving the Sacraments as well as reading the lessons, Psalms and Prayers of the People during the services. Some are licensed to take the Sacraments to shut-ins and those who are sick.
Ushers and the Vestry in Charge cover the greeting of parishioners and guests before the service, the receiving of the offering during the service, and the counting of what has been received after the service. Marian Daly chairs the scheduling of these activities.
Acolytes and Torchbearers: Several of our young people take turns serving at the 10:00a.m. service.
The Altar Guild consists of four teams. Kelly Sneddon is the Directress. The teams care for the vestments, linens, silver, brass and crystal in preparation for all services in the church and chapel. They order and arrange flowers for the altar. Gladys Reich is the Altar Flower Coordinator. Meetings are held on the first Sunday of each month at noon, October – May.
Church School meets at 9:00a.m. every Sunday from September to May. Anna Hopkins is the Sunday School Superintendent. The teachers use a Lectionary-based curriculum that is approved by the Rector and organize outreach projects such as canned goods collections for the Food Pantry and the annual Christmas Pageant.
Vacation Bible School is held for 1 week from 6:00 – 8:30p.m. in August with Julie McGraw coordinating the efforts of many volunteer teachers and aides. The program is theme-oriented and has a charity outreach focus. Enrollment averages about 10 children from both Grace Church and the community.
Episcopal Churchwomen (ECW) meets the second Saturday of each month and is coordinated by Anna Hopkins. The ECW coordinate various fund-raising events such as the Mitten Tree, UTO boxes, Boscov’s Day fundraiser as well as additional activities throughout the year.
St. Clare’s Thrift Shop is a successful outreach to the needy in our community. It is managed by Eve Hartshaw with the assistance of many volunteers. The shop is open to the public on Friday and Saturday from 10:00a.m. – 2:00p.m. and offers new and used clothing, linens, books, house wares, toys, china, gifts and furniture at inexpensive prices. Proceeds of a little over $28,000 go to the maintenance of the church and various programs.
The Food Pantry was approved to be a Jubilee Ministry Center of the Episcopal Church in 2018 and is organized by Jerry Ash and Norma Bush. It is open to the public every Wednesday from 12:00 – 2:00p.m. Up to 40 families are served each week. Thanksgiving baskets are distributed to over 100 families annually. The shelves are kept filled through monetary and foodstuff donations by parishioners.
St. Paul’s Outreach: A special basket is placed to collect donations of complete pancake mix which is delivered to St. Paul’s Church in Camden for their Sunday morning breakfast program. Teams serve breakfast at St. Paul’s the first Sunday of the month. Denise Brouse chairs this outreach program.
The Fall Fair Committee: Chaired by Norma Bush, this theme event features over 150 raffle baskets, baked goods, deli items, snack bar lunches, a Secret Santa shop for children, crafts of church members as well as community vendors, jewelry, attic treasures, books and 50/50 opportunities to the church and community. The income from the 2018 Fair was over $9,000.
The Ministries Committee: Chaired by Marian Daly, meets on the first Saturday of each month at 9:00a.m. Events are planned throughout the year for parishioners and members of the community can enjoy fellowship outside of the Church services. Annual events have included the Soup and Dessert off, Women’s Appreciation dinner, Easter Egg Hunts, Halloween Trunk or Treat to name a few.
Friday Night Bible Study Group: Facilitated by Lou Cavaliere and Josh Seib, the Bible Study group meets for several programs each year on Friday nights from 6p.m. – 8p.m. In 2018, the group studied the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospels of Luke and Mark. The group is currently studying I Corinthians. A light meal/refreshment is provided prior to the program.
Groups and Individuals Using our Facilities:
Alcoholics Anonymous: St. Martha Room on Wednesdays from 7:00 – 8:00p.m.
Boy Scout Troop 118: Basement Scout Room on Mondays from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Cherry Valley Model Railroad Club: Church Undercroft on Thursdays from 7:00 – 9:00p.m.
Christ Apostolic Temple: Sunday, 10:30a.m. – 1:00p.m., Tuesday, 6:30-8:30p.m. Friday, 6:30p.m. – 8:30p.m., Morse Hall.
Ted Warchal and Terrance Smith, artists: Weekdays, 11:00a.m. – 3:00p.m.
The Church Property
The church property consists of three buildings: the church structure and two residences. The church building is located at 7 E. Maple Ave. and consists of the Nave and Sanctuary, classrooms, meeting rooms, library, chapel, offices, kitchen and parish hall with a stage. The residence of 9E. Maple has two apartments, which over the years have housed Curates, retired clergy and parishioners. The residence at 11 E. Maple has served as a rectory as well as home for parishioners. It has three stories with a full basement and contains ten rooms: five bedrooms, a living room, dining room, family room, eat in kitchen, library/den and a large wrap around front porch. Both residences are in good structural condition.
The church interior was freshly painted in 2017 and new lighting was added/updated in both the parking lot and in many inside areas. The church parking lots were updated with new asphalt and relined. The Church exterior property was updated with new landscaping and signs.
There are two parking lots. One is behind the kitchen and library. The large lot is behind the residences. Additionally, we have a contract with Verizon to use their lot which abuts our large lot. These three lots provide adequate off-street parking.
There is a large outdoor shed near the kitchen/parish hall which is used for the storage of a variety of equipment and materials.
The Nave was built in 1894 and extended in the 1950’s when Sunday School rooms, a bell tower, a chapel, office space and a kitchen were added. A parish hall was built in 1927 and was joined to the main structure in the 50’s. Access ramps were added to the front and side entrances and the interior hallway in the late 80’s making the first floor of the church wheelchair/handicap accessible.
The Nave is air-conditioned and seats 280 in the regular pews; the front rows have been adjusted to accommodate wheelchairs. The choir stall pews seat 18 on the right side. The left side accommodates the concert quality pipe organ’s electronic console, electronic piano keyboard and pews for 12. A baby grand piano is on the main floor of the Nave next to the organ. The Altar is free standing. The Baptismal Font is in the front near the Lectern and is mounted on wheels. The back of the church has folding wooden doors which open into an area called the Trinity Room where the choir gathers before the processional and also serves as a gathering place for coffee hour. Next to the Trinity Room is a formal living room used during weddings and funerals for families to gather together. Above the Trinity Room is a glass enclosure which allows access to the antiphonal and trumpet pipes of the organ. It is a multipurpose space. On the hallways leading from the Sanctuary to the parish hall is a nursery, equipped with a crib, changing table, toy box, rockers and is designed for the comfort of small ones. Across from the nursery is the small parish library.
The Undercroft of the church serves as the residence of the Cherry Valley Model Railroad which opens its display to the public several times a year.
The roof over the Nave and chapel/office area was replaced in 1994.
Highlights of 2018 Property updates include:
- Updated fire alarm system
- Replacing stage curtain in Morse Hall (Parish Hall)
- Repainting of corridors/stairwells
Additional websites for Merchantville, the surrounding area, and nearest cities:
The “Jersey Shore”:
Cape May, NJ: https://www.capemay.com/
The Wildwoods, NJ: https://wildwoodsnj.com/
Ocean City, NJ: http://www.ocnj.us/
Avalon, NJ: https://www.visitavalonnj.com/
Stone Harbor, NJ: https://stoneharbornj.org/