Grace Episcopal Church, 218 N. Sixth St., will swing its red doors open for guests on the Muskogee Christmas Home tour from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 14 and Dec 15. Admission is $10 at the door of the church or any of the five homes on the tour. Proceeds benefit the Kelly B. Todd Cerebral Palsy and Neuro-Muscular Center.
“We want the community to come and enjoy, and be part of history,” said Father Bob Wickizer, rector of the church. “We may be small but we do things outside of our members.”
He claims Grace Episcopal is the oldest church building in Muskogee. It was “erected in 1905, rebuilt in 1923, and remodeled in 2013.”
The reconstruction project included completing the parish hall and courtyard and restoring the exterior of the church to its historical appearance, as it was prior to the 1940s era asbestos shingles and painted stone.
The sand stones were painted an off white and have been returned to the natural stone. A stone building on Porter Road was torn town and its stones cut by a mason and put in place on the facing where needed. It matched exactly.
Inside, the parish hall has been completly rennovated. Work is still being done on the education wing.
“We have some landscaping to do,” Wickizer said.
There is a new fountain with colorful lights on at night in the courtyard. New outreach missions include plans for accessible, lighted public use areas and a community garden.
The church conducts many missions: global Episcopal Development and Relief, area ministry to the sick, healing services, outreach to the community, supporting the Muskogee food pantry ministry, providing meals for the homeless, bi-weekly Meals on Wheels for many elderly community members, and a vital new emerging worship program.
About the stained glass
The beautiful stained glass windows were installed between 1927 and 1945. They were designed and produced at the Jacoby Studios in St. Louis. The three-dimensional effect is achieved by framing the scenes in a canopy of stonework, a characteristic of 15th and 16th Century, English church art.
There are 11 pairs of identical size windows surrounding the nave, the large “Come Unto Me” window on the west and the “Praise and Adoration” windows on each side of the altar. There are smaller windows above the east entrance and on the south and west sides of the main entrance.
The glass was produced by the pot metal antique process and most of it was mouth-blown. To obtain the brilliant hues, the artists mixed minerals with the sand before heating to produce glass sheets. The painting and mottling on the glass are the work of artists using brown and black oxides, which with flux annealed to the glass when fired in a kiln at high temperatures. They are permanently fused in the stained glass.
The windows are the story of Christ’s life from the Annunciation to Pentecost. They are best viewed in sequence, in a clockwise direction starting from the southeast corner, nearest the short hall by the angel reading stand and hymn board.
• Feb. 23, 1893 — Bishop Brooke conducted the first service; founding Grace Episcopal Church, Muskogee
• 1895 — Grace Episcopal Church met in a small frame building next to a livery stable on what is now the 200 block of South Fourth Street.
• January 1906 — Grace built a medium size sanctuary on the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Broadway.
• March 1, 1906, The Rev. Hugh J. Llwyd became rector of Grace and served until 1941, through two world wars and a Depression.
• 1910 — Grace helped to found St. Philip’s Negro Congregation Mission in Muskogee, and assisted the mission until 1970 when the two churches merged.
• 1911 to 1919 — Grace served as the Episcopal Cathedral for Eastern Oklahoma. Bishop Thurston, with his military background, trained doughboys on the church grounds for deployment to WWI.
• 1917 — Electric lights installed at Grace, during its “cathedral” era.
• 1920s — Problems led to relocation of the church; streetcars ran east and west on Broadway, every 15 minutes clanging loudly and interrupting the services. The church was becoming overcrowded, and a spring running through the property, frequently flooded the basement.
• April 25, 1922 — Vestry voted to move the church to corner of Sixth and Court streets. The church building was cut in half, moved the two blocks by mule sledges, and a 38-foot addition inserted in the middle. The turnbuckles used in the reassembly of the church are visible today.
• May 13, 1923 — Bishop Thurston conducted the first service in the new sanctuary.
• 1930s — Grace had a large congregation of more than 700 members in its heyday.
If you would like to attend a service at the church, services are at 8 and 10:30 a.m. Sundays.