The Sanctuary From
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The entire history of Grace United Church is truly interwoven within the walls of the building itself. The stained glass and woodwork are reminiscent of some of the earliest days of the church. In celebrating 150 years, we look back at the important role the sanctuary has played in the history of Grace.
The Early Days
At the time, the surrounding community of what we now know as Brampton was very small. Made up of mostly wilderness with a few trails running through the brush, itinerant ministers could occasionally be seen riding through on horseback. People gathered during this time wherever they could - private homes, the blacksmith shop, or local store - to worship and socialize. Usually the congregation would meet in two of the early settlers homes: Robert Lowes and John Wilkinson. The church was truly the centre of the community.
By 1822 the beginnings of Grace were formed when the congregation met in a little log meeting house adjacent to Salisbury's Tavern on the hilltop, near what is now Vodden Street. The small Wesleyan Methodist congregation met regularly there with preacher Mr. Salisbury - the brother of the tavern owner.
Eventually, the congregation moved to a small building that was used during the week as a school. They worshipped there from 1830 to 1843. When this building was gutted by fire, the congregation travelled around meeting at locals' homes for two years until in 1846 they moved into their third building known as "The Brampton School House."
Now the year is 1850 and the little hamlet of Brampton has only 78 residents. However, over the next two years that number would grow to about 1,000. As the city of Brampton expanded rapidly, the church needed a more comfortable and convenient space. Mr. George Wright - a large property owner and member of the Legislature - generously donated the land for a new church. The first official church building was built for $1,200 and stood at about 30 feet by 40 feet. It was in this building that the first Sunday school in Brampton was created. Its first superintendent was F. Forster and the school had around 50 members.
The growth of the community was so rapid that in five years the population had more than doubled to 2,500 people. The church was again in need of an expansion, so in 1864, The Brampton Wesleyan Church Building Society was formed and soon after the land we now know as 156 Main St. was purchased for $250.
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156 Main Street
The building we see today was built on this half acre piece of land. In 1867 the cornerstone was laid by John MacDonald of Toronto, and the construction was completed soon after for $8,500. The dedication ceremony was officiated by Dr. Egerton Ryerson, Ontarios's leading Methodist.
The building is a wonderful example of Gothic Revival Architecture built by local stone mason Jesse Perry. Made with buff and red sand finish bricks, the 40 foot by 60 foot building had buttresses and five lancet windows on either side. The 12 foot by 12 foot by 50 foot bell tower was made of buff brick and housed a 40 inch by 36 inch cast iron bell. Inside, were wooden seats, one mat running along the isle and a great chandelier with 20 coal oil lamps to provide light. The choir was positioned along the back in the gallery with a small foot powered organ. Three years later a school room was added to the back of the building.
Grace got its name in 1855 when a second Methodist church came into being, so in order to distinguish them, one was named St. Paul's and the other Grace.
In 1887 the building was renovated to include steam heating and enlarge the sanctuary. Wings were added to the North and South sides making the building now 73 feet by 77 feet. A new wraparound gallery was added and the choir was placed behind the pulpit. This building is what we see today. The front doors are flanked by cast iron lamps and are carved with an oak leaf pattern. The building contains 40 stained glass windows most of which are originally from the 1887 renovation. The original pews also remain in the balcony. The celebration of these renovations lasted for four Sundays.
In 1924, a gymnasium, a kitchen and a school building were added. The public gymnasium was the first of its kind and offered a great space for members of the community to enjoy. Extra seating extensions were added to the upstairs pews for soldiers during the war. In 1960 the Christian Education building was created and gave added space and equipment to members. In 1982 Grace Court, a seniors living centre, was built with help from Elia and Grace Crawford and the Art Morrison family.
Over 150 years Grace United Church has grown and changed along with the community of Brampton. The walls of the sanctuary have been witness to both joyous and somber occasions such as marriages, baptisms, and funerals. It has withstood and, continues to withstand, the test of time as it remains a place of peace, spirituality and security for all who come here.