Grace Episcopal Church, Ocala, came to its present site in 1905 when it was disassembled, moved, and reassembled, leaving it slightly larger than before. In 1912 a rectory was built beside the church.
Rector John Neighbor saw the need for a parish house, and in early 1924 the church’s vestry voted to build one. After receiving a bank loan, the church purchased the lot next to the rectory for this purpose. But due to a lack of funds, the church decided by November 1924 to postpone the building project.
The rector from 1930 to 1936, the Rev. Edgar Pennington, was a man who liked to get things done. He challenged his congregation to move forward on the badly needed parish house. He started collecting coins from the children and used the fifth-Sunday collection to buy native lime rock that was piled on a nearby vacant lot. Steven McCready, Sunday school superintendent, offered to match the money the children raised. The growing pile of rocks was a visible reminder of the parish house to come. However, the Rev. Pennington moved on in 1936 and did not see the project completed.
The next years were difficult ones. The Great Depression and World War II brought hard times to Ocala and Grace Church, including reduced manpower, shortages, and rationing. For some of those years, Grace carried on without a rector.
After the war, things started to improve. Grace was blessed with growing families. The Sunday school classes continued to collect coins, and the limestone rock-pile grew to an embarrassing height.
In 1947, postwar prosperity led Sid Dosh and others to plan a building drive for the parish house. The rectory on the lot next to the church was moved east to make way for the new building.
The building drive raised pledges of $37,904.52. But the church still ran short of money to finish the building and landscaping. To complete the project, Grace borrowed $10,500 from M&C National Bank. The parish house was finally constructed in the early 1950s, many years after the vestry first voted to build it and purchased the land.
The 2014 Capital Campaign raised funds to preserve and enhance the church and the parish house. The 2016 renovation is now finished, and the parish house was rededicated, ready to provide many more years of service for church members and for the community. As part of the renovation, the entranceway was opened up so that the Dove Window could be seen from inside and outside the parish house. The Dove Window was designed and made by Betty and Warren Winchenbach, longtime members of Grace Church.
- A second air-conditioning system that blows air into the main hall
- Blade fans removed
- New cabinets in the coffee serving area
- New storage for the kitchen and storage for the tables and chairs
- New speakers for the sound system
- Entranceway opened up with new centerpiece glass doors
- Entranceway windows added with clear glass to let in light
- Old heater removed
- Original lights reworked and redirected
- New light fixtures on the sides and extra recessed lights added
- New floor in the entranceway
- New lights on the stage and an added door to the stage
- New window casings to match the new decor
- Ice machine moved into the kitchen
Grace Church is thrilled with the improvements and grateful that they were able to happen according to God’s timing.