About Grace Church
We invite all—believers, seekers and skeptics—to participate in our worship. Whether or not you are a member of Grace Church, there is a place for you in our common search for God.
Find out more about our Core Values here.
Grace Church is a parish within The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, The Right Reverend Lawrence C. Provenzano, DD, Diocesan Bishop.
Grace Church provides annual financial support for the mission of our diocese and the multi-national Episcopal Church, The Most Reverend Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate.
The Episcopal Church is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, The Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.
Clergy, Staff and Vestry
The Reverend Dr. Allen F. Robinson, Rector
Office: (718) 624-1850, x 14
The 15th Rector of Grace Church Brooklyn Heights, the Rev. Dr. Allen F. Robinson is a native of Galveston, TX, where he grew up attending St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church. He is a gifted and passionate preacher and teacher and serves as a coach on congregational vitality.
Dr. Robinson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from St. Augustine University, Raleigh, NC. He was ordained in the Diocese of Texas in 1995 after receiving his Master of Divinity degree at the Virginia Theological Seminary. In 2007, he earned a Doctor of Ministry degree, with a dissertation on congregational development, from Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA.
Previously, Dr. Robinson served as Rector at St. James’ Church in Baltimore, Maryland. He has also served as an Associate at Calvary in Memphis, TN and an Assistant to the Rector at St. Dunstan’s and St. James’ Churches, both in Houston, TX. Dr. Robinson is active in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island and the Brooklyn Community, currently serving as President of the Long Island Black Caucus, member of the Commission of Ministry, member of the Board of Trustees at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, and the Board of Directors at the Dodge YMCA. He enjoys reading, model trains, and traveling. Allen and his wife Allison are proud parents of Keenan, Leyla, and Philip.
The Reverend Erika Meyer, Associate Rector for Pastoral Care and Community Life
Office: (718) 624-1850, x 21
The Rev. Erika Meyer joins the Grace Church staff as the Associate Rector for Pastoral Care and Community Life. She brings to Grace her sixteen years of experience as a Rector serving parishes ranging from rural Colorado to midtown Manhattan. She has a vested personal interest in faith, loss, and the grieving process and the use of scripture, song, and testimony to strengthen our desire to serve the Kingdom of God and follow Jesus. Rev. Meyer was ordained in 1995 in the Diocese of Michigan and has a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Michigan and her M.Div. from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, Ca. Her husband, Paul Marinaccio, is an executive coach and former Commissioner for Economic Development for NYC. Erika is a mother to Johan, and step-mother to Juli, both in college. She is a public radio podcast junkie, walker of Cinnamon and has discovered a side ministry in the dog park.
The Reverend Chris Lee, Assistant to the Rector for Youth, Young Adult, and Family Ministries
The Rev. Alan Christopher Lee is our new Assistant to the Rector for Youth, Young Adult, and Family Ministries. Chris is a cradle Episcopalian from Charlotte, NC, an alumnus of UNC-Chapel Hill, and received his M.Div. from the General Theological Seminary in May 2020. He has lived in Brooklyn since 1995, and worked as a musician and as a journalist before discerning a call to ordained ministry. Chris’ passions in ministry include Christian formation for all ages, the church’s role in racial reconciliation, and exploring the richness of Anglican liturgy and music. He also enjoys reading, playing guitar, and coaching youth sports. Chris is married to Julie Bleha, and they are the parents of Thaddeus and Callum.
Paul Richard Olson, Organist-Choirmaster
Office: (718) 624-1850, x 20
Since 1992, Paul Richard Olson has served as Organist and Choirmaster at Grace Church Brooklyn Heights where he heads the choral program and concert series. A native of Seattle, Paul holds degrees in music from Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Oregon. He has done additional post-graduate studies in performance at the University of Washington, the Eastman School of Music, Indiana University, and Eton (UK).He maintains an active schedule as a recitalist, clinician, conductor, and accompanist in New York City and throughout the United States. For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Melissa Kelly, Parish Administrator
Office: (718) 624-1850, x 10
Parish Administrator Melissa Kelly holds a BFA from New York University, and she has been working with non-profit organizations for over 10 years. One of her passions is helping out in her community. She has been a resident of Brooklyn Heights for the past 20 years, and is a member of Grace Chorale of Brooklyn, which holds their weekly rehearsals at Grace Church. You may see her in the neighborhood walking her chihuahua, Tikka, and Great Pyrenees mix, Robin Bear.
Sandra Joseph, Financial Administrator
Office: (718) 624-1850, x 22
Financial Administrator Sandra Joseph was born in Trinidad but grew up in Brooklyn where she continues to live. She is a graduate of Baruch College where she received a BA in Accounting. She joined Grace in 2011 and oversees the financial needs of the Church and School. Sandra loves spending time with her family, dancing and fine dining.
Felipe Guerra, Sexton
Felipe Guerra has been caring for the buildings and grounds of Grace since 2011 and was promoted to Head Sexton in 2016. He came to Grace with many years of construction experience and certificates in electrical skills and plumbing from Apex Technical College. Felipe has two sons,14 and 16; loves them, soccer and a good plate of chicken and rice.
Wardens and Vestry
The Vestry is the governing board of the parish and consists of the Rector, the Wardens and lay members. It serves as a council of advice for the Rector, and each member has hands-on areas of responsibility. As its primary responsibility, the Vestry oversees the parish’s financial health and, in partnership with the Rector, develops and approves the annual parish budget. The Wardens are elected at the parish’s annual meeting and may serve three two-year terms. Lay members are likewise elected at the parish’s annual meeting and may serve up to two three-year terms. The Vestry is supported by the Clerk and the Treasurer.
Marilyn Grant, Senior Warden
Barbara Becker, Junior Warden
Vestry: Wendy Chittenden, Peter Farrell, Emily Horcher, Christopher Larson, Seth Lloyd, Patricia Magnuson, Elder Maxwell, Shannon McDonald, Brianna McCarty, Sheila O’Neill, Dale Swift, Randall Thomas, Linda Wexelblatt, James Williamson.
Officer Reporting to the Vestry
Charles Henry, Treasurer
Dennis Gephardt, Clerk of the Vestry
History of Grace Church
Brooklyn Heights’ Past
Brooklyn Heights takes its name from a quarter-mile-long bluff rising steeply above the East River harbor. In early American history, it is perhaps best known as the location of General George Washington’s field headquarters in 1776, when the famous Battle of Brooklyn—which ended in defeat for Washington—took place as part of the War of Independence.
The community that arose in the Heights over the following centuries looks today much as it did 100 years ago, with historic brownstone and brick rowhouses that prosperous landowners built on what was once farmland. With the improvement of ferry service in 1814, many of these men began commuting to jobs in Manhattan. Brooklyn Heights was becoming a suburb.
Grace Is Established and the Church Is Built
Grace Church had its own beginnings in the early 1840s, when a small group of Brooklyn Heights Episcopalians established Emmanuel Church on Sydney Place. The parish quickly outgrew its space, and a new church was incorporated in 1847, taking the name Grace Church Brooklyn Heights.
The parish’s first rector, the Reverend Francis Vinton, with a building committee headed by Henry Evelyn Pierrepont, selected a site on what is now Grace Court. They enlisted the services of the distinguished architect Richard Upjohn, who was well known for his church designs, most notably Trinity Church Wall Street in Manhattan. He designed Grace Church, like Trinity, in Gothic Revival style, based on English medieval precedents. The cornerstone was laid on June 29, 1847, and on December 10, 1848 the doors were opened for its first service, welcoming the congregation to an interior of polished wood, carved pews and an open trusswork ceiling.
Grace Grows and Its Facilities Expand
After the opening of the first subway in 1908, the Heights became even more closely tied to Manhattan, but its relative calm also made it a residential refuge. During the early years of the 20th century, as the parish became more established, decorative paint was gradually added to the walls and ceiling, and the original diamond-pane windows were replaced with stained glass from studios such as Tiffany, J & R Lamb, Clayton & Bell and Mayer of Munich.
At that same time, parish facilities were expanded also. In 1865 Grace had built a Sunday and parish school building—also designed by Richard Upjohn—next door to the church on Grace Court. But in 1931, with continuing parish growth, that building was replaced by the present-day Parish House, where Grace Church School is located.
Most recently, the church underwent a year-long restoration that was completed in the spring of 2014, revealing many of the spectacular architectural elements that had been obscured by prior renovations.
A History of Service and Education
But a parish consists of more than its buildings. It is animated by its congregants, its leadership and the programs it supports.
From its earliest days, one of the hallmarks of Grace Church has been its history of service. The Reverend Vinton established that tradition when he founded the Church Charity Foundation, ministering to the sick, the aged and the blind. Continuing the tradition of numerous outreach programs over the years, Grace parishioners today work within the neighborhood, the city and the world. Grace hosts many recovery groups throughout the week, and together with a consortium of different neighborhood faith communities, hosts a month-long shelter each year. Grace also supports Community Help in Park Slope (CHiPS), a feeding ministry for the hungry in Brooklyn.
Early on, Grace established a training school for girls and later one of the first kindergartens in the area. Since 1928 it has included Grace Church School, the oldest pre-school in Brooklyn. Today, parishioners not only participate in mentoring and tutoring programs for public high school students in Brooklyn, but have traveled several times to El Hogar de Amor y Esperanza in Honduras to work with the poor schoolchildren there.
Grace Church Restoration
Grace Church underwent an extensive restoration and renovation in 2013-2014, during which a new copper roof was installed and original or historically accurate decorative elements were restored in the nave and sanctuary. The most spectacular of these can be seen in the celestial ceiling, which features an array of eight-pointed stars in gold, yellow and red on a bright royal blue background. Similarly, the walls, moldings and trim were renewed, and flourishes of Bible verses once again ring the upper nave and sanctuary walls, where they meet the ceiling.
EverGreene Architectural Arts served as contractor for the restoration. In the December 23, 2013 New York Times, David W. Dunlap wrote:
“Grace Church was lucky, said Kim Lovejoy, a vice president of EverGreene and the restoration project director, not only because the over-painting could be washed away but also because of what its removal disclosed.
“‘It’s so rare to find a Gothic Revival painting scheme that can be unearthed,’ she said. ‘We came to understand that the decoration was creating a heavenly garden in that space.’”
“‘The colors and pattern motifs of the painted wall and ceiling decoration, stained glass, wood and stone carvings, furnishings and floor mosaic, were designed to work together as a coherent ensemble,’ Ms. Lovejoy added.
“Thomas Chittenden, the senior warden at Grace, cast the renovation as part of the church’s mission of pastoral, charitable, social and religious outreach. ‘We’re not just antiquarians and historic preservationists, though we are that,’ he said. ‘Having a beautiful, valuable edifice at the center of the parish is a real plus. It visibly enhances the experience.’”
As a result of these extensive efforts, Grace was honored with a 2015 Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award by the New York Landmarks Conservancy, an award for Excellence in Historic Preservation from the Brooklyn Heights Association and a 2014 Preservation Award from the Victorian Society New York.
A Capital Campaign was implemented by Grace Church to fund the restoration. The people of Grace Church Brooklyn Heights give thanks to God and to all those who contributed to the renovation and restoration of our worship space.
Grace has become recognized not just for the revealed beauty of its interior but also for its architectural and historical significance within Brooklyn. Through guided tours every month, docents share this history with visitors and curious parishioners. Tours are held the first Sunday of each month at 12:15 pm, in the Church. Check the calendar for the schedule, or contact the docents by completing the Contact Grace form.
Grace Church School
The educational philosophy of Grace Church School is rooted in providing children with experiences that enable them to question, to explore, to create and to grow. Within a nurturing environment, children develop social, emotional and intellectual skills through active engagement and hands-on experiences.
Please visit the school’s website at www.gracechurchschool.org for more information. Special admissions consideration is given to children of families who have been members of Grace for at least a year, worship with us regularly, participate in the life of the Church, and offer their support through an annual pledge. Please contact the Wardens for further information.
About page, church ceiling and roof renovation, and Contact page stained glass window: Joe McCarthy
Music page, adult choir outside church: Ellen Wallop
Parish Life page, street picnic: Brianna McCarthy
Parish Life page, WinterFair setup: Franklin Stone