Our History


Grace Church is the oldest Episcopal Church in continuous use in the Diocese of Chicago. An Episcopal Service was first held on the banks of the Fevre (now, Galena) River in 1826, the year Galena was incorporated as a town.

From the small group gathered on the riverbank that Sunday a congregation was informally begun. It met in various homes whenever an Episcopal clergyman came to town. In 1835, it was formally established as a parish and named Grace, after its patron church in Rhode Island.

At first the congregation met in the county courthouse and later above a downtown storefront before moving in 1836 to a wooden chapel located on Bench Street. By 1847 the membership had outgrown that building and plans were drawn to erect the stone edifice now in use. Construction was completed in 1849.

The building, constructed of limestone quarried on the site, was consecrated in 1850 and is filled with many precious objects. Some of the stained glass windows are of irreplaceable Belgian glass and a few of them are in Tiffany style. The chapel, altar area and sacristy were added in 1893. Extensive stenciling and historic memorial plaques give Grace Church a unique character.

An organ, purchased in 1838 from the Henry Erben Organ Company in New York, was first used in the Bench Street church and is still in use today. The marble baptismal font was also used in the chapel.

For 167 years, thousands of Galenians have called Grace Episcopal Church their spiritual home. Shepherded by 29 priests, they, and we today, are caretakers of this legacy. In 2000 and 2001 we spent $ 450,000 to completely restore our historic building.