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Fourth BCEF Call of 2017: Grace Church Van Vorst, Jersey City

Grace Church Van Vorst, Jersey City

The Bishop’s Church Emergency Fund (BCEF) provides financial support for church buildings in the diocese needing repairs and renovation, usually with a special focus on emergency and unforeseen needs. Through the BCEF, you can support the critical needs identified by the Bishop.

The fourth BCEF call of 2017 is for a new fire alarm in the Youth Center at Grace Church Van Vorst, Jersey City. You can donate online, or mail a check payable to BCEF with Call #4 in the memo line to: BCEF, c/o Diocese of Newark, 31 Mulberry St., Newark, NJ 07102.

The Rev. Laurie Wurm, who serves as Rector of Grace Church in Jersey City, or Grace Van Vorst as it is better known, characterizes it as a “cathedral for downtown Jersey City” and adds that she estimates probably three times the number of people use the church during the week as attend on Sunday. The church’s website outlines an impressive number of ministries. Grace Community Services offers a more promising future to many whose lives are diminished by isolation as well as housing and food insecurities. The Senior Center for Healthy Living assists 70-80 people every weekday and the church’s Breakfast Plus program operates on weekends starting at 7 am. There are also parenting classes, a toddler drop-off program each weekday morning, and a busy arts program.

In the 1950s, a century after the church’s founding, a newly ordained priest (and later to become bishop) Paul Moore and two other young priests transformed Grace Church into what would become a model for inner city ministry. Moore was an activist who spoke out about housing conditions and racial discrimination in Jersey City. The emphasis on community service has continued to the present day and the medieval cathedral, which was the hub of its local community, is truly an apt metaphor for this congregation.

Under girding the church’s ministries in the serving the community, is a lively worship experience on Sunday morning. Attendance at the two morning services averages 100. Informality and a wonderful exuberance prevail at the “modern service” which takes place at 11 am. Instead of having worshippers looking down at their books, all the texts are projected on a large screen up front. The service also features pew-less seating and a praise band of pick up musicians—often a cellist, a violinist or two, and a drummer. Prayer for healing is available during communion. This service is preceded by a more intimate and contemplative traditional service at 9 am. Children are invited to join in at both services.

Space has become a pressing issue in the beautiful 164-year-old English gothic church building and several youth programs have recently been moved into the adjacent rectory. The move required the installation of costly fire safety upgrades, a strain on Grace’s very limited resources that were already taxed by emergency plumbing repairs this year. This being Advent and our final BCEF call for 2017, I hope you will be generous in assisting the people of Grace Van Vorst in their determination to make a difference in lives of young people in their community.

God’s peace,

The Rt. Rev. Mark M. Beckwith
Bishop of Newark