History of Holyoke's Churches

Grace Church

(Branch of the Second Congregational Church)
Rev. E. B. Robinson, Pastor

      Under a sort of collegiate system there are two churches in what is known to the denomination as the Second Congregational Church. Each of these churches manages its own affairs, yet both are organically one. This system is coming to be generally recognized as being of the first importance as a means of solving the city problem, and to Holyoke belongs the honor of having worked out this method, to a degree almost unknown elsewhere, and here is how it happened:
      Many children in the lower wards of the city lacked Sunday school privileges, so February 2, 1879, a school was opened in a vacant room of the Parsons' Hall block. The Sunday school of J.S. McElwain, a teacher in the Second Church school was in charge. Among he workers were W.A. Allyn, C.H. Raber, and J.N. Hubbard, the first named becoming the first superintendent.

Grace Church

Grace Church

      With the growth of the work a chapel became a necessity, and the one erected at 290 Main street, at a cost of $1,000, is still standing, though now occupied by A.L. Codaire & Co. Another mark of progress was the securing of outside teachers to aid with the work in addition to the voluntary programs of Holyoke pastors. After Mr. Davies of Hartford Seminary and Rev. Mr. McClellan had staked out the field it was cleared and plowed by Rev. A. W. Remington, who took charge of the work in 1892, turning it over to Rev. F.P. Reinhold in 1898. The latter remained four fruitful years, and in turn was succeeded by Rev. E. B. Robinson, the present pastor.
      A church of 21 members was organized the last Sunday in March, 1894, and in April 1896, a new building, costing over $15,000 was dedicated, on the present site at the southeast corner of Cabot and Race streets. Rev. A.W. Remington and Joseph Skinner, for many years superintendent of the Sunday school, had at last seen their dream of a church building come true. In 1906 this building was greatly enlarged and improved, at an expense about equal to the original cost, and in 1911 the auditorium was beautiful. Plans have been prepared for further enlargement.
      Grace Church has been run along usual lines. Its picture services are held on alternate Sunday evenings through the season, and the church owns slides work nearly $1,000. This year the third summer the church has carried on a Daily Vacation Bible school in co-operation with Amherst and Mount Holyoke Colleges. The paid teachers this year were Leland Olds, Amherst, 1912; George Olds, Amherst, 1913, and Miss Helen Schadee, Mount Holyoke, 1910.
      For years the church has maintained a gymnasium and has conducted numerous outings each season. A yearly pilgrimage has been made to Amherst College an along many lines this college has aided greatly in the work at Grace Church. Mount Holyoke has helped the church by sending students as volunteer workers in clubs and classes.
      Grace Church has been famed for its welcome ever extended to the adopted citizens, and each year a service is held, having special significance for each nationality largely represented in the constituency.

Rev. E.B. Robinson
Rev. E.B. Robinson

      In the gymnasium Grace Church young folks are give the same dramatic privileges which college young folks enjoy.
      Grace Church has always been active in the Christian Endeavor movement, and this year sent a delegation of seven young men and women to the Sagamore Conference. The Y.P.S.C.E. executive committee of 14 members meets monthly.
      The church enjoys an unusually fine Sunday school plant, with many separate rooms, beautified by the classes that use them. F.B. Towne, who has worked in the school for a quarter of a century, is superintendent of the Sunday school. There is a boys' department with a paid worker in charge. Each Friday afternoon during nine months of each year there is a service for boys and girls, under the direction of Mrs. E.B. Robinson, who also conducts Sunday noons an unusually large class of young ladies.
      Rev. and Mrs. E.B. Robinson recently completed ten years of service and were generously remembered, not only by their congregation, but also by others in the city.
      Officers: Deacons, L.S. Whitcomb, E.B. McGowan, C.L. Taylor, William Ironside, and E.B. Miles; treasurer, E.B. Miles; clerk, John Smith; church committee, pastor, deacons, Sunday school superintendent, president of the Y.P.S.C.E., clerk and treasurer, also L.J. Becker, John Harper, and Alexander Thomson.
      Organist, Miss Eula Taylor.
      Y.P.S.C.E.: President, John Riffenburg.
      Junior Y.P.S.C.E.: Superintendent, Mrs. E.B.Robinson.
      Ladies Auxiliary: President, Mrs. William McCray.
      Sexton, George H. Fisher.
      This young church has over 600 resident members and this autumn for the first time will welcome the annual meeting of the Hampden County Association of Congregational Churches and Ministers. Mr. Robinson is president of the Connecticut Valley Congregational Club, and is an interested alumnus of Amherst College. Recently Mr. Robinson served two terms as president of the Hampden County Christian Endeavor Union.

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