Many Grace parishioners have a family history with the Episcopal Church, and I guess I’m no different. My father’s side of the family are long-time Episcopalians.
My paternal grandmother’s ancestors were members of the Church of Ireland, which, along with the Episcopal Church, is a member of the Anglican Communion. They attended Mullavilly Parish and St. Mark’s Church (shown below), both located in the Diocese of Armagh in Northern Ireland.
My grandmother’s parents immigrated to the United States in the late 1880s, and attended Christ Chapel Episcopal Church in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, New York. When my grandmother married, she and my Swedish grandfather joined St. John’s Episcopal Church in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. The church is nicknamed “The Church of the Generals” due to the many military officers from the nearby Fort Hamilton army garrison that have attended services there, including Robert E. Lee, who was on the vestry in the 1840s , and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, who was baptized there, also in the 1840s. My dad’s sisters were married at St. John’s, and all my cousins, as well as my brother Brad, were baptized there, using the same font that Stonewall Jackson was baptized in. Below are pictures of my children, Nicole and Mike, at St. John’s.
You are probably wondering how the Erickson family matriculated from Brooklyn, NY to Holland, MI. It all stems from a fateful decision my father, Ken, made as a 10 year old. Ken had befriended a boy at his grade school who invited him to sing in the choir at Grace Episcopal Church across town in Brooklyn Heights. My dad didn’t want to go, but his mother finally convinced to just try it once. It must have gone well because he joined the choir as a boy soprano and stayed in the choir through his high school years, traveling on his own by subway every Sunday morning. While at Grace, he met Bill Finlaw, who would become his best childhood friend. Bill had an older sister who, due to the advice of a high school guidance counselor, decided to attend Hope College in Holland, MI. Later, upon high school graduation, Bill followed his sister to Hope, and my dad followed Bill. Two years later, my dad’s cousin, John Corry, followed my dad to Hope. He would later become a prominent columnist at The New York Times. Below are pictures of Grace Episcopal Church in Brooklyn Heights.
So my dad arrived in Holland in 1947 to attend Hope College, and started attending Grace Church and singing in the church choir. At that time, Grace was located on Ninth Street and the rector was Father William Warner, whose 25-year ministry had begun just a few years earlier after arriving from another Grace Church in Traverse City. My dad sang in the choir for several years and got to know the Warner family well.
After graduating from Hope College in 1952, Ken served two years in the army in Korea, and returned to Holland in 1954, when he started dating my mother. They married in 1956 and moved to Livonia (Detroit suburb), where my dad started a teaching job. They started attending the recently closed St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Detroit, where our family would worship for many years.
Rosemary and I married in 1987, and we moved to Holland from Kalamazoo in 1989 and started worshiping at Grace. With my Episcopal background and Rosemary’s Catholic upbringing, the Episcopal Church was a natural fit. Our children, Mike and Nicole, were both baptized at Grace and attended Sunday school while growing up, and Rosemary and I have been active in various ways, such as Alter Guild and the Fellowship Commission.
My parents moved back to Holland from Livonia in 2004 to be closer to family, and started attending Grace as well. One day, my dad was helping our Director of Music, Steve Jenkins, sort through files of old sheet music. They discovered a sheet of music with my dad’s name on it. It had been sitting in the church files for over 60 years! For us, it was a remarkable reminder of our family’s extended history at Grace and the Episcopal church.
Submitted by Jeff Erickson