"…in the fervent hope that our labours may be blessed and the religion of Christ advanced."
-- Robert E. Lee, Senior Warden. Report to Grace Church, September 16, 1868
Grace Church was established in 1840 by a small group of Episcopalians living in Lexington among the predominantly Presbyterian inhabitants of the town and Rockbridge County. Its earliest mission focused on providing a religious home for the cadets of Virginia Military Institute and the students of Washington College, now Washington and Lee University.
Francis H. Smith of VMI and Robert E. Lee of Washington College considered religious teachings the foundation of strong character. Both leaders looked to Grace Church to provide that teaching. Ministering to the campuses remains a core mission of the church.
Over many decades parishioners have facilitated efforts to address social needs in the community, helping found and support the Rockbridge Area Relief Association, Meals for Shut-ins, and Rockbridge Area Health Center. Grace Church was the home to one of the first pre-school efforts in the community, Yellow Brick
Parishioners today continue supporting these local efforts, as well as engaging in broader national and international causes such as Habitat for Humanity and the Marc Nikkel School in the Sudan.
Early Leaders of Grace Church…
A life-long Episcopalian, Smith joined a handful of fellow believers to establish the first Episcopal parish in Lexington.
Smith and his wife Sarah were the first names on the list of the original ten communicants in 1840. Serving as the first vestry secretary, he remained on the vestry until his death 50 years later in 1890.
Smith led a weekly bible study for VMI cadets. At graduation, Smith presented each cadet with a diploma and a bible inscribed with a passage Smith thought appropriate for the graduate.
Ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1838, Pendleton accepted a call to Grace Church in 1853.He built up the parish, ministering not only to the community but also to students and cadets and the two Lexington campuses.
Pendleton made missionary preaching tours in counties to the west and published a series of lectures in 1860 titled Science a Witness for the Bible. His funeral, held in January 21, 1883, was the first service in the present church building.
At his last vestry meeting Lee obtained approval for the construction of a new and larger church building. The project would be funded principally by donations from the North and the South given in his memory. In 1903 the church was named R.E. Lee Memorial. In 2017 the name was restored to Grace (Episcopal) Church. His mark is indelible.
Erected by Grace Church.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Churches & Religion • Education. A significant historical date for this entry is January 21, 1883.
Location. 37° 47.176′ N, 79° 26.609′ W. Marker is
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. John Chavis (within shouting distance of this marker); Last Home of Traveller (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Lee-Jackson House (about 300 feet away); Traveller (about 400 feet away); Keigh-Tugh-Qua (about 400 feet away); Patsy Cline (about 400 feet away); Morris House (about 400 feet away); Alben W. Barkley (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Lexington.
Credits. This page was last revised on May 9, 2021. It was originally submitted on May 9, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 32 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on May 9, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.