Grace Episcopal Church and Community Outreach
Updated: Mar 9
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photo credits: Grace Episcopal Church
Behind the beautiful red doors of Grace Episcopal Church, located at 128 West Passaic Ave, there are individuals that not only support one another, but also serve their community through many different outreach programs. This is Rutherford interviewed Susan Muller, Vestry member of Grace Church, who told us more about Grace Church's Priest-in-Charge, Reverend Dr. Karen Rezach, their church, and the many ways they take care of our local community and surrounding areas.
TIR: Can you tell us more about the Reverend of the Church and the church services and gatherings that individuals have the opportunity to attend during the week?
Susan J. Muller: The Rev. Dr. Karen Rezach was ordained into the priesthood in the Diocese of Newark in 2018. For four years, she served as a part-time priest at Christ Church in Short Hills, NJ, followed by 8 years as the Extended Supply Priest at St. Thomas in Lyndhurst. She continues to lead the, "Monday Night Bible Study" at Christ Church in Ridgewood, as she has for almost 20 years. She was called to Grace Church in June 2020 to serve as the Part Time Priest-in-Charge.
In addition to her position at Grace Church, Rev. Karen is the Founding Director of The Ethics Institute at Kent Place School. A leader in primary and secondary school ethics education, she has been teaching and facilitating ethics workshops for students, parents, faculty, administrators and private organizations for over 15 years.
Rev. Karen has an M.Div. from Yale University and an Ed.D. from Seton Hall University. She has over 25 years of experience as an independent school administrator, including Director of the Middle School at Kent Place and Assistant Head of School at St. Philip’s in Newark, New Jersey. She serves on numerous Boards related to education, ethics and community outreach.
Sunday we hold our main service of Holy Eucharist at 10 am in the Church.
Wednesday, we hold our Healing Service at 10 am in Watterston Hall, lunch to follow.
Joy Service - 9:30 am on the first and third Sundays of the month.
TIR: Grace Episcopal Church's members are doing some amazing community service and outreach. Tell us more about Grace Episcopal's upcoming outreach project, the 2nd Annual Dress Giveaway.
SM: Yes! Our Outreach event now named “Grace’s Closet” will take place at the Give Grace Boutique. This event is for area students who may want to attend prom this season, but who may not be able to afford outfits and accessories. We also have mother of the bride and formal gowns for women.
All clothing and accessories have been donated and are available at no cost to participants.
We’ve been collecting donations by accepting dresses and accessories at our church Grace Episcopal Church on Sundays. BCB Bank on Park Avenue and ERA Realty on Chestnut Street have been our town drop off points. You can find all information on our flyers.
This year we also started an Amazon Wishlist for the event. This list has items that are needed year after year to sustain the event. Mirrors are one of our high priorities. Anyone can donate on the wish list near and far.
TIR: Last year’s "Grace's Closet" was extremely successful. Do you know approximately how many dresses you were able to provide young women attending junior and senior proms?
SM: Approximately 100 dresses and we also helped women of all ages. We didn’t turn anyone away. I can share that at this writing, we now have 1,000 dresses. We reached the goal I had set since we starting collecting earlier in the year. This is very exciting!
TIR: Volunteers are essential to the "Grace's Closet" project. This year Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Passaic counties have been notified of this event which is nearly 122 towns, collectively. Volunteers have already spent many hours preparing for this event and many will assist at the event. What are some ways volunteers help with this event?
SM: Our volunteers have inspected, hung, cleaned and sized the dresses we've collected to date and will continue working right up to the event. It’s a special event for those who walk through our doors and we always provide a special experience.
This year we’ve expanded and have will have a “Grace’s Café” which will be a waiting area and a place where everyone can stay warm, have a beverage, and a snack. A TikTok account was created by Julie Chase, a parishioner of Grace Church. She has made some videos to show the dresses, go check it out @gracechurchcloset.
As a member of the Rutherford Chamber of Commerce, we have reached out to fellow Chamber members. One of our volunteers at our event is Ayesha from Photo Booth Town, a Rutherford Chamber of Commerce member, who will be providing a Photo Booth.
The Rutherford community has once again come through. Everyone's donations and generosity are what gives these young people the resources and support for their special events.
TIR: Through another outreach program, Grace Episcopal Church provides free lunches to those who are in need. Can you tell us more about this Grace’s Food to Go program?
SM: Our community outreach program, Food to Go, provides lunches in Rutherford and the surrounding communities. Held the 3rd Saturday of the month, there is no charge for the lunch; our parishioners, community members and local scout troops volunteer and assist preparing and distributing the meals.
Lunch is served from 11 am - 1 pm, and can be picked up on the Wood Street entrance. Delivery is available for those who are not able to pick-up. All are welcome!
TIR: What other community service outreach programs are your church members involved in throughout the year?
SM: Each year, Grace Church donates 10% of its fundraising proceeds to community programs such as the Rutherford Food Pantry and the Rutherford Fire Department. We collect money for special needs, such as the people of Ukraine or those who have suffered from natural disasters. Individual members of our vestry and parish assist in community outreach programs sponsored by other churches or organizations.
In the coming months, we plan to expand our programming for the youth and young children of our community. In addition to our Annual Halloween Festival, we look forward to offering an Easter Party for children, seasonal festivals for families, and evening events for the youth.