The Amazing Grace Project

The Story of Grace Church Tampa Palms

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Grace Church was planted in 1992 as a missionary effort sponsored by St. John’s Episcopal Church of Tampa, Florida, through the individual passion and missionary initiative of Fr. John Peterson.


The Tampa Palms Development District donated land in the heart of Tampa Palms for a permanent home of a church that would anchor the community. Over the years plans for a sanctuary, a parish hall, a school, and a rectory were laid out led by a succession of clergy and their families that included Fr. Harris (missioner 1992), Fr. Larry Hooper (church planter and vicar 1992 - 2000), Fr. G. Bob Cain (vicar and rector 2001-2004), and Fr. Robert Martin (interim rector 2004-2005). An 18-acre contiguous wetland was zoned for recreational use.


Grace achieved parish status in October 2003, and in 2005 called its first rector, the Revd Canon Benjamin Twinamaani. Construction on a sanctuary building that was planned over the years started in September 2017 and was completed in the fall of 2018. The building is of “traditional” design and features Gothic-style arches and 19 stained glass windows, showcasing select themes specific to the doctrine of God’s Grace to humanity through the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The details of these windows are described below by their designer, Dr. David Wright, retired Professor of History of Religious Art (University of South Florida). 


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Building Project

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In 2015 the church leadership set up an Architectural Committee to explore land use and building possibilities, including a congregational survey and a feasibility study which generated designs of a new sanctuary building. The project to bring this effort to life was named The Amazing Grace Project.


 We have committed ourselves to the Amazing Grace Project, and re-dedicated ourselves to: 

  • Invest in the Tampa Palms community   
  • Share and grow our community of faith   
  • Be the incarnational presence of Christ in our community   
  • Commit to and execute a Master Plan through its phases to fulfillment.

The Dedication and Consecration of the New Sanctuary Highlights

Holy Baptism and Comfirmation Service

Grace Church Tampa Palms Stained Glass Window Themes

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The Amazing Grace Project

The construction of a new sanctuary building was completed at the end of 2018 and the Dedication and Consecration Service is scheduled on Saturday January 12, 2019.  The sanctuary (seating 300 at capacity) is of “traditional” design and features Gothic-style arches and stained glass windows, showcasing select themes specific to the doctrine of God’s Grace to humanity through the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ as described below in the designer’s own words:

The Story of Grace-the story behind the stained-glass windows

By Dr. David Wright, retired Professor of History of Religious Art (University of South Florida)

The cycle of windows for the new sanctuary of Grace Church Tampa Palms, Florida (Diocese of Southwest Florida) has been conceived as a unified program with a central theme.  That theme is Grace – God’s grace in sending his beloved Son to us to save humanity from sin and death.  Accordingly, the events depicted in the windows came from the Gospel narratives of the life and death of Jesus Christ.  In terms of the theological passing of human history into three ages, these events belong to the Era of Grace, from Jesus Christ to the end of time, preceded by the earliest era, the Era Before the Law, Adam to Moses, then the Era Under the Law, Moses to Christ. We at Grace Church Tampa Palms, Florida, have rooted our identity in the Era Sub Gratia – under Gods Grace

        The theological themes of the windows cover the early life of Jesus Christ on earth on one side of the nave (the Epistle Side, notated with an “e”), and then moving through the stages of his suffering and death we celebrate in Holy Week on the opposite side of the nave (the Gospel Side, notated with a “g”). The Sanctuary (chancel) windows deal with the theological significance, for us, of the life and death of Jesus Christ on the cross under Pontius Pilate, culminating in the triumph of life over death, the Resurrection.

             Starting from the nave, looking toward liturgical east (the altar), the right side (Epistle side) illustrates the earliest of events of Jesus’ life on earth, the so-called Infancy; it is played off against the events leading up to his death, the so-called Passion of Christ. The cycle starts from the front of the church (liturgical east windows behind the altar) and moves to the back of the nave on the right side (the Epistle side), then proceeds forward from back (the Great West Doors) to front on the left side of the nave (the Gospel side) with events from the Passion. In each case, an event from the Infancy is paired across the nave, in a dialectic interplay and contrast, with an event from the Passion; in terms of meaning, and of life versus death.  This theological design is completely new and unique to Grace Church. The nomenclature used is rooted in works of religious art by European artists. 

There are altogether 12 windows (6 on each side) in the nave, plus 7 windows in the chancel section (3 windows on the wall behind the altar, and 4 windows in the chancel walls). The windows on either side of the nave and chancel are paired in a dialectic interplay with each other as follows:

 1.     The Annunciation (#1 on the epistle side of the nave).  The first Infancy window on the right (chancel section) depicts the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary by archangel Gabriel, representing Christ’s first descent to earth.  The Ascension (#1 on the gospel side of the nave).  The counterpart window on the left is the Ascension, Christ’s departure from the earth. 

2.     The Visitation (2e).  Second comes the Visitation, Mary visiting St. Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Baptizer, who was miraculously pregnant late in life.  Elizabeth touches the newly pregnant Virgin Mary and proclaims the advent of the Savior of mankind.  Doubting Thomas (2g).  This is paired across the Nave with the story of Doubting Thomas, the disciple who did not accept the idea of the risen Christ, and only believed when he saw the bodily wounds of his master: “Thomas answered and said to him, My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28).

3.     The Adoration of the Shepherds (3e).  Next on the right comes the Nativity, the birth of Christ, with the Adoration of the Shepherds, kneeling and bowing down to reverence the newborn Savior.  Mocking Christ (3g).  This is paired across the Nave with the Mocking of Christ, an event from the Passion of Christ, in which his captors, both the Jewish Sanhedrin and Roman soldiers, kneel and bow down as a gesture of derision against the claim that Jesus is the King of the Jews.  They hit him with sticks, blindfold and spit on him, cursing all the while.

4.     The Adoration of the Magi (4e).  Fourth on the right we find the Adoration of the Magi, kings of the earth, paying their deepest respects to an infant who they accept as King of all kings, with gifts of royal significance, gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Christ before Pilate (4g).  Opposite this is an image of Christ before Pontius Pilate, a judicial inquiry that casts doubt on whether Christ is really a king, king of the Jews, as some had claimed.  Christ himself is silent.  His kingdom is not of this world, he ultimately reveals to Pilate.

5.     The Massacre of the Holy Innocents (5e). Next comes an event in which the infant Jesus escapes death. The three Magi had sought information on where they could find the newborn infant king of kings from Herod, the Roman-appointed monarch of Palestine.  King Herod, afraid of being supplanted by some legitimate claimant to his throne, orders the killing of all infant sons in his kingdom. This result, depicted here, is the tragic Massacre of the Holy Innocents. To escape this fate, the Holy Family had already fled their homeland and taken refuge in Egypt. The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (5g). The companion window on the left, Christ’s acceptance of his own death, represents the Agony in the Garden, a scene in which the adult Christ, following the Last Supper, goes into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray regarding his approaching murder at the hands of his enemies, those that have rejected his offer of the kingdom, the non-believers. Having a vision of the chalice of suffering before him, he asks God if He really wishes the death of his son.  With an answer in the affirmative, Christ accepts the will of His Father, His sacrifice on the cross.

6.     Flight to Egypt (6e).  Next, on the right, we see the Holy Family Mary, Jesus, and Joseph entering a foreign land, Egypt to escape the child’s death.  On their arrival, a prophesy of Isaiah is fulfilled. As it is written in the Gospel of Matthew: ‘And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”’ (Matthew 2:15). Entry into Jerusalem (6g). Opposite this window, we find the adult Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem, the first step in his journey toward death, namely, the celebration of Passover in Holy Week.

7.     The pre-ordained upshot of Christ’s life and death on earth is depicted in the seven sanctuary/chancel windows, that is to say, His actual sacrifice on the cross, then the ultimate outcome of his sacrifice, the Resurrection, or triumph over death, and finally the continuous commemoration of His sacrifice, the Last Supper or Eucharist. This window triad has been described as Grace Enacted, Grace Triumphant, and Grace Remembered.  The first two windows on the left side of the sanctuary/chancel serve as a prelude to the crucifixion itself.

8.     Abraham and Isaac (7g).  First is an Old Testament event prefiguring the death of Christ, Abraham’s faith test to sacrifice of his son Isaac.  To test Abraham’s faith, God commands him to sacrifice his own son. Willing to do so, Abraham is stopped at the climactic moment by a divinely sent angel (the pre-incarnate God of Israel, Jesus Christ) who stays Abraham’s knife and tells him to slaughter a ram instead of his son.  Thus, this is a scene of the averting of death from Isaac (humanity) to a ram (the Lamb of God).

9.     Instruments of the Passion (8g).  The second Altar window on the left depicts the instruments of the Passion, the objects used to cause Christ’s suffering, namely the cross, the crown of thorns, the three nails, the whip chords with which he was beaten, the sponge with vinegar given Him when He called for water, the spear which pierced his side, etc.

10.  Grace Enacted (9g).  The next window on the left depicts the culminating event of Christ’s life on earth, his self-sacrifice on the cross to free humankind once and for all from sin, with a result in the possibility of new and eternal life after death for his fellow humans. His supreme self-denial was meant to replace, forever and ever, the Hebrew rites of sacrificing annually a chosen lamb on whose head the sins of the entire community were laid, then slated to be killed to cleanse with its blood any and all Jews of their accrued transgressions of the Mosaic Law. Christ Himself then becomes the sacrificial lamb foreordained to buy humanity from the slave market of sin, with His own blood, and offer His own righteousness as the spiritual heritage of humankind.

11.  Grace Triumphant (10 Center Window).  The centerpiece and thematic culmination of the Grace window cycle is Christ’s Resurrection, His and our very triumph over death and damnation. He is shown trampling on a sarcophagus and carrying the banner of resurrection. To his right is Mary Magdalene, the first witness to encounter him following His emergence from His burial tomb. Opposite her is the angel who announced the unexplained disappearance of His mortal remains.  To the upper left are the branches of a dead tree paired on the right side with a living, green tree, a traditional symbolic motif.  In the branches of the latter sits a robin, a memorial to the daughter of a member of the congregation, Robin, tragically lost as a young infant.  She remains to this day alive in the hearts of her family. According to a West African folk tale about the death and return to life of an intrepid hunter: “a person is not really dead until he/she is forgotten by the living.”

12.  Grace Remembered (11e).  And so, at the Last Supper, represented in the altar window to the right of the Resurrection, Christ commanded his disciples to commemorate His death and resurrection in future celebrations of the Eucharist: “This is my body which is given for you: do this in remembrance of me … I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto Me; that ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom and sit on thrones of judgment.” (Luke 22:29).

13.  Instruments of the Eucharist (12e).  Accordingly, the next two chancel windows on the right relate to the Eucharist, first with the instruments used therein, Holy Host and Holy Chalice, candlesticks, a wine cruet, and paten for the bread. This window in addition represents the encounter of the risen Christ by the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, where they recognized him in the breaking of the bread (the Eucharist).

14.  The Passover (13e). The last chancel window, closest to the nave on the right depicts an Old Testament scene that prefigures the Last Supper/Eucharist. It is the first Passover meal, in which Jewish families captive in Egypt eat the meat of a slaughtered lamb as per divine instruction. They also were asked to paint their doorframes with the victim’s blood, meant as a sign to the Angel of Death sent into the Egypt to pass over the families inside, and let them live. (Book of Exodus Ch. 12). The red entrance doors of Episcopal churches symbolize this sign of heavenly protection from harm, afforded by worship of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, and memorialized in the Eucharistic meal of bread and wine.


Naming Opportunities to the Wider Church and Faith Community 

 The leadership of Grace Church extendeds to the wider church and faith community the opportunity to name the various stained-glass windows. This opportunity is on a first come first serve basis. The three windows at the Liturgical East wall (9g, 10 and 11e), the Passover (13e) and the Agony in the Garden (5g) windows are now spoken for (no longer available for naming opportunities). There are other windows still available. If anyone is moved by the Spirit to take up a naming opportunity for one or more stained glass window(s), please contact the Vestry liaison, Peter Van Dyke at 1-813-215-9018 email janeann427@icloud.com for details.  Please be ready to specify the text of your chosen naming opportunity to appear in the bottom of the window with the following guidelines: Given to the Glory of God, and in thanksgiving for/memory of/ appreciation of/celebration of N.N.by N.N. Grace Church has contracted with Lynchburg Stained Glass (Website www.lynchburgstainedglass.com) to design the windows. They will be distinctively Gothic in design and appearance like some in this link http://vintage.lynchburgstainedglass.com/lsgcatalog/


Postscript

 Dr. David Wright, the author of the stained-glass windows and member of Grace Church traces his ancestral lineage directly to Sir John Wright, a member of the king’s legal advisors at the court of King Henry VIII of England, during the formation of the Church of England and her independence from the authority of Pope Clement VII. The Wright family crest that has come down from Dr. Wright’s lineage will be included in one of the windows. At the same time, members of Grace Church hail from all the corners of the Anglican Communion in a wonderful diversity that showcases God’s people that meet at the foot of the cross and gather around the Lord’s Table in Florida. The current rector of Grace Church, Canon Benjamin Twinamaani, traces his ancestral lineage to the Anglican Province of Uganda, where his ancestors were some of first generation converts to Christianity in late 19th and early 20th centuries through the missionary work of the Church Missionary Society of England. 


This convergence of diverse streams of global Anglican historical theology at a Florida Episcopal congregation is a living testament to three witnesses of The Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:16-20) - Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, 

    “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”): 


These three witnesses are the enduring mystery of the Anglican Tradition, the wonderful legacy of the Global Anglican Communion, and the unique ecclesial space The Episcopal Church fills and holds by the grace of God as a vital and vibrant expression of The Jesus Movement! https://www.episcopalchurch.org/jesus-movement

Bringing the vision to reality - with your support!

To  support this project a capital campaign over three years is going strong.


We invite you to become a part of making this vision a reality by supporting this effort. Please review the wide-range of donation options and take advantage of this special opportunity. Please  note, the donation options document is updated on a weekly basis,  however always call Grace Church for an up to date list of furnishings  available.

To contribute, please click here to print a Pledge Card and return the form to Grace Church.  Click the button below to donate online.  Please note, printed Booklets and Pledge Cards are also available at Grace Church. 

Read more about Grace and the Amazing Grace Project

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Read about us in Neighborhood News

Read about us in the Tampa Bay Times 

Read about us in The Tampa Palms Newsletter  

Key Project Contacts

Warren Sponsler - Senior Warden & Chair, Amazing Grace Committee. 

wspon@verizon.net 

Rich Armading, Junior Warden & Amazing Grace Project Manager

pittpens@earthlink.net

Dr. James O. Brookins, Jr., Amazing Grace Committee

tpadoc53@aol.com 

Etta Green - Amazing Grace Capital Campaign Chair - egreen4131@tampabayrr.com

Rich & Lynn Grinnell - Amazing Grace Architectural Design - grinf16@tampabayrr.com

Fr. Benjamin Twinamaani - Rector

canonbentwin@gmail.com