Grace was built on the site of the old Essex County Courthouse and Jail which had burnt down in 1835. In 1848, an Episcopalian textile maker resident in Newark paid for the a weighty, single bell in the tower. The bell still rings and has rung for many occasions, including in 1861 in support of the Federal soldiers defending Fort Sumter.
While the lyrics for the patriotic song America the Beautiful were written by Katharine Lee Bates, the music was composed by the church organist and choirmaster of Grace Church, Samuel A. Ward.
Bates wrote the words as a poem, America, which was first published in 1895 for the July 4th edition of the church periodical The Congregationalist. Ward had written the tune, Materna, for the hymn O Mother dear, Jerusalem three years earlier in 1882 but it was not published until 1892. Ward's melody combined with the Bates poem was not published until 1910 when it was titled America the Beautiful.
True to its founding in the Oxford Movement, Grace remains known for its high church, sacramental liturgy, or order-of-service, at the center of which is the Eucharist, also known as Holy Communion or the Mass, holding that Christians gain access to the Mystical Body of Christ through the sacramental worship of the community and are aided by the sequential liturgy, incense, and Eucharistic sacrifice to an experience of heaven. Incense, lights, and ceremonial vestments are used. Grace Church maintains a strong choral tradition and weekly sings Gregorian Chant mass propers from the early, medieval and renaissance eras.