Organization and History
Our mission statement: St. Peter’s initiates and nurtures lives of Christian discipleship. We are followers of Jesus and seek spiritual transformation through prayer, worship, and acts of compassion that build relationships of love, joy, and hope.
The Vestry of St. Peter’s
The governing boards of Episcopal churches are called Vestries and along with the rector are charged with overseeing the daily operations of the parish and for clarifying a vision for the parish for the future. Each member serves for a three-year term, which is renewable once before term limits set in.
Co-Senior Wardens: Jim Bowditch and Joe Cox
Junior Warden: Judith Haines-Carter
Treasurer: Paul Rogers
Mary Alice McLean (Community Collaboration)
David Grima (Christian Formation and Renewal)
Liz Hunt (Liturgy and Worship)
Manette Pottle (Spiritual Practices and Growth)
Delegates to the 2019 Diocesan Convention
Harold Van Lonkhuyzen
Alternates: Lucia Elder and Joan Welsh
History of St Peter’s
The first service offered in Rockland according to the Episcopal rite was offered in the Universalist Church on Broadway on February 29, 1852 by the then bishop of Massachusetts, the Rt. Rev. George Burgess. From that core congregation grew the parish of St. Peter. By September of that same year the Rev. Mr. William Horton, D.D. held Episcopal services regularly in the Universalist church for this fledgling Episcopal congregation. Father Horton was called that same year to Newburyport, MA, and Rockland found a priest in The Rev. Mr. George Slattery in January 1853, at which time the parish of St. Peter’s was formally established. By the spring, the new congregation had grown enough to secure its own space at the corner of what is now Tillson Avenue and Main St. meeting in what quickly became known as “St. Peter’s Hall”.
Those strong early beginnings saw severe setback in May when much of downtown was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1853. Bishop Burgess informed the other parishes of the diocese of the tragic news in Rockland and, in short order, funds were raised to help the parish of St. Peter’s build a church away from the wharf businesses and their industrial fires. The bishop came to Rockland in July of that year to lay the cornerstone to the new St. Peter’s Church on Park Street. While the building was being built, services were held in the Congregational Church, which graciously shared its space with the small Episcopal group. From its earliest days, St. Peter’s has known happy ecumenical relationships with the Universalists and Congregationalists.
Toward the century’s end when that building could no longer suffice, another church, this time built in a lovely cottage shingle style by William R. Emerson, was constructed in 1884. That building, on what is now White and Limerock Streets, still stands and forms the core of our current physical plant.
As the parish grew in size, it maintained its ecumenical outreach, joining with other congregations in Rockland to establish what became the Knox County Hospital. When in the second quarter of the 20th century there was a substantial influx of immigrants from Armenia, it was the then rector, Father Ernest Kenyon, whose love of liturgy, led him to reach out to the Eastern Orthodox immigrants, urging them to find a home in the Episcopal Church because of our shared liturgical roots.
Perhaps equally distinctively, the congregation of St. Peter’s was from the very beginning comprised of a broad cross-section of the townspeople of Rockland: business, shop, and fishing industry owners and managers along with workers and local farmers worshipped together. This shouldn’t be noteworthy since its is how Christianity is supposed to operate, but it is a welcome exception in the history of the Episcopal Church and makes St. Peter’s distinctive to this day.
St. Peter’s has a long history of social activism, progressive inclusion, advocacy for justice, ecumenism, and appreciation for the spiritual enrichment of the visual arts. During Father Kenyon’s tenure, St. Peter’s developed good relationships with other denominations and the synagogue and a number of works of Christian art were added to the church. Over the years, these active partnership with the Jewish community and appreciation for the arts have been fostered. St. Peter’s has also developed a strong tie with the Native American community, incorporating aspects of their spirituality into liturgy and involvement on the Diocesan Committee on Indian Relations.
With Rockland’s recent development as a premier art destination, a Gallery of the Spirit was added to the sanctuary over ten years ago.
The parish has long supported women in ministry, being among the first Episcopal churches to incorporate women into the Vestry and to embrace male and female lay and ordained ministers during worship St. Peter’s was the first parish in the Midcoast to celebrate same-sex marriages.
The parish enjoys a diverse and exceptionally capable lay leadership. There is great vision and commitment for community service and collaborations with local groups as well as a deep longing to engage young people and youth in new ways. There is great energy for the future.