We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

2023 Highlights at St. Peter’s

This is a topical summary. We have another page that is a chronological listing of 2023 events with table of contents with links to the events.

The highlights can be grouped as follows:

A. New ministry
God’s Garden
Chancellors Village
Advent Worskhop

B. New expressions in ministry
Stewardship tree
Lent -Stations of the Cross in the graveyard and more services

C. Expanded and revised ministries
Mission trip to Jamaica
Anniversary Village Harvest Food Ministry
Sacred Ground revised
ECM (Episcopal Church Men) end of year expanded donations and use of an art auction.
Community – Prayer service, Outside Christmas pageant, Work with community organizations
Key parishioner volunteering
ECW (Episcopal Church Women) projects

D. Music provided new delights
Easter, the summer and Christmas
Blue grass concert

E. Losses connected with two historic trees and two heating systems.

1. New ministry – God’s Garden

A new ministry debuted Sept 17, 2023. God’s Garden for 5 to 9 year olds began with 4 children and two experienced teachers, Elizabeth Heimbach, the originator of the class and Jan Saylor.

One of the first activities was to “God’s Garden” which explored what it meant to be a saint, today (Oct. 1, 2023) for St. Francis Day on Oct. 4. As an example they told the story of St. Francis taming the Wolf of Gubbio. Then, they made Pet blessings with treats to give out in church to make pets happy on St. Francis Day, Oct. 4.

2. Expanded ministry in Jamaica

Even before the mission began, we hosted Annette Steele, principal of Victoria Primary School who enjoyed a full day at St. Peter’s on Sun, Aug. 13. She addressed the church at announcements about our joint mission to help the students in her elementary school get ready for school in Sept, both in 2021 and 2023. She explained how much it meant to the students and her community.

After the service, she enjoyed St. Peter’s hospitality at a luncheon and met our parishioners and guests.

The group of 3 on the mission team distributed our donations in Jamaica on Aug. 26

We not only brought the usual school supplies but added 6 tablets. Separately, 7 used computers were donated to a school that had never had a computer.  

There were different ways of distributing the items.  There were contests for tablets and food baskets won by answering questions. Certificates given out based on merit overall and in areas like math. A number of students won $1,000 Jamaican dollars for math competency. Teachers were not forgotten – 2 footballs were given out to the coach!

3. Village Harvest ended its 9th year and began its 10th year in August, 2023 and ended the year serving the most people since 2019.

For the year, we recovered from a slow 1st quarter, 2023 and ended the year serving 1,063 people compared to 1,051 in 2022. It was the best yearly total since 2019.

Unfortunately, the same trend overall wasn’t present with food. Food increased from 2021 to 2022 (14,303 to 15,302 pounds) but dipped to 13,859 pounds in 2023. The first quarter was the problem. We had 2,913 pounds in that quarter compared over 4,000 for 2022 and 2021.

As a result, pounds provided per individual dropped from 14.56 in 2022 to 13.04. In 2021, it was in the same range at 14.32. Overall, pounds per individual are substantially higher since 2019 than in earlier periods.

The 2023 collection on Giving Tuesday, Nov 28 of $1,205 was the highest Giving Tuesday figure since 2019 and provides over 5 months of support for purchasing food for 2024

4. Sacred Ground revised their scholarship program

Representatives from Sacred Ground met with Jessica Thompson, Executive Director of the Germanna Educational Foundation, for lunch at Castiglias in Fredericksburg on Oct. 10, 2023.  The goal was to determine how we could move forward with a new focus on our scholarships for students.

Sacred Ground voted unanimously by email in early December to fund the recommendation forwarded by Jessica Thompson at Germanna for scholarships for students entering the trades. Each student is “in financial need and from underserved populations.” The $2,700 would be split equally to pay for their training.

Each student owes approximately $1,500 for the classes to complete the training. We will pay for the additional expense for each student through additional scholarship funds

They also toured Patawomeck Village in November. The goal of the visit was to understand their history and culture as well as our role

Earlier, the Sacred Ground group had the pleasure of meeting with Alanna Gray (beside Catherine), and her mother and grandmother (opposite Alanna) at Cuppa Cheer in February

5. New participation in Chancellor Village retirement community

During early August, 2023, the local Episcopal region organized a weekly Eucharist at Chancellor’s Village. Catherine participates once or twice a month and shares the pulpit with the other priests of the Fredericksburg Region. 

6. ECM collections increased as well and added a different way of collecting donations – online art auction with 3 of Mary Peterman’s artworks.

The ECM collected $1,545 for Christmas and Thanksgiving. $500 went to Social Services for 10 Thanksgiving dinners. $800 was sent in December for Christmas donations. This was made possible in part by auctioning off 3 of Mary Peterman’s artworks.  This is the second largest donation over four years since 2020.

7. Music highlights. The choir continues to excel beyond their numbers with its mix of instruments and pieces. There were many variations of their performances – 1 the full choir, 2 Larry Saylor, guitar, 3 Mary Peterman and Denise Gregory, flute and piano, duo, 4 Larry and Helmut linne Von Berg, vocal duo, 5 Mary, Denise and Ken – trio

Some of the best examples of their work were at Easter:

A.“When you prayed beneath the trees” – Denise Gregory, Mary Peterman

B. “Were you there when they crucified my Lord” – Helmut linne von Berg, Larry Saylor. Male duo acapella

C. O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded”- Denise Gregory, Mary Peterman

D. God’s Right Hand and Holy Arm

The above examples did not include Larry Saylor on guitar. Dec. 3, featured Larry Saylor on an original work Waiting as well as vocal piece Welcome to Our World

One surprise was the vocal trio over the summer.

Although the choir takes a summer break, Denise Gregory, Larry Saylor and Ken Pogue covered Brad’s unexpected absence one Sunday in July and provided music for our worship service that day.

“Nearer my God to Thee”>

Christmas highlights

“I Wonder as I Wander” – Denise Gregory, Mary Peterman

“In the Bleak Midwinter” – St. Peter’s choir

8. First Advent workshop

Jan Saylor organized an Advent Workshop on Nov. 26 from 3:30pm to 5pm. This was our first such workshop for the entire congregation.

It was a wonderful intergenerational event with 16 people participating. It was a good kickoff for Advent, creating items to be taken home.

Jan had organized the Parish House into 4 stations:

A Creating a block based nativity scene. The characters were drawn on small blocks of wood.

B. Bird feeder made with pinecones covered with peanut butter and bird seed.

C. Advent wreath intended for tables with candles and greenery.

D. Decorated Christmas trees that started with sugar cones and were covered with different frostings, white and green, decorated with assorted sprinkles.

9. New creative touch for the Stewardship campaign –

Thanks to Jan Saylor for her artistic ability to create the stewardship campaign tree.   Pledges to the campaign helped the tree grow another leaf. The campaign began Oct. 8.  By Oct 29, it had grown about 18 leaves!

10. Lent expanded

Our first Shrove Tuesday at the church since 2019. We had about 20 people.

We began a study of the Psalms over the next few months

Using Mary Peterman’s artwork, we created banners for the stations of the cross in our graveyard

After Palm Sunday, Jan taught us to make Palm crosses

The Tenebrae Service and Maundy Thursday were added back to Holy Week this year after COVID.

11 We are up and running with Breeze line Wi-Fi since April.

We moved from Zoom to YouTube. This allows viewing the service on the day but also at other times since recordings are stored on a YouTube site.

12. Our annual concert was a bluegrass band. Little Falls Bluegrass Band from Stafford, entertaining us at Pentecost.

The gentlemen have played bluegrass music for many years in many bands, including this one. They comprise all ages – the banjo player celebrated his 18th birthday on Pentecost. They have played for weddings, social and church services. They are tight both in music and friendship – and it shows! Their acapella numbers were especially wonderful.

Several attend Community Baptist Church in Stafford. (They attended an early service there to get to St. Peter’s for our picnic). Their pastor also came.

13 We continued our work with the community

St Peter’s served as a Partner in Education with the Caroline County Public Schools adding snacks for bingo night at the Fire house.

Notebook paper collection

We collected 95 packs notebook paper in conjunction with Caroline’s Promise for the beginning of the school year. We donated snacks to the schools upon request


Our Shred-it- this was the 11th appearance of the Shred-it truck since 2012. Shred-it’s goal is to safely dispose of records no longer needed using a professional shredding company After costs of $335,the project made $305 for St Peter’s ministries

Prayer service

We also held a 2 hour Prayer service for the Mid-East after war broke out on Oct. 7. Our time together included a short prayer service at noon, other prayers at 1pm and concluding prayers at 2pm. Larry Saylor provided meditative music throughout the 2 hours.

Outside Christmas Pageant

We revived the outside Christmas pageant and added to it. 3 live goats were in the field for the shepherds plus a reconstructed star to display.

14 Parishioners help with projects

Johnny Davis cut up and cleared a large limb that fell from the sycamore tree earlier this summer. He led the effort to recover after the July 29 storm that sheared off the top of the sycamore tree. He has also cleaned the gravestones in the graveyard. He organized the painting for the parish House and recovery after termites were discovered in the church

Jim Anderson has adjusted the pew doors on the south side of the church, and

BJ Anderson continues to make the delicious gluten free bread that we use each Sunday.

Cookie Davis continues to provide flower arrangements for the church each Sunday, a labor of love that involves gathering what is blooming in the area and then artfully arranging the flowers for our altar.

Christmas flower arranging.

Alice Hughes organized the Christmas flower cutting and arranging with 5 other people. She provided instruction to several who had never arranged flowers before.

15 ECW donations and outreach

St Peter’s Episcopal Church women welcomed a group of youth and children from Port Royal for lunch and games on Wednesday, August 9th. School started the next week. This was the first summer event for Port Royal since the pandemic and was sponsored by the ECW.

Sept 25 The group met to make donations for 2023:
1. Donate $100 to CERVE, (the Caroline Emergency Relief through Volunteer Efforts),
2. $250 to Catherine’s Discretionary Fund,
3. $500 to Village Harvest,
4. $500 to Social Services for their Christmas program.

Dec. 5, 2023 – ECW took dinner to the “House”

16 Losses connected with two historic trees and heating systems

Photo gallery of both trees

We lost the pear tree just behind the Parish House which was over 100 years old. The pear tree was probably planted by the wife of Rev Ware, who served at St Peter’s from 1888 to 1918. She planted an orchard of fruit trees on the church property. This pear tree was probably the last member of her fruit tree orchard, connecting us to the faithful witness of past St Peter’s members. Ironically, we had one of the best pear years this year.

Our large sycamore tree now stands as a sentinel with no branches. The branches that remained after the freak storm at the end of July did not have enough support from the tree trunk to safely remain on the tree. The sycamore tree will probably bush out in the spring with small branches and leaves. Meanwhile, it too provides a witness to our past. It is estimated at 200 years old, possibly planted before the church was built.

The Parish House heating system was replaced over the summer and was a planned upgrade. However, the Church heating system failed on Christmas Eve and will need to be replaced in 2024.