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

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Sermon, Christmas Eve, 2023 – “Peace on earth, good will to all people”

Peace on earth, good will to all people. 

Yet another war is raging in the Holy Land, a war that in a few short months has caused unimaginable terror, a war in which over 20,000 people have been killed.  The Christians in the Israeli occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, have cancelled the usual Christmas celebrations, for celebrations seem out of place with so many people dying such a short distance away in Gaza. 

I’m willing to bet that every year since the birth of Jesus, violence and war have been going on somewhere on this earth, and that God’s peace seems like nothing more than a dream. 

So more than ever, we need this story of the birth of Jesus,  the story that I’m convinced is the most important story in the entire Bible.  This story reminds us that God likes to start small.   God uses the small things that we make available to do great things. 

This story  also gives us hope that in spite of all of human history, we can, along with Edmund H. Sears, who wrote  “It came upon the midnight clear” firmly believe that “when with the ever circling years shall come the time foretold, when peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling, and all the world give back the song, which now the angels sing.” 

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Caroling Dec. 20, 2023

We had a small, but vocal group to go caroling in Port Royal, VA and Portobago on Wed. evening Dec. 20. Attendance was affected by the chill of the evening, sickness among prospective carolers and simply the many things to do 5 days before Christmas.

We visited 4 homes in Port Royal and 4 in Portobago singing the classics “O Come all Yet Faithful,”Joy to the World”, “Silent Night”, “Angels we have heard on High” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. We rounded off each visit with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

Despite the challenges, we enjoyed the evening and spreading good cheer among the homes we visited.

Christmas peace

One of the hallmarks of the Christmas story is when the angels appear to the shepherds and proclaim, “Peace on earth,” in Luke 2:14.

Jesus brought about peace, in the most unexpected ways, when he arrived. The Jews, particularly the zealots, wanted a rebellion. They wanted their Savior to overturn the oppressive rule of the Romans and bring about peace in a violent way.

But Jesus had something else in mind. Jesus brings us peace in a number of ways.

First, he gives us inner peace. Because of his work on the cross, we have a chance to receive salvation and be indwelled by the Holy Spirit. This grants us an inner peace (John 14:27). Not only do we have the peace that comes from our assurance of salvation, but we also have the peace of mind knowing God will heal this broken world and will come again.

Second, we have peace with others. We put aside our differences (Galatians 3:28), especially with other believers, because we belong to the same family. We have the same purpose: to let others know about the peace of Christ.

The Hebrew word for peace: Shalom, goes far beyond not fighting with others or peace as we know it. As pointed out in the book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, shalom is, in essence, how things are meant to be: a slice of heaven.

The peace of God allows us to look at others through heaven’s eyes and help guide the world to see God’s here and not-yet here kingdom.

Peace from God, biblical peace, allows us to trust in God’s promises (Proverbs 3:5), through restful, tranquil faith, despite the dark, scary world around us.

Advent 4, Christmas Eve, Year B

The Advent mystery is the beginning of the end of all in us that is not yet Christ. – Thomas Merton

Explore Advent, Part 4 – Over the Sundays in Advent there will be a presentation each week focusing on that week’s scriptures, art and commentary and how they demonstrate the themes of advent. Let’s continue with Advent 4.

Explore the Christmas Scriptures Let’s move to the Christmas scriptures

From the Presiding BishopMessages since 2012


Diocese of Va. Advent Meditations, Week 4

Feast of the Annunciation –  9 months before we celebrate the nativity there is the related Feast of the Annunciation on March 25 which is described here .

Art of the Annunciation – The Annunication has been depicted in art for a thousand years. Here are 30+ images of that history .

Nativity art, all around the world.

“I will light candles this Christmas” – Howard Thurman

Blessed Like Mary- David Lose invites us to understand that we are Blessed Like Mary

National Geographic explores"How the Virgin Mary Became the World’s Most Powerful Woman"

A Digital Nativity.

What if current social media like Facebook, Gmail, etc had been available at the birth of Christ ? Watch the Digital Nativity

Advent IV – Love

Love is a crucial part of the Advent story. Because of Joseph’s love for Mary, he didn’t stone her when he found out she was pregnant with what he thought was a child out of wedlock with another man (Matthew 1:18-19). Mary has a natural motherly love for Jesus, and ultimately, we see God’s love for everyone by sending his son for us (John 3:16).

Jesus focused on preaching love throughout his ministry. Two of his greatest commands involve love: Love God, love your neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40).

Love is the greatest of all the virtues on the Advent wreath and encompasses Jesus’ entire purpose for being on earth (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Arts and Faith- Advent 4, relating art and scripture

Commentary is by Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, director of ministerial formation at Saint John’s University School of Theology and Seminary.

John Collier’s contemporary depiction of the Annunciation brings the story of Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel into our present reality. Collier’s The Annunciation stands on the shoulders of Tradition, depicting the encounter in such a way that includes the standard symbols of the past. We see Mary and the angel face-to-face, Mary holding a book as a symbol of her piety. We see the lily as a symbol of her purity, the painted window as a symbol of her virginity, and the dove perching in the background as the symbol of the Holy Spirit. These symbols are the familiar language of many Annunciation scenes and connect this work to those from the great masters of the past.

While using these familiar elements, Collier retells the story for our present day: Mary is a young schoolgirl with a ponytail, still in her uniform, and she lives in a suburban neighborhood. Her shoes are playfully untied—she must have just slipped back into them to come to the door. In bringing together past and present, Collier invites us to see the Gospel scene not as a distant story but as one unfolding in our lives here and now.

As the story unfolds, the encounter between Mary and the angel reveals even deeper meaning. Mary is a young schoolgirl with untied shoelaces, but she is also a figure of strength, steadfastness, and faith. She looks squarely at the angel, who in contrast bows reverently before her, paying homage to God’s grace manifest in his lowly handmaid. The angel’s presence is subtly liturgical—in his dress and posture, he resembles an acolyte serving at the altar, ready to adore the presence of the Lord who will in a moment become flesh in the body of this young girl. The angel-as-server is a beautiful reflection of Christ’s bodily presence in our midst, first welcomed through the faithful “yes” of Mary. Standing at the door with Mary and Gabriel, we are at a liturgy, gathered into one Body to encounter the real presence of Christ in our midst. Like Mary, we are called to say “yes” to this moment and offer ourselves to await his arrival.

Christmas Flowers

Flowers cut on Dec. 13 just after Bible study and then arranged. Thanks to Alice Hughes for leading this effort. (In the full post, click on the photos for a lightbox)

Freshing up the flowers, Sun., Dec 17

Shadows from the window panes

Looking up

The full arrangement

With the poinsettias

The Shape of Advent in Scriptures, Year B

Each week in Advent has a specific theme:

Week 1- The End of Time / Remaining Awake
Week 2 – God promises for Peace and Justice / John the Baptism
Week 3 – Rejoice (Gaudete Sunday) / John the Baptist
Week 4 – The Messiah

Advent comes from a Latin word – “advenire” – which means to come to/ During Advent. There are three comings:

• The Coming of God to the world as a human baby
• The Coming of God to the world in His glory at the end of time where God’s purposes will be fulfilled. The second coming
• The Coming of God into the world today. Jesus comes to us now in word and sacrament, in prayer and praise, in his Body, the Church

Advent causes us to remember that we are a people who live “between.” We live between the incarnation and the parousia, the day of the Lord.

Advent is a journey, a pilgrimage of watching and waiting. We are not ready for the Christ Child as we have work to do.

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Our Christmas Invitation..

This is our Christmas invitation video. Thanks to the Episcopal Church for the footage and voice overlay. The video is somewhat long at 3:20 minutes but it has a vital message. As the carpenter builds a manger, we use the message about Jesus to also build – a better world.

Our Christmas Eve service Dec. 24, 4pm St. Peter’s 823 Water Street, Port Royal, Virginia or on the web

The basis of the video is Luke’s Christmas story from Luke 2. Luke is writing about the true “savior of the world,” one from the line of the great King David. He looks to Bethlehem, the city of David, and not to Rome, the city of Caesar.

The birth is announced to shepherds in the field, and not to the powerful in rich palaces. The scandal of the virgin birth is not so much that Mary was a virgin. The scandal was that Jesus–a poor kid from a backwater town–was born of a virgin.

The word savior appears only three times -Luke 1, Luke 2, and John 4. It was a politically charged term since the Roman Caesar Augustus was known as “the savior of the world.” He had brought peace to the world, the pax Augusta and in gratitude people celebrated his birthday and remembered the gift of peace received in and through him.

Jesus’ peace is not the same as the peace brought about by Caesar Augustus. It has more in common with the quality of life envisioned in the Hebrew word, shalom, (be whole, be complete). In Luke’s scriptures this word meant not merely the end of hostilities, but rather the well-being that comes from God

Throughout his gospel Luke tells the story of the work that helped earn for Jesus the title “Savior.” In a world where Samaritans were despised he showed Jesus telling stories in gratitude to God. In a society which treated women as second class citizens he showed Jesus welcoming them into his fellowship, along with the disciple, and taking them with him on his travels through the cities and villages of Galilee. In a religious community that excluded sinners, he showed Jesus eating and drinking with them, telling stories accenting God’s care for them, and extending his hospitality and best wishes to them. The Jesus of Luke’s gospel was one who broke through the barriers of nationalism, sexism, and religious chauvinism, who awakened repentance, set people free, who opened communities and brought in peace. Indeed, as Luke stated, he was One who had come “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

The shepherds share what they have learned about Jesus. Already, we get signs of the mutuality and reciprocity of the kingdom of God. The shepherds share with each other, and with Joseph and Mary. The words of the shepherds stir “all” who hear them. They return praising God.

That’s the savior we welcome this Christmas.

Advent 4 – Cry of a Tiny Baby

A post from teacher and theologian David Lose: "So maybe I shouldn’t describe this Christmas carol as “unlikely” in that Bruce Cockburn has explored the Christian story and theology, along with issues of human rights, throughout his forty-year career. But it may very well be unfamiliar to you. If so, you’re in for a treat, as the Canadian folk and rock guitarist, singer-songwriter’s beautiful retelling of the Christmas story blends elements of both Luke’s tender narrative of the in-breaking good news of God to the least likely of recipients – a teenage girl, her confused fiancee, down-and-out shepherds – with Matthew’s starkly realistic picture of a baby that threatens kings by his mere existence. 

Here’s the link to a video with the words .   

Advent 4 – Blessed like Mary

By David Lose

Notice one thing: before Mary says “yes,” she is blessed.

Why does this matter? Because I think it captures not only the important role Mary plays in the Gospel story but also reveals a central dynamic of the Christian life.

First, to Mary. She is regularly hailed as a model of faith for her acceptance of the role God invites her to play as the mother of Jesus. And for good reason. Throughout Luke’s Gospel, the willingness to trust the promises of God is the mark of discipleship. And so Elizabeth believes that in her old age she will nevertheless bear John, and the disciples believe they will fish for people, and the repentant thief believes Jesus is innocent and asks his blessing and so on. Similarly, Mary also believes God’s promises.

But what is it, exactly, that Mary believes? Yes, she believes Gabriel’s announcement that she will bear Jesus. But before that, she believes that God noticed her, that God favors her, that God has blessed her and has great plans for her.

And this, I think, leads us to a central dynamic not only in the Gospel but also the Christian life itself: the first, and in some ways the most important, thing we are called to believe is that God similarly notices, favors, and blesses us. And once we believe that, we can do incredible things.

Blessing, you see, is a powerful thing. And, sadly, a rare thing. We live in a world that seems geared toward rewards and punishments. Whether at work or school or even home, we have been conditioned to expect people to give us only what we deserve. But blessing operates on a different logic. Blessing is never deserved, but always a gift. Blessings intrudes into, interrupts, and ultimately disrupts our quid pro quo world to announce that someone sees us as worthy and special apart from anything we’ve done.

And perhaps because it’s so rare, it’s also hard to believe. Certainly this is true of Mary. She is perplexed by the angel’s announcement that she is favored by God. “What have I done,” Mary may wonder, “to merit God’s notice and favor.” But that’s of course just what blessing is – unmerited and undeserved regard and favor. And as the blessing sinks in, Mary is able to open herself to the work of the Holy Spirit to use her to bless the whole world through her willingness to carry Jesus.

Which is why I think it matters that we notice that before Mary says “yes,” she is blessed.

You see, here’s the thing: I think our people have a hard time believing that God favors them, too. Even that God notices them. Not on Sunday. Most of us figure God is watching us on Sunday, if only to see if we’ll make it to church. 🙂 Rather, we wonder if God even notices us, let along favors us, the rest of the week. Work, school, our home life – these can seem like such mundane things and hardly worth God’s attention. And yet in this story we hear about God noticing and blessing someone who by all accounts is a nobody in the ancient world. And when this nobody young girl believes God’s blessing and accepts God’s favor, the world begins to turn.

This is why I think this passage is so important, not because it lifts up Mary as the exception, but rather because it identifies her as an example of what can happen when you believe that God notices, favors, and blesses you: you may just change the world!  

We might invite folks to take just a moment or two to imagine where they will go this week, what they will do, whom they will meet, and how in each of these circumstances God is noticing them and blessing them so that they might be a blessing to the world. It might take a while for your people to believe this. After all, so many of the voices in our lives conspire to make us feel like nobody and nothing. But in time, if we can say it again and again, it may just sink in that God has noticed, favored, and blessed us so that we might in turn bless and change the world. 

Toward helping God’s blessing sink in, I’d even invite you to consider ending the sermon – or perhaps the whole service – by re-creating some of this scene, where you might say to your folks, “Greetings, favored ones. The Lord is with you and plans to do great things through you.” In turn, your people might answer, “How can this be?” And you may answer, “Whether at work or school, whether at home or in the world, the Holy Spirit is with you and will guide you in all you do and say so that you may be a blessing to the world.” And your folks may conclude, “Let it be according to your word.”

Origins of the 12 days of Christmas


During the next few weeks you’ll be hearing it over and over, perhaps to the point of saying, “Enough already”! But you might be interested to know the origin of the

familiar “secular” holiday song; it has roots as a teaching tool to instruct young people in England in the content of the Christian faith!

From 1558 to 1829, Roman Catholics were not able to practice their faith openly in  Protestant England, so they devised ways of passing on their beliefs to their children.

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is one example of how they did it. Each of the gifts mentioned represents something of religious significance:

1. On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me:  

The “true love ” represents God, and the “ me ” is the believer who receives the gifts.  The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ who died on a “tree” as a gift from God.

2.Two turtle doves are the Old and the New Testaments – another gift from God.  

3.The three French hens are faith, hope, and love –the three gifts of the Spirit that abide. (I Corinthians 13)  

4.The four colley* birds are the four gospels which sing the song of salvation through Jesus Christ. (Although most modern versions say “ calling ” birds, the proper word is “ colley ”, which is a type of blackbird common in England.)  

5. The five gold rings are the first five books of the Bible, also called the “Books of Moses” or the “Pentateuch”.  

6. The six geese-a-laying are the six days of creation. (On the seventh day, God rested.)  

7.The seven swans – a – swimming are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. (I Corinthians 12:8-10)  

8.The eight maids –a – milking are the beatitudes. (There appear to be Nine in Matthew 5: 3 -11, but the first eight are the ones directed at others ; the ninth refers only to Jesus’ listeners on the mountain.)  

 9. The nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5: 22 -23)  

 10. The ten lords – a- leaping are the Ten Commandments.  

 11. The eleven pipers piping are the eleven faithful disciples.  

 12. The twelve drummers drumming are the twelve major points of the Apostles’ Creed.  

So the next time you hear “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, consider how this otherwise Secular sounding song was a tool to instruct the young. Remember, it’s still Christmas for 12 days . . . until theFeast of the Epiphany!

-Father Rod Caulkins, St. James Episcopal Louisa