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.

Irish Elements in our service, March 17, 2024

On St. Patrick’s day we give thanks for our Irish Heritage. The Irish are the second largest nationality, behind the Germans.

The day is marked with the accomplishments of St. Patrick. Patrick while not Irish was determined to convert Ireland to Christianity from the Druids. In 431, St. Patrick was consecrated Bishop of the Irish and went to Ireland to spread “the Good news” there. He baptized thousands and ordained many priests to lead new communities of Christians.

Patrick is said to have used the shamrock to explain the Trinity, demonstrating that God is both three (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), yet one, as the shamrock is both three-leafed, yet a single plant. Shamrocks were sacred plants for the Druids, symbolizing eternal life. So he re-interpreted known symbols.

While this day is considered a festive, party day in America, it is a religious celebration in Ireland. (In fact until 1961 you could not buy drink in Dublin, Ireland on this day.) We are celebrating with the following Irish elements in our service:

1. The opening hymn, “Be thou my vision,” is a traditional Irish hymn.

It was on Slane Hill in County Meath around 433 CE that St. Patrick risked his life by climbing to the tallest hill in the area and lighting a huge fire. King Logaire of Tara proclaimed no one could light a fire before the king signaled the beginning of the pagan Druid spring festival.

As the ancient Irish people woke up, they could all see Patrick’s defiance of the king. Patrick wanted to show the world that God’s light shines in darkness, and that only He deserves praise.  King Logaire was so impressed by Patrick’s devotion that, despite his defiance, he was permitted to continue his work as Ireland’s first Christian missionary.

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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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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.

Music of Compline Dec. 7, 2023

The compline service is in the prayer book but there are several opportunities for variations. One being the prayers, akin to the prayers of the people which will change with services. There is also an opportunity to the congregation to add their own prayers.

The second main variation is in the music which changes for the service.

There were three main pieces for this service:

1. O Come O Come Emmanuel. Performed by the “Piano Guys”, in this case a pianist and cellist. From their website “What do you get when you mix up a marketing genius that does video, a studio engineer that writes music, a pianist that had a successful solo career, and a cellist that does pretty much everything? The Piano Guys: a miraculous meeting of “guys” with the same intrinsic purpose – to make a positive impact in the lives of people all over the world through music videos…Our story is a miracle. We’re just a bunch of ordinary “guys” playing classically influenced instrumental music in videos that showcase incredible locations.”

2. Give Thanks. Performed by Michael Eldridge who writes “I’m a pharmacist with a passion for singing.” All the parts! “I’ve been blessed by God with the opportunity to share my love for the classic acapella hymns I grew up singing, and still sing today.”

3. Come Divine Messiah – Advent at Ephesus From their website “We are a religious community of women seeking to emulate the hidden life of Mary as love in the heart of the Church.” They were founded by Sr Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster OSB, in Gower, Missouri.

“The nuns are also recording artists, and their first two albums of recorded chants and hymns reached number one on the classical traditional Billboard charts. They were thereafter named Billboard’s Classical Traditional artists of the year in 2013, the first order of nuns to win an award in the history of Billboard…Their album sales have been used to improve the monastery and pay off the abbey’s debt.”

Flashback! Hymns sung at this time of year

Here are selections of three of them from 2020:

1. Hymn 680 – “O God, our help in ages past” (40 seconds)

2. Hymn 9 – “Awake Awake” (48 seconds)

3. Hymn 490 “I want to walk as a child of the light” (55 seconds)

What Does Ministry Look Like ?

This is a PowerPoint comprising a list and description of St. Peter’s ministries under four headings – internal, local partners, state and national partners and international partners. The internal are distinguished by parishioner involvement and are generally active yearly. The others may not be active every year.

Many of these ministries represent the day to day work of the church, both outreach into the world and inreach for those within the church. The church is more than just Sunday and the St. Peter’s building but is working in the world! They involve the both the clergy and parishioners in the church as well as others. Many of these ministries are historic (Bible Study is 20 years old) but some, like Sacred Ground were created in the last five years.

To see a full screen version, press right button in the bottom windows   to open in a new window

Your giving for 2024 is crucial to making these ministries thrive. Also, consider joining these ministries and contribute toward their successes. We are always on the lookout for new ministries. An example is Andrea Pogue’s work with Shred-it which originated with her.

Music and Noisemakers – “Earth and all stars”

From Catherine’s introduction to the Oct. 22, 2023 service:

“I am dedicating today’s service to Brad and the Choir. Aren’t we so fortunate to have music! You have noise makers.. you are going to need them. three of the hymns are about singing and then there are two about seeking God and God seeking us.”

This was apparent in our hymn of praise – “Hymn #412 Earth and all stars”, always a favorite. See the one minute video of a selection of this energetic hymn:

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) – musician, writer, prophetess – and saint

We celebrate Hildegard’s life on September 17.

Accounts written in Hildegard’s lifetime  (1098-1179) and just after describe an extraordinarily accomplished woman: a visionary, a prophet (she was known as “The Sibyl Of The Rhine”), a pioneer who wrote practical books on biology, botany, medicine, theology and the arts. She was a prolific letter-writer to everyone from humble penitents looking for a cure for infertility to popes, emperors and kings seeking spiritual or political advice. She composed music and was known to have visions

Here is what Gay Rahn, former Associate Rector at St. George’s Fredericksburg, wrote about her several years ago – “Hildegard of Bingen was a twelfth-century mystic, composer, and author. She described the Holy One as the greening Power of God. Just as plants are greened, so we are as well. As we grow up, our spark of life continually shines forth. If we ignore this spark this greening power, we become thirsty and shriveled. And, if we respond to the spark, we flower. ”

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Trinity Sunday- Hymn of the Week – “Holy, Holy, Holy”

Reginald Heber (1783 – 1826) was an English clergyman, traveller, man of letters and hymn-writer who, after working as a country parson for 16 years, served as the Anglican Bishop of Calcutta until his sudden death at the age of 42.

Reginald Heber wrote "Holy, Holy, Holy" while serving as vicar of Hodnet, Shropshire, England. He was the first to compile a hymnal ordering hymns around the church calendar. Wanting to celebrate a triune God, Heber wrote "Holy, Holy, Holy" for Trinity Sunday–a day that reaffirmed the doctrine of the Trinity and was observed eight Sundays after Easter. The hymn was first published in 1826.

Years later, John Dykes composed the tune Nicaea especially for Heber’s "Holy, Holy, Holy."

Text and tune were first published together in 1861. Since that time, this popular hymn has appeared in hundreds of hymnals and been translated into many languages.

The son of a wealthy landowner and clergyman, Heber gained an early reputation at Oxford University as a poet. After graduation he expanded his view of the world by undertaking, at the height of the Napoleonic Wars, an extended tour of Scandinavia, Russia and central Europe. He was ordained in 1807, and took over his father’s old parish of Hodnet in Shropshire. He combined his pastoral duties with other church offices, hymn-writing, and more general literary work which included a critical study of the complete works of the 17th-century cleric Jeremy Taylor.

Heber was impressed by the holiness of God. Whether in England, with the prevalence of vice, or in Calcutta, where people worshiped idols, he would often write "Only Thou art holy." Based on the words of Revelation 4:8, he used the symbolism of three repeatedly throughout his hymn: God is "holy, merciful and mighty," he’s "perfect in power, in love and purity," he’s worshiped by saints, cherubim, and seraphim, and he’s praised "in earth and sky and sea."

Through these consistent units of three, this hymn describes and worships God in three persons. Alfred Lord Tennyson felt "Holy, Holy, Holy" was the world’s greatest hymn

John Dykes (1823-1876) was also English and both minister and musician. At age 12, Dykes became assistant organist at St. John’s Church in Hull, where his grandfather was vicar. He studied at Wakefield and St. Catherine’s Hall in Cambridge and earned a BA in Classics. In 1848, he became curate at Malton, Yorkshire. For a short time, he was canon of Durham Cathedral, then precentor (1849-1862). In 1862 he became Vicar of St. Oswald’s, Durham (he named a son John St. Oswald Dykes, and one of his tunes St. Oswald).

John Dykes composed the tune Nicaea for this hymn in 1861.It references the Sanctus, which is often called the "Holy holy holy" in English. Dykes published sermons and articles on religion, but is best known for composing over 300 hymn tunes 

Little Falls Bluegrass Band at Pentecost – A Treat

We were entertained during our Pentecost picnic by the Little Falls Bluegrass Band from Stafford. 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.

Keith, the bass player, has a side grass-cutting business and has cut Catherine and Ben’s rental property in Fredericksburg for many years. He was our contact.

Beau Soir group at St. Peter’s, Fri. Oct. 14, 7pm

The Beau Soir Ensemble https://www.beausoir.org   is a flute, viola, and harp trio in the Washington, DC area dedicated to the performance of standard and contemporary repertoire spanning a variety of musical genres. The group was founded by harpist Michelle Lundy in 2007.

They will be in concert at St. Peter’s,  Episcopal Church, Oct. 14, 7pm. The  concert is free but we encourage donations so we can continue our concert series, our 9th one since 2013

Listen to their music here.

Promotional Video


Help us promote the concert! Download the poster for individuals who may be interested and businesses to display Or print directly:

The 23rd Psalm Sung by Bobby McFerrin

From the SALT Project. “From the SALT project. “Bobby McFerrin’s virtuosic reimagining of that ancient, beloved song.

“The translation helps us hear the lyrics afresh, and the musical setting helps us feel the song’s emotional depths, echoing across the centuries.”

Bobby McFerrins VOCAbuLarieS featuring SLIXS & Friends, live in Gdansk, Poland at the Solidarity of Arts Festival, 17 August 2013

Gospel on the River, Sun Oct. 2, 3pm

The location has varied over the years but the format is similar – singing favorite gospel hymns on various instruments with food either before or after brought by those who attend. (This year after). It is usually  sometimes in September or early Oct. just before the fall coolness arrives. It has been in the church, besides the Parish House, in Portobago Bay  at the Heimbach home but returns to the church this year.

The history of the event  goes back to 2007. As Helmut describes, “From our residence, we see the river front improvement here at Portobago. The Lord has created this beautiful spot for us. So, why not thank him and praise him right there in the midst of his beautiful creation.”