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.

St. Peter’s Christmas Celebrations – a History

(full size gallery)

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things — not the great occasions — give off the greatest glow of happiness.” -Bob Hope

Since we always have a Christmas Eve service, one tends to think of past Christmas in church.  This is a look back to the recent past.

There is at least one image or memory that tends to dominate each Christmas Eve. Actually there can be several for each year but only one picture was chosen in the above gallery. Each year has a link to the story of that Christmas Eve with additional pictures.

2010illumination after the service. Christmas was on Saturday and featured trumpet, violin and a significant number of hymns from the choir. The next day we had service but it was a very snowy day

2011 –  An International flavor. Christmas was on Sunday (as it was in 2016). There was clearly an international favor on Christmas Eve. The Luke 2 traditional Christmas story was said in both Spanish by Luis, the visiting seminarian from the Dominican Republic, and Catherine in English.

2012Light! lights on the balcony and in the windows. This year had a collection of creche in the windows

The preparations began on Sunday afternoon with the greening of the church with poinsettia and this year, creche being placed in the windows. A gallery is here of the creche. They are from several places around the world. Candles were placed in the windows and at the end of the middle pews.

2013 Spectacular sunset

49 enjoyed music from the choir, soloists (harp, violin, organ, vocal), scripture, hymns and a sermon about Joseph. While chilly, we were treated to a spectacular sunset and evening before the service.

2014Moravian Christmas – Substituted their service for our with a Love Feast

This service was the culmination of our Advent in introducing Moravian traditions. We hosted the Candle Tea during Coffee Hour on Dec. 7. We have added Moravian musical pieces such as Candle Glowing for the Advent candle lighting each Sunday. The Love Feast was the final celebration.

2015New floating candles in the windows.

One of the warmest Christmas Eve’s on record – 70’s. We had rain until the afternoon with the clouds breaking up and creating some wonderful visual effects. Some nice reflections off the gallery windows and Parish House. By the end of the service clear with that full moon shining – first Christmas full moon since 1977 – next one in 2034.

We had 57 in attendance with a traditional Christmas Eve service in contrast to the Love Feast last year. New this year were floating candles in the windows and font. Quite a visual site

2016First year with a new altar piece and the use of the Moravian Star

We had 52 on Christmas Eve. Attendance may have been cut by the flu-like symptoms going around and people being away. The weather was mild in the 50’s with scattered rain and periods of clearing during the day

The church may not have looked more elegant for Christmas Eve with the transformation of the altar piece this year, the addition of the Moravian star, and the addition of pine to the poinsettia as well as the beautiful berries. Candles accompanied the poinsettia.

Overall this was a simpler service, particular with music. No outside musicians and no choir anthems. Substitutions had to be made at the end since there some choir members were sick.


Christmas Eve turned cloudy in the mid-40’s with rain later. We had 51 for the service.

Of note within the church were “cherry tree toppers” used as ornaments toward the rear of the church from Fraser Wood Elements in Fredericksburg. Cookie outdid herself with the poinsettia in the windows with nandina and pine. The red candles complemented them well.

Music is part of Christmas. Marilyn brought her harp and Nancy joined in on soprano for one piece. The choir presented “In the Bleak Midwinter” at the offertory. Brad’s prelude was “Unto to us a child is born.” We normally sing “Angels we have heard on High” but it was the postlude this year. Of note within the church were “cherry tree toppers” used as ornaments toward the rear of the church from Fraser Wood Elements in Fredericksburg. Cookie outdid herself with the poinsettia in the windows with nandina and pine. The red candles complemented them well.


Christmas Eve came in full sunlight and relatively mild weather compared to the cloudy/rainy weather last year. We had 51 for the service which was the same as in 2017. The bulletin is here. We took advantage of the 50th anniversary of the Genesis reading in 1968. The windows were decorated from the poinsettia contributed by parishioners. We thank Charles for the greenery that adorned the windows.

This year there was expanded music before the service. We had Marilyn and a student playing the harp, Mary Peterman and Denise Gregory on flute and piano, the Choir, the Choir and violin (Helmut), the Choir and flute and in the gallery Thom Guthrie was a second organist. Selections of these works are the videos page.

The sermon was on “Bands of swaddling clothes” from the nativity story. Luke uses this metaphor throughout his Gospel as shown by Catherine. A minister like a musician sometimes knows when he/she hits the high note, the sweetest note. Catherine felt this was her best Christmas Eve sermon 12/24/2018.


A beautiful day to have a service! Moderate temperatures in the low 50’s with abundant sunshine. The outside views of the church were spectacular. (Check out the link). It was noted we had fewer instrumentalists that in the past

The sermon was about “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among people of goodwill.”


Christmas was on Zoom due to Covid-19 and there was no Christmas play. We persisted with video excerpts recorded along with the service on Zoom. Christmas is all about music to celebrate Jesus birth. We had plenty of it on Dec. 24 at our Christmas Eve service from violin and vocal on “What Child is this”, guitar and vocal on “Away in a Manger, “Silent Night” with the first verse sung in the original German, Vocal duet on “Joy to the World” with beautiful light on the cross behind the table, vocal solo on the 16th century Personant Hodi (“On This Day”) and then combined singing on the traditional anthems “O Come All Yet Faithful”, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”.


Since the 1990’s the annual St. Peter’s Christmas Play was inside the Church, usually during Advent 4. The play has always involved much of the congregation. However, due to Covid, there was no 2020 play but we had a Christmas Eve serivce.

In 2021, the idea was do something different- to go outside in terms of location and marketing. We would invite the community and bring the meaning of Christmas to the world and schedule it in the evening outside. It would have two performances to attract a larger audience in the community. We also went outside the church for additional actors and actresses for an ecumenical flavor. We had a real Jesus born in 2021! The angels were not just children but adults as well. The music had to be mobile!

This was a more involved play with 6 scenes and locations, including the pavilion dedicated in 2021. With this complexity the play had to include more directions and location managers.


In 2022 St Nicholas visited the 11AM service and the St Peter’s youth took the lead in playing holiday music for the congregation.

Here are the Videos from the performance.