One of the honors of serving a parish with a relatively long history is learning about that narrative on a lot of different levels. You can learn the history from the oral traditions the people present, stories about past rectors and clergy, lay staff and folks of singular personality who in their time had an impact on a particular person's life. You can learn from documents, both primary and secondary, that might exist in the parish. You can also see the impact of the years on the church, the campus' buildings and surrounding grounds. Finally, you can learn a lot about a church from the way people in the wider community see it.
All of these experiences have been flowing over me for the past couple of weeks. St. Peter's story goes back quite a ways. There were settlers in the area (Anglicans, for the most part) going back to the 17th century. The crossroads and waterways, what would become the township of Spotswood, dates back to the early 18th. our parish received its formal charter as a mission of the Society for the Propogation of the Gospel in 1773, but services (and a church building) existed years before.
The challenge of being a church in those days was not a small one. There weren't many clergy, and thus the Prayer Book held many rites that were not available to the local population. Still, I am amazed at the stories told of the vestries and clergy that worked to make this church a vital place for the life of Christ in their generations. Not easy. Wars and economic depressions wreaked havoc on the local and regional economies. From the Revolutionary War, up until the present day, you can see the slash marks on the parish from the blows it took during those seasons of hard times.
Still, for what many churches have weathered, St. Peter's has survived its share of challenges.
But the published narrative is only the tip of the iceberg. The roots of this place are deep, I am learning. Having served this town, and made Christ known at the crossroads for many years, I am learning a new humility as I ponder my time here as a rector. There were 35 others before me, and hundreds more wardens, and thousands more of the faithful, who did their part to deliver a church Body to the present day. I wonder where next God is calling us....and God willing, what chapter we will write in the history books? No small challenge.....