Parish News

Blessing and Dedication of Washington Parish Museum

May 31st, 2024

Service of Acknowledgement and Healing

June 1st, 2024

175th Anniversary Festal Eucharist with

Bishop Stevenson, June 2nd, 2024

Reconstuction and Restoration Donations

OrgDonations (002).docx

175th Anniversary Celebration and Reconstruction and Restoration Update #4

Recognizing 175+ Years of History

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Oak Grove is undergoing a huge change after fire destroyed the mid-19th century church building at Christmastime 2023. However, this historic parish has undergone countless changes and witnessed many historical events over 175+ years.

It is important to recognize the history of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church began long before the building in Oak Grove was completed in 1849. Washington Parish was established in the mid 1600’s by early settlers including John Washington, great grandfather to George, and several early U.S. leaders were born in the parish, including Presidents George Washington and James Monroe, General Robert E. Lee and Supreme Court Justice John Marshall. The parish endured the Civil War, the church providing a hiding place for both Union and Confederate soldiers, and bore witness to  enslaved people restricted to the balcony, never entering the main sanctuary.

To recognize both the positives and negatives over the course of church history, multiple ceremonies were held outdoors on St. Peter’s Green, in the shadow of the fire ravaged church building. The weekend’s events began on May 31st with a Dedication and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the Washington Parish Museum, located just behind the original church building. Along with Bill Doerken, Museum Director, the parish welcomed a special guest, The Rev. Timothy Steeves, the 17th Rector of St. Peter’s from 1991-1999. 

On Saturday, June 1st, a service of acknowledgement and healing was held to recognize the church’s impact on both the indigenous Americans who arrived thousands of years before European colonization, and the tragic history of enslaved and marginalized people. For this special service, the parish welcomed Mr. Kirk Richardson, Tribal Council Member, Rappahannock Tribe, and The Rev. Dr. J. Lee Hill, Jr., Canon for Racial Justice and Healing, Diocese of Virginia.

Finally, on June 2nd, the 175th anniversary celebration culminated in the Sunday Festal Eucharist celebration led by the Bishop from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, The Rt. Rev. E. Mark Stevenson

One parishioner described the 175th Anniversary events like this:

I'm still in awe of everything about the 175th celebration! The museum opening to the community was a balance of history lesson and spiritual experience for me. I feel truly blessed at St. Peters to be on such a special piece of land with great people always knowing God is with us. Saturday morning, one of the things that I really enjoyed was the [Tribal Council Member, Rappahanbock Tribe] who was part of our service, as we all paid respect to our land, thanking each direction for all the blessings we have. Sunday, we were visited by our Bishop and we celebrated a baptism, confirmations, and others who wanted to reaffirm their commitment to the Episcopal Church. His homily, for me, led me on a deeper path of discernment. I am very grateful I attended all three, probably once in my lifetime, services at St. Peters Episcopal Church. 

Restoration and Rebuilding Update

Due to the long list of planning, design and permitting approvals that must be completed, it is currently estimated that April of 2025 is the earliest that restoration and rebuilding can begin on the main church building.

Meanwhile, demolition of the existing brick and interior walls is scheduled for the beginning of August, with every effort made to preserve remaining plaques and architectural elements. Work can also start within the month on the Sunday School wing, along with the Parish Hall and Kitchen as long as no structural changes are needed. 

On June 19th, a meeting is scheduled with Spartan Construction, MW Architects, and BFG Civil Engineering to complete a thorough walk through in and around the church site. At that time, the addition of a wing opposite the Parish Hall, which would, “complete the Cross”, will be explored for the future. This suggestion was made by Bishop Stevenson at the 175th Anniversary Celebration.

Another possible addition to St. Peter’s Green is a year-round Pavilion adjacent to the new Kitchen on the Green. The idea of a Pavilion has received positive feedback in recent survey results and Listening Sessions, and will be explored during the site walk-through.

Fundraising and Donations

To date, donations for Restoration and Rebuilding total $111,789.60. Most recently, the Spring Flower Bulb Sale, coordinated by Denise Dudley, raised $708.50, and another $684 was raised during the 175th Anniversary festivities from Ornament sales and donations. 

A current list of donors is posted to the left below the pictures.         

Kitchen on the Green

A “Labor Only” Contract has been awarded to Chris Dodd for the remodel of the Kitchen on the Green, with most of the material generously donated by 84 Lumber, and kitchen equipment purchased.  Work has begun with the goal that everything be completed and operational for the July Community Meal (the June Community Meal had to be cancelled). Appreciation goes to Steve LaPaglia for power washing both the interior and exterior of the building, and the Dodd family for loaning a 12’ x 16’ storage shed to be used during construction.

As St. Peter’s continues to discern God’s will for the church going forward, please continue to pray for the parish, the contractors, and the church leadership.

Checks can be mailed to:

 St. Peter's Restoration and Rebuilding Fund

601 Colonial Ave, Colonial Beach, VA 22443

Reconstruction and Restoration Update #3

What follows is truly affirmation that God’s hand is directing and blessing the efforts to Restore and Rebuild St. Peter’s in Oak Grove. Monday, May 6th marked a big step in the journey. A contract signing was held with our chosen General Contractor and Architectural Firm, Spartan and MW Architects. Father Rod Gordon, Rector, St. Peter's, opened the ceremony with prayer, joined by many St. Peter’s congregants and friends in attendance.


Church Demolition and Restoration

Now that contracts are signed, next steps include:


Fundraising Update

We have continued to receive an outpouring of generosity and support from individuals, community organizations and fellow churches. To date, donations total almost $80,000! Special thanks to the St. Peter’s Fund Raising Committee for all of their efforts including event organization, design and production of the St. Peter’s Christmas Ornament, and the Spring Bulb Sale.


The Tyler Nichols Band Concert held at Ingleside Vineyards, our most recent fundraiser, was an amazing success. Special appreciation goes to Tyler Nichols, Rocky and Blair Denson, and Doug and Chris Flemer for their incredible generosity and dedication to the Restoration and Rebuilding of St. Peter’s!


Kitchen on the Green Update

There is much to report on the conversion of the existing Garage into the Kitchen on the Green. Thanks to these efforts, the Monthly Community Meals have continued without interruption. In April, 350 meals were served by 18 outreach ministry volunteers.

 

We remain humbled by the enormous outpouring of generous support, and mere words cannot express our appreciation. Even in the midst of hardship, we are blessed beyond measure. Thank you, and stay tuned!


Posted May 6th, 2024

Reconstruction and Restoration Update #2

Since the last update, the Restoration and Rebuilding Committee and Subcommittees at St. Peter’s have made steady progress thanks to the tireless efforts of volunteers with support from the local community. We continue to be humbled by the unwavering community support for the Restoration and Rebuilding of St. Peter’s, and we are working hard to be worthy of that support and trust. Stay tuned for further updates as we have them.

Fundraising

We are grateful to report that generous donations are steadily coming in thanks to the many organizations and individuals who continue to contribute. The current Spring Planting Bulb Sale fundraiser is in full force. Upcoming fundraisers include the Tyler Nichols Band concert where all proceeds from ticket sales, Denson’s Farm to Table food sales and partial Ingleside wine sales will be donated to St. Peter’s. We also look forward to revealing the St. Peter’s Christmas ornament, available for purchase sometime this year. Information about direct donations to the Restoration and Rebuilding effort can be found on the website here.

St. Peter’s Green and Community Meal Ministry

Even in its current unfinished state the “Kitchen on the Green” has served our monthly Community Meal Ministry uninterrupted with over 400 meals served in March. This record number is a testament to what can be accomplished, even if conditions aren’t perfect. Steady progress is being made to locate the most affordable commercial kitchen equipment and supplies to complete kitchen renovations. For ease of access, we now have a new kitchen parking with over 25 car capacity, and a long U-shaped drive from the Church parking lot to and from the Kitchen on the Green to facilitate pickup of monthly “To Go” meals.  Please thank Ingleside Nursery for donation of the fill dirt, and the blue stone was provided at a discounted price from Walker Sand and Stone.

A 20’ x 40’ Permanent Event Tent was recently installed by tireless volunteers to be used for services and special events on the Green. We are in the process of identifying the most affordable and best option for dry flooring inside the tent. This Event Tent, with sides to shield from the weather, should serve St. Peter’s needs for quite some time.

Another new amenity on St. Peter’s Green is the Trees of the Bible Walking Trail. Designed and installed by the Daisies of Girl Scout Troop 1278 for their Outdoor Journey Take Action Project, the trail is marked by identification signs highlighting tree species, history, and use in the Bible, by Native Americans, and early American settlers.

A Westmoreland County building permit has been submitted and we await the County’s response. Also, an appeal has been made for relief from the estimated $14,000+ to connect the sewer system to the “Kitchen on the Green”. We await the county’s final decision at their monthly Board Meeting on April 8th.

Church Rebuilding and Replacement Items

We anticipate receiving a revised contract from Spartan Construction by shortly so that we can begin next steps, and are making progress in the selection of an Architectural Firm which will be instrumental in our rebuilding efforts. Valuable input received from the recent email survey and in-person listening session has been compiled by the Congregational Input Subcommittee, and will help inform the renovation and restoration process going forward.

The Historic Preservation Subcommittee has developed a complete inventory with pictures of our plaques, serving pieces and wooden furniture to provide to the insurance company. All of the wooden furniture is a total loss. Out of the silver and brass pieces, only the 2 silver alms basins and paten were able to be restored. Most of the plaques in the Nave were heavily damaged and cannot be restored to their original condition. This Subcommittee’s next task is to determine the replacement value for the items that cannot be restored for insurance compensation, and then determine how and what to replace.

Posted April 8, 2024

St. Peter's Parish appreciates the generous outpouring of support from the community.

Reconstruction and Restoration Update #1

As work continues on church renovation and rebuilding, St. Peter's Parish is thriving. The January Community Meal served over 300. To facilitate the uninterrupted continuation of this monthly ministry, estimates are being sought to transform the existing garage to the Kitchen on the Green. St. Peter's Outreach Ministry has recently provided support to local families that each lost their homes to fire, and the Thrift Shop ministry remains strong. The Pavilion at Ingleside has proved a wonderful worship space, with a strong and increasing Sunday attendance.


There continues to be a generous outpouring from the community supporting St. Peter's Rebuilding and Restoration Fundraising efforts. To facilitate giving, a large fundraising banner with a QR code for online donations and mailing instructions for sending checks is on display at the church site. The banner also directs folks to Ingleside Vineyards for worship.


Upcoming fundraising efforts include: a concert by the Tyler Nichols Band on April 14th with food by Denson's Chesapeake Farm to Table; and, a customized St. Peter's Christmas Ornament ready for sale by the 175th Anniversary celebration in May.


In an effort to consider all viewpoints regarding the rebuilding and restoration process, the Congregational Input Subcommittee has been intently gathering email input from the community. Facilitated Listening Sessions will also be scheduled over the next few weeks to gather further community input in-person.

In the meantime, Spartan, the selected demolition and construction general contractor, has begun the complex and lengthy cleaning process in the Latane Wing of the church where offices and Sunday School is located. Certain areas will be sealed off with a vapor barrier, and air purifiers will run for several weeks. All carpet will be removed, and all surfaces cleaned with a special sponge and solution. In the areas with the most smoke and fire damage, drywall and insulation will be removed and all wood encapsulated.

Unfortunately, it has been determined by restoration expert C. M. Almy and the Stratford Hall Preservation Team that several of the brass items damaged in the fire cannot be restored. The unrestored items, used in worship for decades, will be returned to St. Peter's and placed on display in the Washington Parish Museum. 

As the Rebuilding and Restoration Steering Committee, along with other subcommittees, continue the task at hand, the following prayer begins each meeting:   

Holy God, you are the Almighty.  We pray that you would direct us and lead us as we will be making decisions about clean-up and reconstruction.  Let us speak honestly in an open discussion and in good faith.  Lead the way clearly – we are such a diverse group of people with differing backgrounds, desires and needs.  You have blessed us all with various intellectual, spiritual and emotional gifts.  Let us all come together in love, guided by you.

Your gift of salvation binds us all.  Let us rejoice in that connection and celebrate how different we all are.  Let us remember the reason we want to rebuild – to have a place to gather to worship and honor you; a place to fellowship in Bible Study, coffee hour, and share a community meal; a place to pray for healing and lamenting; a safe place to grieve and be healed.  Let us remember that we can do all of these things anywhere – no special place is required.  Let us do as much to build the community of faith and believers in number and dedication as we do to reconstruct.

In Jesus’ name we pray with all the others who lift St. Peter’s up to you for guidance and blessing, Amen

Posted February 6, 2024

Over 300 Free Community Meals Served in January 2024

Among the many ways that St. Peter's, Oak Grove Parish supports their surrounding community, the monthly free community meal is one of the most popular. Once again, the dedicated St. Peter's volunteers demonstrated their commitment to ensuring outreach ministries continue uninterrupted regardless of recent setbacks.

Despite the Christmastime, 2023, fire that destroyed the church building and severely damaged the parish hall and kitchen, the Community Meal Committee remained determined to deliver the free monthly meal. After several meetings, assessing their resources, complex logistics planning, and lots of prayer, they accomplished their goal.

Over 300 delicious meals were served on Friday, January 26, 2024, the first scheduled Community Meal date since the fire. Pulled pork, baked beans, cole slaw and Grandma's cookies were on the menu. The food was prepared off-site, and meals assembled and served out of the newly refurbished St. Peter's Green garage. 

Appreciation and support from the community included comments like this one on social media, "It was very good, I'm glad I went!" 

Posted January 27, 2024

Sneak Preview: Recently Completed Washington Parish Museum

Although the oldest sections of St. Peter's Episcopal Church building were devastated in the December 2023 fire, adjacent buildings were thankfully spared including the recently completed Washington Parish Museum located in an adjacent white building behind the church.

Although the official grand opening is scheduled on May 31st in conjunction with the church's 175th anniversary, local community members are invited for a sneak preview during midday Sundays by prior arrangements with Bill Doerken, Museum Director, at 804-445-6655 or bdoerken@gmail.com.

The museum features graphic displays and artifacts that honor St. Peter's 175 year history, along with other churches that have formed Washington Parish over the years. Visitors can listen to recorded music from the historic 1849 Erban organ, unfortunately destroyed in the fire. There are numerous hands-on activities for visitors of all ages including tombstone rubbing, events detailing early church brick making, and John Washington's seamanship challenges on his ill-fated trip to Virginia.

The museum will continue to accept artifacts related to the church/parish, e.g., objects, letters, photos and personal recollections, as well as monetary donations. Visitors are cautioned to access the church grounds carefully, following walking pathways and avoiding areas roped off and under repair.

Posted January 25, 2024

Rebuilding Progress Report

Since the fire on December 19, 2023, church leaders have worked with state and federal investigators to determine the cause. On December 20, VA State Police and ATF spent most of the day performing their investigations accompanied by accelerant sniffing dogs. While we await the official report, investigators from both organizations agree they found no signs of forced entry or foul play. At this time, it has been determined that the fire originated in the area of the organ, likely caused by an electrical malfunction.

In total, 15 Trucks responded and made a valiant effort to save the church building, pumping over 80,000 gallons of water drawn from Mattox Creek. St. Peter’s owes all the first responders a great deal of thanks and appreciation including local Oak Grove VFD, first on the scene, joined by Colonial Beach VFD, Cople District, Westmoreland, King George, NDW Dahlgren and Callao VFD, with back-up from Mechanicsville and Leonardtown MD, VFDs.

The St. Peter’s congregation was able to worship on the Sunday after the fire thanks to the generosity of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Colonial Beach, who welcomed over 80 attendees for a Christmas Eve service in their sanctuary. Since then, St. Peter’s has not missed a Sunday of worship, meeting in the pavilion at Ingleside Vineyards. Services will continue at Ingleside into the foreseeable future.

Following is a progress report on reconstruction and rebuilding activities:

· Shortly after the Fire on December 19, 2024, the St. Peter’s vestry approved a Steering Committee to oversee the Reconstruction and Rebuilding of the Church. In addition, two sub-committees have been formed, one for historic preservation and the other focused on fundraising.

· The church is insured, and the insurance company is working closely with church leadership to determine next steps. The original Church building is a total loss, while the Parish Hall and kitchen received significant smoke and water damage that requires a total renovation. The Sunday School Wing suffered only smoke damage requiring a scrub down, repainting and new carpet. All insulation in the attic will be replaced.

· Spartan, a Fredericksburg based insurance-approved General Contractor, has been on-site with various subcontractors to assess repair and replacement costs. MW Architects and a structural engineer have assessed structural integrity of the original church building walls. The side walls are not sound, and the wall nearest the memorial stones has been supported for safety.

· The Vestry has approved Spartan to begin quantifying content loss and determine what can be cleaned and saved. Next, cleaning will begin on the walls, surfaces and furniture to prepare for future painting, etc. in the Sunday School Wing.

· A local Preservationist, Dave Butt, and a team from Stratford Hall recovered several items including: the historical plaques from the Parish Hall, smaller plaques from the Nave, the Baptismal Font, and timbers from the original building, all to be stored at Stratford Hall. Bronze and pewter pieces were also taken for cleaning. Eventually, the demolition team will attempt to remove remaining plaques as safely as possible.

· The silver items used on the altar for worship, some dating back to the late 1800’s, were sent to CW Almy for restoration. At this time, a flagon and two chalices have been deemed not restorable.

As the St. Peter’s community continues the journey of reconstruction and rebuilding, we appreciate all who are supporting the process with donations of time and treasure. We ask for continued prayer reflecting on the past, looking forward to the future and seeking God's direction and guidance in our decisions to bring Him all honor and glory.

Posted January 16, 2024

Fire Destroys St. Peter's Historic Church Building

On December 19, 2023, fire destroyed historic St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Oak Grove, Virginia. The 174 year old structure held decades of history and the memories of countless worship services, weddings, baptisms, memorials and community events.

Firefighters from neighboring Oak Grove station responded promptly, and were joined by nearby fire companies from Virginia and Maryland.

An overwhelming outpouring of compassion and support was immediately received from near and far, including both the Virginia and the National Episcopal Diocese. Multiple local churches and historic sites offered space for the the congregation to continue their worship services.

Times and locations of worship services for St. Peter's parish will be updated regularly on the church website and Facebook page.

Read more in these news articles:

 Chesapeake Bay Magazine 

The Free Lance Star

Episcopal News Service

Holiday Community Meal 2023 a Great Success

On December 1st, St. Peter's hosted the last Free Community Meal for 2023. In about an hour, 17 volunteers served 308 meals, mostly take-away with 69 delivered, to neighbors from throughout Westmoreland County. The menu included delicious roast pork tenderloin, sweet potato mash, green beans, a roll and a delicious apple dumpling for dessert. 

The Free Community Meal is one of the many outreach ministries at St. Peter's with notifications going out through personal invitations, email, on Facebook and Next Door. Usually held on the last Friday of the month, except for certain annual holidays, the Free Community Meal is funded through proceeds from the St. Peter's Thrift Shop. All are welcome.

Food Pantry Drive Exceeds Expectations

In September, Operation Inasmuch issued a challenge to local parishes for each church member to donate one food pantry item per week.

Julie Hynson, Chair of the Outreach Committee, projected that St. Peter's might collect about 120 items. Julie recently reported the following results, "We collected 150 items plus some grocery gift cards in September, so we exceeded our goal even though we only had 3 in-person services". 


When the items were delivered to the sponsored families, Julie reported "big smiles". In addition, some items were distributed to St. James Food Pantry.


Many thanks to the generous parishioners who donated so many needed items, fulfilling Jesus' mandate, "Inasmuch as you did it for the least of these, you did it for me (Matthew 25:40)." 


Posted Oct 10, 2023

Dear St. Francis, Please Bless This Bird With a Home.

On the Feast Day of St. Francis, 10/04/23, Father Rod Gordon at St. Peter's in Oak Grove received an unusual telephone call from a parishioner. She said that her friend, a local merchant across the street from St. Peter's, had just called her to report a strange sighting. The merchant witnessed a man, driving a pickup truck, park in the church parking lot, walk to the back of his truck, and retrieve a small crate which contained a fully grown chicken. He walked up to the church and placed the crated chicken, along with food and water, next to the church under the shade of a cedar tree. With that, he drove off, leaving no note or anything to identify the gentleman nor the chicken.

Father Rod was heading out on a pastoral visit, so he called Junior Warden, Walter Wyne, who hurried over to the church to welcome the surprise visitor. After making a few telephone calls, Walter quickly found a new home for the wayward bird who has joined a family nearby with chicken "cousins".

Perhaps the unidentified man felt confident that, on St. Francis' Day, the St. Peter's church would bless the chicken -- with a new home.

Episcopal Diocese of Virginia News

The Washington Parish Museum On its Way to Becoming a Reality!

This new museum will undoubtedly be among the premier historic attractions on the Northern Neck, with the object of preserving in perpetuity the blessed heritage of the historic Washington Parish, including the original Episcopal churches: St. Peter's, Pope's Creek, Mattox, Brays, and Round Hill.

Work is now in progress to stabilize, restore, and preserve the basic building structure previously known as the Latane Study in the rear of St. Peter's church yard in Oak Grove, as well as developing the design and creating the exhibits. The opening target is May 2024, in conjunction with the 175th Anniversary of St. Peter's Episcopal Church.

We feel certain that parishioners, neighbors and friends will want to help find museum-worthy materials to exhibit, including:

Materials may be donated on a temporary or permanent basis. Contributions can be brought to the church or we can pick them up. Large objects/donations will be accepted on a space-available basis.

For more information, to discuss potential exhibits/donations, or to volunteer with the museum, please contact:

Bill Doerken, mobile phone (804) 445-6655, email bdoerken@gmail.com

Posted May 25, 2023

Creating a New Green Space in Oak Grove

If you’ve driven past St Peter’s Episcopal Church on Rt 3 in Oak Grove, you may have noticed activity on the adjoining lot. Grading and seeding are in full swing, Phase II in the creation of a beautiful green space. Stay tuned for updates as the improvements continue!


Posted April 21, 2023