Parish News

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

Reconstruction and Restoration Update

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