Rector Report

The Rev. Catherine Hicks 

The St Peter’s mission statement is to do God’s will.  We can do God’s will best when we pray for and love one another, proclaim and teach God’s word, and take the gospel to our neighbors and out to the world. 

Carrying out this work of the church can be joyful and inspiring for all of us.  And with joy and inspiration comes a sense of urgency about keeping ourselves alive and well in the years ahead.  So our challenges are to pray for new life for St Peter’s every day, to do our best to get to church every Sunday so that we can support one another consistently in person, and to be generous with our time, our money and our talents for this part of God’s body in this worldInvite others to join in our work for God’s reign on this earth and for the good of our community in Port Royal.  

The ways in which we pray for and love one another.

I am grateful for the way that the people in our congregation support one another through prayer and love for one another, both in worship and throughout the week.  This past year, the community came together to support the families who lost loved ones.  I am so grateful for all of you who came to the services and offered your love and support to the families.  In addition to that visible support,  we are intentional about praying for one another, by paying attention to the prayer list and praying for those who request prayers.  Our love for one another is strengthened through prayer for one another and the fruits of prayer are evident throughout our congregation.  We have fun socializing together, which also draws us closer.  The First Sunday potluck lunches every month, the Everett’s annual Christmas party and the New Year’s Eve party, the ECW Tea and Gospel on the River give us the chance to get together and enjoy one another’s company. 

To proclaim and teach God’s word.    

Ecumenical Bible study continues.  This group, which meets every Wednesday from 10AM to noon, prays for those in any sort of need, and then studies the lectionary for the coming Sunday worship.  In these Bible studies, we learn more about the context in which the passages were written, and we consider how these scriptures speak to us.

On Sunday mornings this past year, we studied Romans and then delved into an in-depth study of First Corinthians, which culminated in a visit from Bishop Ihloff, who played the part of Paul in our class.  We have also traveled around the world in a series of pilgrimages, and have spent some time with The Rev. Deacon Carey Connors discussing mission and how best to carry out our mission of proclaiming God’s love to the world. 

The Spanish Bible Study.  Last year, thanks to help from you, the Fredericksburg Region and the Diocese, I was able to attend the Latino Ministries competency course at VTS.  This study led to the Spanish Bible study which began last Lent and then continued through the year, with commitment from those attending to continue to meet in 2020.  I would like to thank Ramon and Linneth Feliciano, Elizabeth Heimbach, and Cookie and Johnny Davis for welcoming Claudia Villa and Antoinetta and Melanie Avila to St Peter’s.  Countries represented in this one Bible study are Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, and Mexico. 

The St Peter’s music program.  Many churches are no longer fortunate enough to have a choir, especially smaller churches.  I’m so grateful to the choir members who have been so faithful over the past several years—Nancy Long, Helmut Linne von Berg, Mike Newman, and Roger Key.  With the addition of Thom Guthrie, Mary Peterman, Denise Gregory and Tucker Fisher, our choir has been able to add beauty and quality music to our worship each Sunday.  We are also blessed with several instrumentalists who are willing to share their time and talent:  Helmut Linne von Berg, violin; Marilyn Newman, harp; and Mary Peterman, flute; Thom Guthrie, organ.    Brad Volland, our music director and organist, as done a masterful job of putting all of these talents together to make some wonderful music, as well as contributing his own talents by playing our little tracker organ.  Every year Helmut Linne von Berg and Jim Heimbach produce Gospel on the River, an enjoyable afternoon of singing gospel hymns together.    Brad and these wonderful musicians are true blessings for our church.  

The Concert Series.  St Peter’s offers a world class concert for the community each year, thanks to your generosity and commitment to this outreach program for the community.  This year we welcomed PhilHarmonia, a chorus of over twenty young people from Philadelphia, PA.  The Heimbachs hosted the reception before the concert.

Two new worship services took place this year—The Blessing of the Backpacks for the children, and The Christmas Service of Comfort for those who have suffered losses during the year and may not have felt overwhelmed with joy during the Christmas season.  The Connexion Chamber Choir from Colonial Beach came over and sang for this service. 

The Season of Creation this year brought us to the end of the three year Season of Creation lectionary cycle.  During this season, we not only celebrated the wonders of creation, and thanksgiving to God for all God has made, but we also looked at some of the current problems that the earth is experiencing and how scripture applies to current environmental crises. 

Our beautiful property brings us closer to God.  Robert Bryan cleared the riverbank and worked on the old colonial road bed next to the church, opening up the river view.  We are so blessed with the beautiful view that we enjoy of the Rappahannock River and of the many flowerbeds around the buildings that Cookie Davis maintains. 

Taking the gospel to our neighbors and the world. 

The St Peter’s Village Harvest, the food distribution, continues to serve the community and those in need of fresh produce and meat.  I am so grateful for the sustained commitment of the people of this Parish to ensure that this food ministry continues.  We pray for and with the people who come, and some are now volunteering alongside parishioners to get the food distributed each month.   

The Village Dinner is another outreach ministry of St Peter’s.  In addition to giving community members and parishioners a chance to socialize over a good dinner, the profits from the dinner go to help local, national and international organizations who provide help in a variety of ways to those in need.  Many thanks to Eunice Key, the Kunstmanns, and the many other people who help to make this dinner possible each month. 

Weekly summer fun for the neighborhood kids.  This year, instead of Bible School, we tried having a series of study and activities that included our friends around the neighborhood.  Elizabeth Heimbach and Catherine held cooking classes for neighborhood kids and Jim Heimbach taught everyone how to make omelets. 

Thanksgiving and Christmas Families–The Episcopal Church Men took dinners to many families at Thanksgiving, and with the help of the ECW, St Peter’s adopted a family for Christmas and bought and delivered the requested presents.   Both projects were done in conjunction with The Caroline County Department of Social Services. 

St Peter’s provided the pizza for the Port Royal Christmas party.  The Town Council, Caroline’s Promise, Caroline County Parks and Recreation, the Port Royal Fire Department and the churches come together to provide this annual gathering for Port Royal residents.  Santa Claus made his appearance as usual.

Many more blessings

I’m grateful for your ongoing commitment to my continuing education, so that I can serve God and St Peter’s more fully.  The Latino Cultural Competency course, taught by faculty from The Episcopal Church, resulted in a new Bible study at St Peter’s.  In May at the clergy retreat at Shrine Mont I was blessed to hear a series of talks by Thomas Long, one of the preaching giants whose work we studied in seminary.   In June of 2019 I completed the year long Deep calls to Deep preaching program, which involved monthly meetings with a preaching group as well as an opening and closing residency at VTS.  In October I went to Kilmarnock for the Virginia School of Celtic Consciousness, taught by John Philip Newell.  I learned a lot about Celtic spirituality and have used much of that information in sermons and sermon preparation.  Celtic spirituality ties in well with the theology we have been delving into during the Season of Creation each year.   2019 was a great year for continuing education, and I thank all of you for making the time for this enrichment possible. 

We have also been blessed at St Peter’s to have those in discernment for ministry join with us in a variety of waysPhil Fitzhugh, who helps with the food distribution and is a regular at the Wednesday Ecumenical Bible Study and who has preached at St Peter’s, is in the process of becoming a locally licensed pastor in The United Methodist Church.  Salli Hartman, who did her discernment work at St Peter’s, is in the diocesan school and is being trained as a Deacon in The Episcopal Church.  She has been approved to move forward with her candidacy.  The Reverend Deacon Carey Connors, who is currently a Deacon, is at VTS and will graduate this May and be ordained as a priest in The Episcopal Church.  We are blessed by having her with us two Sundays a month. She is sharing her extensive knowledge in missions with us as well as preaching once a month and serving as the Deacon in our worship services. 

Two blessings for St Peter’s are Morgan Key, daughter-in-law of Roger and Eunice Key, and John Hess, who joined St Peter’s in 2019.  We are grateful for their presence in our midst.  Morgan helps with Village Dinners and has done babysitting at the Spanish Bible study.  John is a lector and serves on the altar guild.

And near the end of 2019, we welcomed DaVon Ny’Kese Townsel through the sacrament of Holy Baptism into our community.  He and his parents, Cornesha Howard and David Townsel, then played the parts of the Holy Family for this year’s Christmas pageant. 

Several in our community have moved away.  We sent our blessings along with Wendy and Alan Gayle, who have moved to the Charlottesville area; Howard and Millie Muhly, who have moved to Maryland to be closer to their children; and with Dave Fannon, who has moved away to be closer to his sons.  In their time at St Peter’s, they all blessed us richly, and may they be happy in their new homes. 

Three memorial services took place at St Peter’s in 2019.  We said goodbye to Peggy Roberts, Rachel Marie Schnakenberg, mother of Trenton and Nathaniel Schakenberg and sister in law of Becky Fisher, and to John Sellers, beloved resident of Portobago Bay and a good friend of St Peter’s. I am so grateful to the support that this community showed to the families—providing welcome and comfort, and a time for the families to gather after the service for food and fellowship.  This sort of generosity is deeply appreciated by grieving families. 

The nursery has gotten a new roof.  Many thanks to  Rob Dobson who did the work that had to be done before the roof was installed.  The windows are being replaced and the interior work will be done, making this space more welcoming for our children. 

And so as another year begins, I give thanks to God for this community and all the blessings that we have shared together in 2019, while looking ahead with anticipation and excitement to all that is ahead of us in the new year of 2020. 

Before we know it, we’ll be counting the blessings that God has in store for us in 2020, blessings we can only imagine right now.  Knowing that God goes with us into the new year, we look forward to with anticipation to all that awaits.

And remember to pray for and to love one another, to proclaim and teach God’s word, and to take the gospel to our neighbors and the nations.  And let’s do this together, as Jesus calls us to do.