The History of St. Peter’s ~ San Pedro


St. Peter’s was founded in 1733, soon after permission was granted for religious groups other than Congregationalists to worship in the colony. The land on which the church is built was donated by Phillip English, a wealthy merchant who had been jailed in the past both for not paying taxes to support the Congregational church and also as an accused witch. The church was attended by the working sailors of Salem’s busy port, by settled residents and by representatives of the Crown. During the Revolutionary War years St. Peter’s was a focus of anti-British sentiment. Several diaries and novels of the period mention rallies at which vegetables were thrown at the building. On the other hand, its rector was so respected that he was one of the few Anglican clergymen who stayed safely in his home throughout the War. St. Peter’s most famous rector was Alexander Viets Griswold (1766-1843) who was Bishop of the Eastern Diocese (all of New England except for Connecticut.)

During his tenure the original wooden church was taken down so a handsome stone one could be built in 1833. The congregation still worships in this building. In 1871 a chapel was added to St. Peter’s building, built directly over the old graveyard. Some of the tombstones were placed in the Chapel walls; others may be found in front of the church. The church thrived and through the years began mission churches, now successful parishes, including Calvary Church, Danvers, Grace Church, Salem, St. Peter’s Church, Beverly, and St. Paul’s Church, Peabody. St. Peter’s gradually left behind its colonial past. The system of renting and selling pews-for example-was ended in 1893. Since that time the congregation has been governed by the Rector, an elected Vestry, and an annual meeting of all members. After World War I, St. Peter’s was deeply influenced by the English Oxford Movement, which renewed the meaning of ceremony in worship and pointed the Church toward social action. In the 1960’s, St. Peter’s leaders were active in the Civil Rights movement. More recently still, St. Peter’s has become a more intentionally inclusive congregation. We believe that whatever race, ethnicity, gender, marital status, or orientation; we are all one in Christ. This simple declarative statement has caused worldwide controversy. No wonder, when it was first uttered two thousand years ago, it did the same. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)