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About Old St. Peter's Church...


Old St. Peter's - 1874

Photo courtesy of Washington State Historical Society
The bell tower circa 1874 was an ancient tree encouraging statements like "The Oldest Bell Tower in North America!"


Old St. Peter's Church was built in 1873 at the behest of the Right Reverend Benjamin Wister Morris, the Protestant Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Oregon and of Washington Territory.

E.S. Smith donated the land; George Atkinson provided the motivation; the Hanson and Ackerson Mill provided the timber; and the townsmen built the church in record time.

Through an oddity of law Bishop Morris discovered that he, and not the diocese, owned the church building, and in 1907 he conveyed the property to the new Missionary Diocese of Washington.

Between 1873 and 1907, St. Peter's followed the canon law of the local Episcopal Church diocese despite the fact that a majority of the congregation's governing board during those years was often not Episcopalian.

On most occasions worship services were conducted by laymen or by visiting clergy of diverse denominational callings whose communions were not always given to mutual forbearance and Christian charity.

The first organist, for example, was Jewish, even when an Episcopal minister was in residence. St. Peter's continued a form of religious toleration which was other than exhausted bigotry.

Following the First World War St. Peter's became, in fact, a community or congregational church by a process so unmarked by precise circumstance that the drift from an Episcopal Parish to a Community Church disturbed no one's sense of peace and tranquility.

When in the 1950's the building was restored, St. Peter's again presumed to be an Episcopal church and neither the Diocese of Olympia, the Protestant Episcopal Church in Western Washington, nor the congregation felt the need to place the church under the rules of the Diocesan Convention or the Office of the Bishop.

It remained a self-supporting community church and followed Canons of the Episcopal Church as a matter of self-imposed discipline.

Not until 1977 was the status of St. Peter's clarified: At that time the Diocese ceded to the congregation whatever legal interest it might have derived from Bishop Morris and offered the congregation its fond affection as a Christian enterprise independently governed.

Old Saint Peter's Church shares fraternal ties of concern and affection for the Anglican Communion. Its clergy has always been volunteer. The church does not receive denominational support. Although the building is a historical landmark, there are no government funds for upkeep. St. Peter's is supported and maintained by its congregation.

Old St. Peter's Church has long subordinated questions of ritual to the test of a pragmatic faith. We worship the God revealed in Scripture. We realize that our heavenly Father has created us so that that each of us responds in particularly distinct ways to his grace. Each of us uses his time and talent to adorn and beautify our spiritual life as an affirmation of God's love for us expressed in His gift of life itself.

Reason suggests that among the many modes by which we attempt to offer our praise and thanksgiving and to petition forgiveness and redress, no one method or form may claim preeminence in God's favor. Therefore, we beg forgiveness of those who may be offended by our choice of form and ritual.

At present, Old St. Peter's worships God through use of the BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER (courtesy www.justus.anglican.org) first issued for the Church in England in 1549 and subsequently revised by Parliament in 1662. The American Book of Common Prayer was adopted in 1785 and afterward revised in 1789, 1892 and 1928.

Old St. Peter's Church uses the 1928 Book of Common Prayer to guide us in worship, and it has correctly been called a literary work of art. There is a simplicity and beauty in these words that speak to the heart, the mind and the soul of those that come to worship here, and we warmly welcome you to join us in these prayers, regardless of your religious affiliation, for we are all God's children.

Old St. Peter's Church believes that even though each jurisdiction or denomination may cherish its particular ceremonial life and distinctive usage, all must recognize the presence of God's mercy in the diversity of creation which displays his generous nature no less in the abundance of religious rites than in the diverse beauty of the flowers of the fields.

If you have questions you are invited to direct them to the Vestry or any of the ministers: such as the rector Reverend Ginny Torres or the Rt. Reverend Morgan Johnson at Old St. Peter's Church: 253-272-4406.


Peace be unto you


Rector - Rev'd. Ginny Torres
Rt. Rev'd. Morgan A Johnson
Rector Emeritus - Rt. Rev. John D. Keliher

Old St. Peter's Church
2910 No. Starr St., Tacoma, Wa USA
253-272-4406

MAIL ADDRESS: PO Box 7265 Tacoma Wa 98417


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