An Episcopal mission was formed in Buzzards Bay in 1938, and the first services were held in a vacant hall in town. The pews were folding chairs, the altar was unpainted plywood, but this small church began to grow. The need for a church building soon became clear, and so the people of St. Peter’s set to work raising the money to make this possible.
In 1947, their persistence was rewarded in an unusual way. St. Peter’s minister, the Rev. J. Samuel Stephenson, heard of an unused church building in the town of Hull, some sixty miles away. It was too expensive to transport it by land, but then came another inspiration: bring it by water! The church was loaded onto a barge and towed across Cape Cod Bay, up the Cape Cod Canal to Buzzards Bay. Through the diligent work of many parishioners, this old building was turned into a beautiful church.
The shells that rest above the sanctuary, the carving of a fisherman and his net on the altar, the ship’s wheel that bears the sanctuary candle, and the nautical symbols on the end of each pew – all these reflect our namesake, St. Peter the Fisherman, and our life near the sea.
St. Peter’s continued to grow, gaining parish status in 1965. Many have called St. Peter’s home, drawn to its distinctive character as a church whose people are servants and friends of God.
Sources to Learn More
Click to read a story published in The Cape Cod Times (2012), "Church on the canal boasts nautical heritage."
Click to read an article from The Patriot Ledger (1985) about St. Peter's Church building when it was situated in Allerton (Hull), Massachusetts and its journey to Buzzards Bay.
Click to read a piece that was published in Yankee Magazine (1967), "The Church That Came In On The Tide."
The Saga of a Sea-Going Church
by Howard F. Gregory
From across the water it came by barge,
Down the wat'ry path of fin and tail -
Observed by codfish, squid, and whale.
While at the helm St. Peter stood -
For though unseen, his presence felt,
By creatures all, sardines and smelt.
The heavenly Ark sailed on and on
Escorted by clams and prawn.
All trav'ling in the wat'ry road,
This finny tribe
Sought earth's abode,
For good St. Peter, the angels' scribe.
At last the windy waves died down,
The main gave way to a slender stream;
The Ark turned in, its haven found,
Fulfillment of a cherished dream!
At 8 o'clock with Fr. Richard, amen!
Our pilot o'er the earthly shoals,
Brings hope and joy to one and all
And does the same at 10!
Our welcome hosts, no mere mortals,
Gary and Dudley, with unprecedented fame
As guardians of St. Peter's portals -
With skill remember of our names.
The good St. Peter smiles on all,
Including him who wrote these lines above
And quite forgiving of our gall,
Reminders us of our good Lord's love!
Lines inspired by a photograph of St. Peter's Church arriving by barge on Cape Cod Canal and read at the Mardi Gras party at St. Peter's on February 24, 2004.