A Brief History of St. Peter’s, Charlotte, North Carolina
Considered by many as the “mother church” of the region, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church was the first Episcopal Church in Charlotte, organized in 1834 and recognized as a parish in the Diocese of North Carolina in 1844. Area churches including St. Martin’s, Holy Comforter, St. Mark’s, St. Michaels, St. Paul’s in Monroe, and Christ Church all trace their roots to St. Peter’s.
The current building at West Seventh and North Tryon streets was completed in 1895. Construction began under the direction of then rector and later Bishop Joseph Blount Cheshire, Jr., in 1893. The Parish House and chapel were added in 1912; the nave renovated in 1951 and again in 2010; and an education and office building added in 1998. When the church was completed in 1895, lay leaders (the vestry) acted to open its doors every day as a sanctuary for the people of Charlotte, a practice that continues today, especially Monday-Friday when the parish offices are open.
St. Peter’s impact on the community stretches to the Civil War when the church raised money to provide Bibles and Prayers Books for soldiers. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the congregation established two hospitals, then called St. Peter’s Hospital for the poor and Good Samaritan Hospital for blacks. Both were incorporated into what is now Carolinas Medical Center. Grants assisted St. Peter’s in starting Thompson’s Orphanage, now Thompson Child and Family Focus. More recently the St. Peter’s Soup Kitchen, established in 1979, grew to include a number of downtown churches and now operates as the Urban Ministry Center, serving the region’s poor and homeless in a variety of ways. Other outreach organizations launched from St. Peter’s include The Samaritan House (post-operative respite for individuals who are homeless), Center City Concerts at St. Peter’s (several years after the now-defunct Chamber Music Series), and the Augustine Literacy Project.
In 1955 St. Peter’s leadership established an endowment, now with over $8 million pledged in legacy gifts. Each year the endowment provides further funding for community organizations in need and as catalyst for parish initiatives.
A rich choral music tradition, dating to at least the 1920s, involved separate choirs for boys, girls, and adults. Choirs for young people were re-established in 1992 as the Choir School at St. Peter’s, now serving more than 100 choristers, ages 7 to 18, from across the region. The St. Peter’s Choir for adults has forty volunteer members. The 2010 renovation of the church included the installation of the Van Ness Hamrick Organ, C. B. Fisk Opus 136, a three-manual mechanical action pipe organ.
Christian formation programs for young people are nationally recognized and emulated by many other churches in the region, especially Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and Journey to Adulthood. Each prepares young people for engaged Christian lives in the twenty-first century. The youth teens participate in mission trips, outreach camps, and pilgrimages.
A lively, energetic, and welcoming congregation, St. Peter’s is a Eucharist-centered parish in the heart of center city or “uptown” Charlotte. Congregation and choir join in singing the songs and psalms of the church from the earliest Christian chant to hymns and anthems more recently composed, while some services are offered without music. On Tuesdays, the Holy Eucharist is celebrated at 12:00 p.m. and on Sundays, 8:00 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Sunday 5:00 p.m. worship includes a weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist, paired with Choral Evensong on second and fourth Sundays during the academic season. On third Sundays the service is a Holy Eucharist in the manner of the Taizé, France, community. Because worship of God is central to our common life, our clergy and vestry actively review current worship offerings and are open to the start of new ones that might appeal to an even broader spectrum of people.
Our parish vision is to become a community of bold followers of Jesus; a crowd that effects good change for the world; a place of radical love and welcome; and a beacon of hope in Center City Charlotte. This vision is reflected in parish strategic plans as we honor a rich heritage while striving to remain relevant in an always-changing world, and seek to offer the love of God to all sorts and conditions of the people of God.