Our Roots Continued

Saint Peter’s Church originated in 1868 when a small group of Christians began meeting in the home of a local physician, Dr. Sharp, and expressed their desire for Episcopal church services in Medford. Shortly thereafter, the rector of Saint Andrew’s Church, Mount Holly, the Reverend Charles M. Perkins, came to Medford on horseback to conduct services in various local homes on Sunday afternoons. When attendance outgrew local homes, services were held at the Odd Fellows Hall on Bank Street. Saint Peter's  was officially organized as a mission parish of the Diocese of New Jersey in 1874.

Continued growth led to the "Mission in the Pines" project to acquire the land and raise the necessary money to build the church. Local Episcopal churches, namely St. Andrew’s, Mount Holly, Saint Paul’s, Camden and Saint Mary’s, Burlington, supported the project. On November 18, 1875, Bishop Scarborough of the Diocese of New Jersey laid the cornerstone of the new church building on Union Street in the village of Medford. Services were first held there on February 10, 1876 and the building consecrated by Bishop Scarborough on January 25, 1877. Although the original church building is still standing, it is now a private home.

The early years of the parish were plagued with financial difficulties and periods when the church was without an ordained clergyman. Even when it had a rector, St. Peter’s was often part of a circuit ministry in which the rectors also maintained responsibilities for other mission outposts in the Pine Barrens. Although the parish church continued in its mission, it did not begin to flourish until the early 1950’s when the population in and around Medford began to grow. In 1951, Bishop Alfred Banyard, of the Diocese of New Jersey, recognized St. Peter’s potential--but also its need for assistance--and appointed seminarian Glen Williams to explore the development, outreach and mission of St. Peter’s.

After his ordination, Father Williams was assigned to St. Peter’s and began a building program in earnest. His parents, Carl and Emilie Williams donated the farmland on the corner of Hartford andChristopher Mill Road where the church now stands and also made major financial contributions towards the cost of building a new church. The first services were held in the new church on November 10, 1957 and the building was consecrated in 1958.

The new location and new building sparked continued growth and in that same year a new wing was added to the south end of the church. It is now the parish hall named in honor of the Williams family. The following year, in 1959, a wing was added to the north end of the church to provide Sunday school classrooms and an apartment for then rector, Father Probert Herb. In 1962, the rectory was built on Christopher Mill Road and the former rector’s apartment converted into additional Sunday school space. In 1974, the centennial year of St. Peter’s founding, parishioners embarked upon "The Centennial Project" to expand its Sunday school space once again. The new classrooms were dedicated in 1977.

Continued parish growth resulted in crowded, noisy services in the worship space—a space now divided into the Chapel and Williams Hall. Recognizing that if St. Peter’s was to grow, a new sanctuary was necessary, the parish prayerfully undertook another building program. The new sanctuary was added to the physical plant in 1994 and consecrated by Rt. Rev. G.P. Mellick Belshaw, Bishop of the Diocese of New Jersey, on February 4, 1994.

A reading of the above is a history of buildings and expansions. However, Saint Peter’s is more than just bricks and mortar. It is a loving, caring community of Christians that has always recognized that the church exists not for those who are members but for those who do not yet know the love of Christ. It was the vision of Dr. Sharp and others who met in his home that a church where the word of God would be preached should be built in Medford. It was the dedication, work and sacrifice of members that made that vision come to fruition with the first church building on Union Street. This same dedication, hard work and sacrifice came into action when it was recognized that the old church building was inadequate if the church was to grow.

Building the church on Hartford and Christopher Mill Roads was an enormous leap of faith that proved to be the right move at the right time. The same spirit to teach ever more people about Christ motivated the parish family to build additions to the "new" church, as well as to build the new nave in the early 1990s. This recognition of purpose has always been a part of the heart and soul of this parish family and has resulted in a parish that continues to grow in size and in spirituality.

The Reverend Canon James L. Moore was called to be rector of Saint Peter’s in April 1967 and remained until his retirement in May 2002. He was the rector when the Sunday school wing was built in 1977, and when the new sanctuary was constructed. A history of St. Peter’s would not be complete without mention of his 35 years of leadership. His legacy includes empowerment of lay ministry at Saint Peter’s and will have a lasting effect in the church for years to come.