Under the theme, “Nurturing the lambs of Christ; spiritually and physically..” the Vestry, Rector and Congregation of St. Peter Episcopal Church, St. Croix in the Diocese of the United States Virgin Islands, celebrated their forty-ninth anniversary of service to the people of God. The celebration spanned over the period June 23 to 30 with a number of activities punctuating the normal routine. The congregation opened the week with a Mass on the beach at Cramer’s Park where some 123 members gathered to share in praise, thanksgiving and fellowship. Beginning at 9:00 a.m., the Mass was led by the Rector, the Rev. Fr. Alric H. Francis Sr and lessons read by the youth, the day being Youth Fellowship Corporate Worship. All ages participated in the service which was followed by a sumptuous brunch provided by the Vestry members and other volunteers. The members then joined in fun and games while basking in the shallow waters and sandy beach.
Monday June 24th at about 8:45 a.m. saw members of both Vestry and Congregation joining in serving breakfast to a number of needy and homeless persons around the community including the Castle Coakley, Christiansted and Orange Grove locations. Congregants then engaged in reflections dubbed, Historical Night, at 6:30 p.m. when at the parish hall venue, members with staggered years of membership reflected over the past forty-nine (49) years. Individuals traced the congregation’s history and recalled how the membership begun out of a need to service and care for persons who had moved away from the main residential areas of established Episcopal parishes/churches. Many learnt of the first services that were held in the current parish hall and the struggles to ‘keep the lights on,’ grow the membership, and providing for the clergy in charge.
Tuesday June 25th brought together again to participate in discussions labelled, “Expressions,” providing an open forum for members to reflect on the past and present, and to offer plans, suggestions, volunteering and hopes for the future of the congregation. Out of the discussions, many opined that much work has been accomplished especially in the area of volunteerism. However, it was noted that because of the unique location of the church building, challenges were experienced in providing community outreach. (The church is situated in a somewhat industrial and shopping locale.) It was agreed that more effort should and would be placed in the outreach ministry, especially among the seniors and youth.
Wednesday June 26th saw a number of pastoral visits made to persons who were restricted to their homes, known as sick and shut-ins. These persons were blessed with prayers, scriptural readings and tokens of assistance. 7:00 p.m. was our scheduled mission service where congregants, friends, families and visitors employed a session of praise and worship songs to the accompaniment of drums, piano, and guitar. It was a night of dancing, singing and praising God for His wonderful blessings over the years. A soul-searching, conscience-pricking, down-to-earth sermon was the highlight of this evening preached by Pastor Clive Williams of the Evangelistic Pentecostal Church. Pastor Williams used the passage, John 21:15-25 to urge listeners to show their own love for Christ by engaging in ministry of service to others.
Thursday 27th June was dedicated to an extensive cleaning of the church building and parish hall. It was a blessing to see members removing fixtures, cleaning and replacing and literally giving the buildings a face-lift that was quite a sight to behold. Congregants showed their love and reverence for God in presenting His house as a place of dignity and hallowed grounds. It was also a day of decorating our parish hall for the annual dinner.
Friday 28th June brought persons from all walks of life to participate in the annual patronal dinner sponsored by the Vestry. The event was blessed with great weather and an ambience of decorations, attire, fellowship and renewal. In following the tradition, three honorees were especially highlighted for their work and visibility in the life of this Parish Church. The honorees were; Irita Griffin, Trey Francis, and Marvelyn Jeffers. Irita was being acknowledged for her selfless volunteerism as a member of the Altar Guild, cook, and especially for her unselfish hard work in helping to restore the church building to normalcy for worship following the passing of Hurricane Maria in 2017. Trey Francis, our most active youth, received acknowledgment for his dedication and involvement in the life of youth ministry and opportunities of ‘acting’ as Celebrant and Preacher at Mass on many Youth Sunday Corporate Worship services. Marvelyn Jeffers, the immediate past office Secretary received acknowledgement for her service assisting in the area of administration of the parish, and providing much needed support and assistance to the groups and committees of the parish. The patrons of the dinner were serenaded with music from D.J. Ayala and Alric “Juiceman” Francis, Jr. with master of ceremonies shared by the Rector and Senior Warden, Gloria Euzebe, and a sumptuous dinner provided by members of the Vestry and other volunteers.
Saturday 29th June was the actual Feast Day of St. Peter and St. Paul and a mass of commemoration was held in the parish church at 12:10 p.m. The Mass also had as special intent, thanksgiving to Almighty God for the 20th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Ian Rock’s ordination to the Diaconate. Following the Mass, several members joined once again in serving meals to the less fortunate and homeless in the areas of Castle Coakley, Christiansted, Orange Grove and Frederiksted.
The activities and observances concluded with a patronal mass on Sunday June 30th with the Diocesan Bishop, the Rt. Rev. E. Ambrose Gumbs as Celebrant and Preacher. Bishop Gumbs focused on the Old Testament Reading from Ezekiel 34:11-16, noting that God has and continues to take a very personal interest in searching out for lost sheep, restoring them through reconciliation, and that He has sent all baptized to act on His behalf. A highlight of the service was the anthem, “O give thanks unto the Lord” by George J. Elvey, sung by the Deanery Choir, led and directed by Mrs. Monica Jacobs. Musical accompaniment was ably provided by Mr. Bentley Cornelius and Mr. Zaheer Popo. Following the service, the entire congregation joined in a wonderful fellowship with refreshments provided by the parish vestry.
As the curtains came down on a very productive and celebratory week, the Rector gave thanks to Almighty God for calling each person who participated in the life of His service in the Church of St. Peter. Expressions of thanks were heartily extended to the members of the Vestry led by the Wardens for some extremely hard work in organizing and producing the events noted. God has been gracious and wonderful to and in the lives of the people of St. Peter Episcopal Church, especially over the past 49 years……and every petition is being made for continued fortitude and vision as His people look forward to celebrate their fiftieth (50th) anniversary in the year, 2020.