SEAVIEW — St. Peter Episcopal Church (also known traditionally on the Peninsula with an “apostrophe s” as St. Peter’s Episcopal Church) and Ocean Beach Presbyterian Church invite the Peninsula community to join them on Sunday, Oct. 5, in celebrating the 40th anniversary of their ecumenical partnership as the Peninsula Church Center.

In 1973, each congregation purchased half of a large lot in Seaview. St. Peter Episcopal Church built the worship facility on their land and Ocean Beach Presbyterian Church built the kitchen, fellowship hall, Sunday school rooms, office area and daycare center on theirs. Groundbreaking took place July 1, 1973, and the facilities were dedicated on Sept. 8, 1974.

The space and much of their common ministry have been shared ever since. The two congregations have maintained their individual identities and hold separate services on Sunday morning (St. Peter Episcopal at 9:15 a.m. and Ocean Beach Presbyterian at 11 a.m.)

When the Ocean Beach Presbyterian Church and St. Peter Episcopal Church entered their partnership to create the Peninsula Church Center, they each brought with them a long history of Christian worship and community service. Both churches go back to the late-19th century.

Ocean Beach Presbyterian Church traces its roots to the Ilwaco Presbyterian Church (founded in 1893) and the Long Beach Presbyterian Church (also founded in 1893). They are proud of their heritage and enjoy the status of being the most remote of the 44 congregations that make up the Presbytery of Olympia. In anticipation of their new facility, the two congregations merged in 1973.

Just a year younger, St. Peter Church held their first services at Ilwaco in 1894 conducted by the Rev. William Short, Rector of Grace Church, Astoria. Services were next led by the Army Chaplain at Ft. Canby during the years 1896-1897. There then transpired a 55-year period during which no regular services were held. In the 1940s a weekly schedule was again begun, at first meeting in parishioner homes and soon renting the old Hughes Mortuary Building across the street from the present Ocean Beach Hospital.

In 1967, several joint services were held between the Presbyterians and Episcopal churches, Several years later, after a great deal of planning, an unexpected beneficence from two Episcopal parishioners laid the groundwork for the construction of the Peninsula Church Center. The story of those generous gifts and their impact on the community was written by written by the late Rod Williams, long-time member of Saint Peter Bishop’s Committee:

During the early 1970s there existed two Presbyterian churches on the Peninsula, one in Ilwaco, the other in Long Beach. The question was raised as to the advisability of co-mingling the two congregations. The decision was made to do so if the proper land and facility could be obtained.

The plot now takes a marvelous turn.

My aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Douglas King, lived in Ocean Park. She was a Roman Catholic, non-practicing until after my uncle died; he was raised by an Anglican Manxman and a staunch Episcopalian. The Kings owned several hundred acres of oyster land on Willapa Bay having purchased same from a Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. The two families became very close friends. The Johnsons had no children. Mr. Johnson eventually died and Douglas and Marcel, my aunt and uncle became general caretakers of Mrs. Johnson — she was a fair bit older. When Uncle found out that Mrs. Johnson had no will, he helped her to write a proper one for her protection. During the course of many discussions between the three, Mrs. Johnson told my aunt and uncle that she was planning on leaving them $100,000. Uncle said, “No, leave it to St. Peter’s.” (Mrs. Johnson was also a life-long Episcopalian.) On a personal note, I have never known anyone to turn down a $100,000 gift. This episode also says something about my aunt and uncle. In a few years, Mrs. Johnson died and actually left $225,000 to St. Peter’s.

The plot now takes another turn.

St. Peter’s now had enough money to buy land and build a church. At the same time it occurred to both Presbyterian congregations and the parishioners of St. Peter’s that they were now in a position to buy and build together, a most unusual arrangement. Another member of St. Peter’s, Mrs. Eola Keller, owned the land on which the Peninsula Church Center now rests and she gave that land to the Diocese on behalf of St. Peter’s. The three churches decided to work together for the common good. The Diocese of Olympia actually lent money to the Presbyterians for the purchase of their share of the building site! A copy of the original agreement between the two congregations still stands: “THE BYLAWS OF THE PENINSULA CHURCH CENTER.”

In keeping with its ecumenical tradition, the Church Center leases space to two other church groups. Since 1975 St. John Lutheran Church, a member congregation of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, has met in the Church Center’s Saint Nicholas Chapel. Since 2008, The Lower Columbia Worship Group of the Religious Society of Friends (known informally as the Quakers) under the care of Multnomah Monthly Meeting of Portland Society of Friends, has been meeting in the Church Center’s Fireside Room.

Over the years there have been several notable additions to the facilities. The Daycare Center was expanded significantly so that it can accommodate the needs of parents with very young children in addition to toddlers and older youngsters. In the sanctuary, stained glass windows have been added and a Bond Pipe organ was purchased and installed in 1988.

Sunday’s Anniversary Celebration will begin with a combined worship service at 10 a.m. and will conclude with a catered luncheon and a time of remembering immediately after. The Peninsula Church Center is located at 5000 “N” Place in Seaview, one block east of the highway behind Napa Auto Parts. All are welcome. No RSVPs are necessary.

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