St. Peter’s was the first Episcopal church organized in Beverly. The first service was held on July 19, 1863 on the second floor in a building on the corner of Cabot and Essex Streets, then known as Union Hall. In the first years, pastoral support came from its mother church, St. Peter’s in Salem. In 1865 a Gothic-style church was erected at the corner of Cabot and Bow streets at the site of the old Bell’s Market.
The parish served a wide and diverse area. An active and affluent summer colony thrived along the shore of Prides Crossing and Beverly Farms, and formed an important part of parish life. By 1900, mission services started in Beverly Farms, with St. Peter’s supplying pastoral support. In 1902, this mission became a separate parish, now known at St. John’s Church, Beverly Farms.
St. Peter’s continued mainly as a working-class parish, surviving the loss of the summer people and year-round residents of Prides Crossing and Beverly Farms. In the early years of this century the economic character of Beverly changed rapidly, from cottage industries to factory manufacturing. In 1905 the United Shoe Machinery Corporation (now the Cummings Center), became the city’s principal employer, attracting skilled workmen from Europe, the British Isles and Canada. Many of their families found their church home at St. Peter’s.
With a growing congregation, space in the old church became critical, and in 1928 the Bancroft family donated land at the corner of Hale and Ocean streets, the site of the present church. The church was completed and dedicated on February 14, 1930. The mortgage was discharged in 1942 by the Rt. Rev. Henry Knox Sherrill, Bishop of Massachusetts. He later became Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
St. Peter’s flourished after World War II and space was again at a premium. In 1957 a new building rose behind the church on Ocean Street, with a hall, kitchen facilities and much-needed classrooms. It continues to serve as a meeting place for the parish and hosts numerous community programs, such as the Sunday and Friday Night Outreach Suppers and Alcoholics Anonymous.
The 1960s and 1970s saw many changes at St. Peter’s, reflecting the changes undergone by society as a whole. The parish saw the adoption of the 1979 Prayer Book, as well as new roles for women and youth in parish life. The ordination of women into the priesthood introduced women seminarians and priests. The new roles of Eucharistic Minister and Lector gave laypeople increased opportunity to participate in the service.
After a period of transition in the 1990s, the Rev. Manuel P. Faria III became the rector of St. Peter’s in 1999. Under the leadership of its Vestry and Rector, St. Peter’s offers a welcoming place for new families. St. Peter’s is actively involved in community affairs, and is growing in faith and numbers. We are thankful for our past, enthusiastic about our future, and proud of our stated mission:
St. Peter’s feeds God’s people — all are welcome at our table.